Weekend Preview: Jets vs. Steel (G43 & G44)

By Calvin Bush (@calvin_bush24) | Feb 25, 2022 | 1:45 pm

JANESVILLE, WI — With their authoritative sweep over the Springfield Jr. Blues last weekend, the Jets enter the final week of February on a five-game winning streak and get a series against their in-state rival Chippewa Steel. It’s the first two-game series between the two this season after they had one-game matchups twice earlier this year. For the Jets, it allows an opportunity to widen the gap in the points department against Chippewa and continue to work their way up into playoff contention. For the Steel, every game is now a high priority for them, as they’ve lost eight of their last ten and are seven points removed from fourth place in the division.

In their two prior matchups, the Jets swiped both of them, starting with a late-game thriller that eventually resulted in a 5-4 Jets victory on January 14. Two weeks ago, the Jets left Chippewa with a 4-0 shutout. The Steel, coming out of a week off, will have another break after this weekend, followed by yet another series against the Jets, making it five consecutive games against Janesville. It’s not a friendly set up for the Steel, but the road to the Robby isn’t supposed to be easy.

The Jets’ recent stretch of games has catapulted them to the doorstep of the top four in the division. Their streak started with an impressive road sweep in Anchorage, and recently, a jaw-dropping home sweep against, at the time, the best team (points-wise) in the NAHL, the Jr. Blues. Friday’s 3-0 win was only a taste of what was to come on Saturday. Kicked off by a four-goal first period, the Jets notched another five goals, with four in the third, to smother Springfield 9-1. In front of the largest crowd this season and a cup-favorite team in the Jr. Blues, it was a weekend that has shown Janesville’s true identity as a gritty, tough, and determined group.

Players mentioned that starting their homestand on a note as high as last weekend’s was more vital than words can say, especially as the season’s final stretch approaches. The Jets have seven more home games following this weekend, with two against Springfield, two against Chippewa, two against the Minnesota Wilderness, and one against the Central Division St. Cloud Norsemen. Games against playoff hopefuls provide a benefit in the sense that the Jets control their own destiny and have seemingly picked up the pace at the right time.

The Steel will, more than likely, send Croix Kochendorfer to the crease for both games this weekend, and his lone game against the Jets was one he’d like to leave in the past. On January 14, Kochendorfer allowed three goals on four shots and was relieved just seven minutes into the game. Granted, all three goals were on near-perfectly setup plays from Janesville, and the Steel needed a response in some way. For the young netminder, it’s an opportunity to redeem himself and attempt to right the ship for the Steel.

On Saturday, the Jets scored a season-high-tying three power-play goals and had eight different goal scorers in the 9-1 rout. Even before the addition of Cade Destefani, the Jets’ offense has shown up and showed out during their win streak, though having Dez back in the lineup has also been beneficial. Since rejoining the Jets, Destefani has three points in as many games and scored in both matchups against Springfield last weekend.

Head coach Parker Burgess called last weekend’s series win a “120-minute total team outing,” so to pinpoint a specific standout player or line at this checkpoint of the season isn’t easy. As the skipper said, the team has been connected and clicking at all levels and zones, and everyone has done their job. Goaltender Owen Millward, who was just named Midwest Star of the Week, has lost only one game since the New Year, and his strong performances in net have, needless to say, provided a tremendous boost to the players. The relationship between Milly and the squad is mutualistic, as the young netminder has mentioned many times that the team’s play in front of him helps his confidence immensely. An offensively-strong unit paired with a confident goalie is a dangerous thing.

Defensemen Cal Mell made his Division I commitment to Union College last week, complete with an on-ice introduction, unbeknownst to his teammates. During the pregame ceremony, Cal was greeted with loud applause from the stands and players banging the boards like drums. For the age-out defenseman and team captain, it was a special moment. Mell leads the team in assists (28) and is second among all defensemen in the NAHL in total points and assists. The future Dutchman was the third commitment for the Jets this year and will continue to be a focal point in the team’s gameplay.

The Jets will have their annual Agriculture/FFA Night on Friday, where all 4H and FFA Groups receive free admission to the game. To go with the big night, the Jets will be giving away a brand new Lifetime Hydros 85 kayak to one lucky fan, courtesy of Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

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 TwitterFacebook, and Instagram platforms for updates. Otherwise, broadcaster Mike Hammett will have the play-by-play call for both games on HockeyTV.

#WheelsUp✈️


JANESVILLE JETS

Record: 22-19-0-1 (6th, Midwest)
Home Record: 13-6-0-1
Goals For/Game: 
3.60 (6th)
Goals Against/Game:
3.40 (21st)
Shots For/Game: 29.60 (25th)
Shots Against/Game:
29.64 (9th)
Power Play:
20.9% (11th) 
Penalty Kill:
70.4% (28th)
Top Scorers: 
F Cy LeClerc (42GP—23G-26A—49PTS); F Jan Lasak (36GP—18G-18A—36PTS); F William Gustavsson (38GP—15G-17A—32PTS)
Goaltenders: Owen Millward (20-8-0-0; 2.68 GAA; .907 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); D Cal Mell (Union College)


CHIPPEWA STEEL

Record: 19-22-0-2 (7th, Midwest)
Road Record: 9-9-0-1
Goals For/Game: 2.81 (23rd)
Goals Against/Game:
3.28 (19th)
Shots For/Game: 29.65 (23rd)
Shots Against/Game:
29.26 (8th)
Power Play:
15.6% (20th)
Penalty Kill:
82% (14th)
Top Scorers:
F Joseph Grainda (42GP—13G-16A—29PTS); F Nick Sajevic (43GP—12G-15A—27PTS); F Joe Kelly (41GP—13G-3A—16PTS)
Goaltenders: Croix Kochendorfer (12-11-0-1; 2.68 GAA; .908 SV%); Nick Haas (0-2-0-0; 3.61 GAA; .894 SV%)
Rostered Commitments:
F Matthew Brille (Brown University); F Andrew Delladonna (Ohio State University); D Sam Frandina (St. Lawrence University)


100+ NCAA commitments since 2009.