By Mason Lyttle
The Janesville Jets went to Austin looking for four points. They came back with four, but it wasn’t easy.
The never-say-die Jets, still energized from their three-goal comeback in their home opener, battled back from three different one-goal deficits this weekend and pulled off two extra time wins in the State of Hockey. Friday’s 3-2 victory came in overtime, and Saturday’s 2-1 win needed the shootout, but four points is four points.
The Jets improved to 8-1-0-0 with their sweep and are geared up for a huge showdown with the second place Fairbanks Ice Dogs this weekend in Janesville.
Friday, Oct 6: Janesville Jets 3, Austin Bruins 2 (OT)
Shots: Jets 28, Bruins 33
PP: Jets 1-4, Bruins 0-4
The Janesville Jets (7-1-0-0) weathered another slow start but stayed with the Austin Bruins (0-2-1-1), tying the game late in the third before winning in the sudden death overtime period.
The Bruins got their home crowd engaged early with a goal less than two minutes into action. Evan Cholak centered a puck from behind the net to Travis Kothenbeutel (1:28 1st), who beat Daniel Lebedeff from three feet out. The rest of the period was much quieter, with just 10 total shots between the two teams.
In the second, after early coinciding penalties expired, the Jets earned their third opportunity on the power play and finally struck. Kip Hoffmann (3:46 2nd) collected a rebound from a point shot and put home his second effort to tie the game at 1-1.
Midway through the third, Austin regained the lead on the stick of Dante Zapata (9:31 3rd), who scored his first of the season on a feed from Valdemar Ahlberg. For the second time in three games, the Jets found themselves down a goal late in the third period, and for the second time in three games, they fought and stayed alive. With less than four minutes to play in regulation, former Corpus Christi Ice Ray Regan Cavanagh (16:37 3rd) scored his first Jets goal in his first NAHL game since the 2015-16 season. Cavanagh started in his own zone, beat a man wide at his defending blue line, lost and stole the puck back at center ice, and sniped a shot far side past the Austin netminder to tie the game at 2-2.
In the overtime period, Hoffmann found a streaking Erik Palmqvist (2:16 OT), who strode past the Bruins defender for a partial breakaway and snapped home the winner to extend his goal streak to three games and steal the extra point for his Jets.
Lebedeff (3-1-0-0) earned the win for Janesville, making 31 saves on 33 Bruins shots, while fellow European Mats Sogaard (0-0-1-0) took the loss for Austin, stopping 25 pucks but allowing the overtime difference-maker.
Saturday, October 7: Janesville Jets 2, Austin Bruins 1 (SO)
Shots: Jets 30, Bruins 39
PP: Jets 0-4, Bruins 1-4
Another day, another comeback win for the Janesville Jets (8-1-0-0), who again leaned on strong goaltending, this time from Garrett Nieto, to ice the Austin Bruins (0-2-1-2) in the shootout for the sweep.
Early in the first, Kip Hoffmann busted out of the defensive zone and gained a partial breakaway, drawing a penalty shot opportunity. Hoffmann came in slowly on Alex Schilling, but Schilling stood tall and made the save. The rest of the period was largely controlled by the Bruins, who racked up 14 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but couldn’t beat Nieto.
In the second, with newly-acquired defenseman Grant Anderson in the penalty box for roughing, the Bruins struck first. Justin Brandt (11:10 2nd) followed up a shot from Nieto’s glove side, picking up the rebound and jamming home the game’s first goal.
Midway through the third period, with the Jets trailing 1-0, Matt Hanewall stripped a Bruin on the forecheck, leaving a loose puck for Christophe Fillion (8:27 3rd), who walked a Bruins defenseman and snapped home a wrister for the equalizer.
After a scoreless overtime, the teams headed to a shootout. Regan Cavanagh scored first for Janesville, which turned out to be all that Nieto needed as the California goaltender stoned three straight Bruins for the win.
Garrett Nieto (5-0-0-0) was nearly perfect for the Jets, beaten only once in the second period, and turned aside 38 of 39 Bruins shots in 65 minutes of play. Alex Schilling (0-2-0-1) was also beaten just once, but took the shootout loss for the Bruins.
Midwest Division Recap
With the Jets in Austin, the Kenai River Brown Bears also played a road series against a Central Division opponent in Minot against the Minotauros. The Brown Bears scored Saturday’s game-winning goal with less than a minute left to split in North Dakota, staying ahead of the two teams outside of the current playoff picture, the Minnesota Magicians and the Coulee Region Chill. Those two squared off in Richfield, where the Magicians treated their fans to a sweep, winning Friday in a shootout and Saturday by a 4-2 score. In Illinois, the Springfield Jr. Blues beat the Fairbanks Ice Dogs Friday, 2-1, but dropped Saturday’s match, 3-1, meaning every Midwest Division team earned at least one point on the weekend.
Midwest Division Standings:
|2||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||6-2-0-0||12|
|3||Springfield Jr. Blues||4-4-0-1||9|
|4||Kenai River Brown Bears||4-4-0-0||8|
|6||Coulee Region Chill||0-4-1-1||2|
Friday, Oct 13: Fairbanks Ice Dogs @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, Oct 14: Fairbanks Ice Dogs @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m.
This weekend features a rematch of the 2016-17 Midwest Division Finals series between the Jets and Ice Dogs, as last year’s finalists again spar for top spot in the standings as we inch closer to the quarter pole of the season. Just four points back of Janesville, head coach Trevor Stewart’s Ice Dogs can make up some ground before they leave the lower 48 for two months. Both games will be broadcast live featuring Mike Hammett’s call on HockeyTV. Tickets are available online and at any Lions Quick Mart location in Janesville.
PROMOS AND EVENTS
The Jets are hosting their ninth annual Pink in the Rink this weekend against the Ice Dogs. Working with Mercyhealth, the Jets will play the benefit series in specialty pink jerseys, which will be available for post-game auction on Saturday with proceeds going to the Mercy Regional Cancer Center. Stay tuned to janesvillejets.com and the Jets’ social media channels for upcoming news and coverage of the popular event.