Weekend Preview: Jets vs. Wilderness (G57 & G58)

By Calvin Bush (@calvin_bush24) | Apr 8, 2022 | 4:15 pm

JANESVILLE, WI — Only two weeks remain in the regular season, and the most critical series of the year is upcoming. The Jets are currently a single point outside of the fourth playoff spot held by the Anchorage Wolverines with 66 points. This weekend features a battle against the Minnesota Wilderness, who have a three-point lead over Janesville and reside in third with 68 points. Little math is required to calculate what the final week of the regular season could look like if the Jets run the table — a clean sweep of regulation wins would automatically put the Jets in playoff position. Depending on how the Wolverines fare against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Janesville could slide up from fifth to third place in two games.

While they are currently on the outside looking in, the equation for the Jets to make it to the Robertson Cup Playoffs is black and white: secure at least one more point than the Wolverines. Unfortunately for the Jets, Anchorage has a game in hand. They have ten potential points for the taking to the Jets eight, and three of their five remaining games are against the Minnesota Magicians, who were mathematically eliminated from the postseason last weekend by the Jets.

Janesville’s schedule is not as friendly; they have this weekend’s series against the hottest team in the division in the Minnesota Wilderness and will then travel to Springfield and finish the regular season on the road against the Jr. Blues. Ideally, the Jets win out and pocket all eight points and hope the Wolverines secure just seven. A sweep of the final four games for Janesville and a regulation plus overtime loss from Anchorage would send the Jets to the playoffs. So again, the task, while challenging, remains simple: win out, and hope for just a little bit of help from the Ice Dogs this weekend. Too much to ask? We think not.

The most recent series between these two was a good one; the Jets took a Friday showdown on March 25 into a shootout and eventually secured the second point thanks to a 43/46 outing from Owen Millward and two goals from Cade Destefani. The Wilderness returned the following night with a tight defensive showing and kept the Jets off the board to win 4-0. Goaltender Konrad Kousch secured the win on Saturday, while it was the Wilderness’ 1A goalie Matthew Smith taking the SOL on Friday night.

Losses have been few and far between for Minnesota and at the perfect time. They’re riding an eight-game point streak and are in prime position heading into the home stretch. One of the biggest headlines for the Wilderness has been the play of recently acquired netminder Matthew Smith, who started the season with the Springfield Jr. Blues, played with the NA3HL’s Granite City Lumberjacks, then returned to the NAHL with the Wilderness and has put up tremendous numbers. Smith has just two losses in 16 games this season and is coming off an impressive performance against his former team, the Jr. Blues, where he allowed only four goals on 42 shots in two nights to get a sweep. The Jets managed to beat Smith enough times to win in their only game against him. Still, it’s all about confidence when it comes to goaltending, and the recent play from Smith will presumably have him in the right headspace heading into his second series against Janesville.

Like the Wilderness, the Jets will continue to look to goaltending to assist in winning their final regular-season games. Owen Millward played in two of three games last weekend, earning his 28th win over the Magicians and dropping a hard-fought match against the St. Cloud Norsemen on Sunday. Milly received Saturday off, and Mike D’Orazio put forth a solid night to sweep the Magicians. The Norsemen, who clinched the Central Division already, peppered Millward with 40 shots and only snuck three of them by the second-year goalie, which speaks to his capabilities when under pressure. All year, Millward has remained cool in the crease and stolen several wins for the Jets, and the team will surely look to him to keep those same tendencies.

Leading-scorer Cy LeClerc remains on milestone watch after breaking Jakov Novak’s and Zach Lavalle’s single-season assist record of 41 on Sunday. With one point, LeClerc will set a new record for most points in a single season with 74, and two goals will set a new single-season record at 33. The points and goals records also belong to Novak; the Jets’ second NHL Draft Pick in history scored 73 points, 33 goals, and 41 assists in an MVP-winning 2017-18 season. The Ottawa Senators drafted Novak in the 2018 NHL Draft in the seventh round at pick number 188. It’ll be crucial for LeClerc and the rest of the first line with Jan “Zigi” Lasak and William Gustavsson to continue their scoring ways and stay on the same page against a tough goaltender.

The Jets will wear their specialty Toyota red jerseys this weekend, sponsored by Hesser Toyota, and fans can bid on the fancy sweaters in the DASH Auction app! For information on how to bid, head to our Facebook and Twitter pages and find the “pinned” post to learn more. Auctions are closed on Saturday night, and proceeds from the jersey auction benefit the homeless youth nonprofit organization, Project 16:49. Since it’s the last home series of the regular season, the Jets will also host an End of Season Tailgate in the arena parking lot before Saturday’s game! Fans can enjoy beer and hot dogs and some friendly games of bags before the game, and if you show your ticket, you’ll get two free beer vouchers and a hot dog.

You can watch Friday and Saturday’s games by heading to HockeyTV, where Mike Hammett will have the call. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM CT. If you’re not watching or at the rink, you can follow us on our TwitterFacebook, and Instagram platforms for updates.

#WheelsUp✈️


JANESVILLE JETS

Record: 32-23-0-1 (5th, Midwest)
Home Record: 18-8-0-1
Goals For/Game: 
3.75 (4th)
Goals Against/Game:
3.32 (18th)
Shots For/Game: 30.09 (20th)
Shots Against/Game:
30.70 (14th)
Power Play:
22% (9th) 
Penalty Kill:
73.3% (27th)
Top Scorers: 
F Cy LeClerc (56GP—31G-42A—73PTS); F Jan Lasak (47GP—26G-24A—50PTS); F William Gustavsson (52GP—21G-24A—45PTS)
Goaltenders: Owen Millward (28-12-0-0; 2.73 GAA; .910 SV%); Michael D’Orazio (4-8-0-0; 3.78 GAA; .881 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); D Cal Mell (Union College); D Charlie Lieberman (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); D Spencer Kring (Bethel University)


MINNESOTA WILDERNESS

Record: 33-21-1-1 (3rd, Midwest)
Road Record: 14-12-1-0 
Goals For/Game:
3.63 (7th)
Goals Against/Game:
3.34 (19th)
Shots For/Game:
32.82 (9th)
Shots Against/Game:
29.34 (8th)
Power Play:
21.1% (12th)
Penalty Kill:
79.8% (18th)
Top Scorers:
F Nicholas Rexine (50GP—17G-42A—59PTS); F Gunnar Thoreson (56GP—16G-39A—55PTS); F Max Neil (56GP—20G-28A—48PTS)
Goaltenders:
Matthew Smith (13-1-0-1; 1.87 GAA; .927 SV%); Konrad Kausch (8-4-0-1; 2.87 GAA; .900 SV%)
Rostered Commitments:
D Cole Crusberg-Roseen (University of Massachusetts); D Bobby Metz (Colgate University); D Aaron Pionk (Minnesota State-Mankato); F Nicholas Rexine (Western Michigan University); F Ethan Wolthers (Western Michigan University); F Gunnar Thoreson (St. Lawrence University)


100+ NCAA commitments since 2009.