The Jets dropped consecutive games to the Kenai River Brown Bears before a series against the Anchorage Wolverines at the end of January, a gut punch. However, the Jets bit down on their mouth guards, swung for the fences, and won both games against the Wolverines to end their final Alaskan trip on a high note heading into their last break. A week following that time off, the Jets left Chippewa with a 4-0 victory and with another shot of confidence in the arm.
The road to where Janesville is now has been a grueling one; in the first third of the season, the Jets went 6-13-1 and were just mere points above the last-place Brown Bears. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Jets pulled a complete 180 in the middle portion and went 14-6. The standings show the Jets in seventh place, but the Midwest Division has become as packed as Los Angeles traffic, and nobody is out of playoff contention yet.
To be back at home is certainly refreshing, but the Jets have a tall task ahead of them by having to open their homestand against the best team in the NAHL, the Jr. Blues. Janesville has yet to beat Springfield yet this year (0-4), who is also on a winning streak of their own at four games. Like the Jets, the Jr. Blues have lost only two games in their last ten and have run the table in the division for most of the season.
One thing that comes as a shock to most is that Springfield, who did not play a season last year, has managed to have the success they’re riding this year, despite the hiatus from the 2020-21 season. Of course, players and coaches continued to practice and keep their skillsets sharpened, but the absence of competing with other squads, most would think, would leave them at a disadvantage coming into the 2021-22 campaign.
The time away from their home rink, the Nelson Center, and all other rinks in the division, left little to no negative impact. Springfield has lost only ten games this year and has come away with points in almost 73% of their games.
There aren’t necessarily one or two specific standout players on the Springfield roster, but rather the collective effort from the team is what’s backstopped them to a historic year. Plenty of credit goes to goaltender Ethan Roberts for his stellar season, but the Jr. Blues, not unlike the Jets, have played like a well-oiled machine and always seem to play at the top of their game. For the Jets, peppering Roberts with shots will be crucial, and playing tight and disciplined in their own end will be just as vital.
Janesville struggled with penalties in Kenai River but has since kept their sticks in check and has managed to keep infractions to a minimum. Keeping that same structured play will be of the essence. In the opposite cage, Owen Millward has been as solid as concrete as of late. “Milly” has won nine of his last eleven games and has the third-most wins among all goaltenders in the league. Last Friday, he recorded his fourth shutout of the season (also third-most) against Chippewa.
Goal-scoring hasn’t been much of an issue for the Jets lately, as they’ve scored at least three goals in ten of their last eleven contests. Only one of those three-goal outings was a loss. Look for the roommates Cy LeClerc and Jan “Zigi” Lasak to continue to display their strong connection on the ice and contribute to the goal count. Against a solid goalie in Roberts and a high-scoring unit in Springfield’s offense, the goal scorers will need to show out this weekend.
On the back end, Top Prospect defensemen Cal Mell and Will Troutwine will again be heavy assets in the potential high-scoring affairs. Like they’ve done all year, Mell and Troutwine have been great puck-moving defensemen and have assisted in creating high-percentage chances. Their ability to read the zone and make quick passes will be a big help in making the most of offensive zone time.
AJ Casperson is never afraid to play the body, and while Springfield is a fast team, so are the Jets, and the physical game could derail the Jr. Blues’ game plan and assist in creating offense with defense.
Only two games are on the schedule within the division tonight, with the Anchorage Wolverines heading to Kenai River to take on the Brown Bears and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs hosting the Minnesota Magicians.
Friday night will be an emotional but very special night, as the Jets will have a Memorial Night in Mike Holley’s remembrance. Mike was a longtime member of the Janesville hockey community and unexpectedly passed in December. He left a great legacy behind with the Janesville Youth Hockey team, where his children have played for years. To honor that legacy, the Jets will be donating proceeds from a 50/50 Raffle and jersey raffle to the Mike Holley Memorial Fund and have a JYH peewee scrimmage at intermission. Mike’s children Katlynn, Andie, Theron, and ShyAnne will participate.
Saturday will also be a night you’ll want to attend, with Janesville Youth Hockey Night and Skate with the Jets following the conclusion of the game. Anyone wearing a JYH jersey or JYH apparel will receive free entry to Saturday night’s game. To finish off the night of fun, fans can rent a pair of skates or bring their own and lap around the ice with Jets players.
Doors to the Janesville Ice Arena will open at 6 PM CT. If you don’t already have a ticket, you can always purchase one at any Lions Quick Mart around town or purchase a ticket at the door. Puck drop for both games will be at 7 PM CT. If you can’t make it to the arena, you can always follow us on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram platforms for updates. Otherwise, broadcaster Mike Hammett will have the play-by-play call for both games on HockeyTV.
Record: 20-19-0-1 (6th, Midwest)
Home Record: 11-6-0-1
Goals For/Game: 3.48 (11th)
Goals Against/Game: 3.55 (21st)
Shots For/Game: 29.70 (22nd)
Shots Against/Game: 29.85 (10th)
Power Play: 19.4% (13th)
Penalty Kill: 69.9% (28th)
Top Scorers: F Cy LeClerc (40GP—22G-24A—46PTS); F Jan Lasak (34GP—17G-16A—33PTS); F William Gustavsson (36GP—13G-17A—30PTS)
Goaltenders: Owen Millward (18-8-0-0; 2.84 GAA; .903 SV%); Michael D’Orazio (2-8-0-1; 4.02 GAA; .872 SV%); Ryan Whittaker (0-1-0-0; 6.00 GAA; .778 SV%)
Rostered Commitments: F Robby Newton (University of Wisconsin); F Grayden Daul (University of Wisconsin); F Jonah Aegerter (St. Cloud State); F Cy LeClerc (University of New Hampshire); F Jan Lasak (St. Lawrence University); F Ethan Begg (University of Vermont); F Jack Ford (Army-West Point); D AJ Casperson (Long Island University); F Jimmy Doyle (St. Lawrence University); F Jack Larrigan (University of Notre Dame); F Joseph Kramer (Providence College); F Cade Destefani (Western Michigan University)
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES
Record: 29-10-1-2 (1st, Midwest)
Road Record: 12-6-1-1
Goals For/Game: 3.57 (6th)
Goals Against/Game: 2.67 (4th)
Shots For/Game: 29.76 (21st)
Shots Against/Game: 31.17 (16th)
Power Play: 28.1% (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 78.6% (23rd)
Top Scorers: F Leo Bacallao (39GP—18G-15A—33PTS); F Carson Jones (40GP—11G-21A—32PTS); F Hagen Moe (38GP—18G-10A—28PTS)
Goaltenders: Ethan Roberts (16-7-0-1; 2.58 GAA; .921 SV%); Aksel Reid (5-4-0-1; 2.84 GAA; .906 SV%)
Rostered Commitments: D Fisher Scott (Colorado College); F Connor Smith (Union College); F Michael Valdez (Colorado College); F Hagen Moe (Bowling Green State University); F Isaac Novak (University of Wisconsin)