JANESVILLE, WI— Jets fan were told to look forward to a healthy, refocused team coming out of the holiday break, and that’s exactly what they’ve got.
Four’s a streak for the suddenly hot Jets, who have now won seven of their last eight games.
Janesville traveled to Springfield last weekend on the heels of a home sweep over the Minnesota Magicians to close their 2017 calendar. Against their oldest rival, the longest-tenured franchise in the NAHL, the Jets took care of business, defeating the Jr. Blues and holding the Springfield attack to two goals in 120 minutes of hockey.
Between the Pipes
Goaltender Garrett Nieto was stellar against his former team, shutting them out with a 26-save performance on Friday and following that up with a 42/44 effort on Saturday. The Californian netminder now carries a 3-1 record against the Jr. Blues and boasts a .940 save percentage across those four games, a full 12 points above his already impressive season average.
“Obviously any time you play against a team that let you go, you want to make sure you show them they made a mistake,” Nieto admitted. “So yeah, I’d say there’s a little bit more of an edge to my game when we’re down there, but as always it’s one game at a time.”
Jets assistant coach Corey Leivermann had high praise for his goaltender.
“Obviously with Danny [Lebedeff] out with an upper body injury, Garrett knew he was the guy and he stepped up, carrying us to two big wins down in Springfield,” Leivermann said. “He was a stud in both games.”
Whether Nieto or Lebedeff in net, the Jets have terrific goaltending options, and have tightened things up defensively over a winning stretch. Janesville has allowed just 11 goals in its last seven contests, collecting six wins in that period. Approached with those numbers, Nieto was quick to give credit to his skaters.
“They’ve been huge for sure,” he said. “Whether it’s backchecking on entries or clearing out rebounds or whatever the task, they’ve been doing everything they can to help me and Daniel on this last little stretch here. I mean, in any hockey game, you’re going to have a few high opportunity chances. That’s hockey. But they’ve done their jobs to keep those to as few as possible and it’s really helped.”
Answering the Call
Saturday was a big day for Jets tender Tony Follmer, who suited up as an affiliate player and logged big minutes on the blue line.
“For sure Tony was awesome on Saturday,” said Leivermann, who in November landed the St. Louis prospect. “As a 2000 to step in the way he did, playing big minutes in a close game, that’s a huge statement about where his game is at right now.”
Follmer played beside Reid Hill, who started his Jets tenure this season also as an AP but worked his way into the regular lineup. Just 37 minutes into his NAHL debut, Follmer picked up his first point, an assist on Jordan Steinmetz’s eventual game-winner.
Leivermann also identified second-year forward Jakov Novak as a key contributor in the sweep.
“Once again, Jakov was a man versus boys out there,” Leivermann said. “On both ends of the ice, in all zones, he’s working hard and the points are coming for him. It’s all correlating with him playing 200 feet. That’s the reason he’s second in the league in scoring right now.”
A four-point weekend indeed lifted the Windsor Jr. Spitfires alumnus up to second place in the league scoring race with 39 points, just one shy of the Austin Bruins’ Travis Kothenbeutel. Novak has played in three fewer games than Kothenbeutel, and his 1.39 points-per-game is the highest in the league among qualified skaters.
The Jets won’t have long to celebrate the sweep of their division rivals before the Jr. Blues come knocking this weekend.
The two teams play games #79 and #80 in their collective history, with the Jets holding a 50-23-2-3 record.
“The biggest thing this weekend is they’re gonna have the chip on their shoulder,” Leivermann said. “We went in there and took two big wins on their home ice. I expect a good matchup Friday for us. If we can continue to play the right way as we have been, good things will happen. It’s turned into four straight wins for us lately, so we need to keep it up. Both ends of the ice, play the right way, we win. Simple as that.”
Friday, January 5: Janesville Jets 2, Springfield Jr. Blues 0
Shots: Jets 20, Jr. Blues 26
PP: Jets 1-5, Jr. Blues 0-3
The Janesville Jets (20-8-2-0) earned their second straight shutout Friday night as Garrett Nieto stopped all 26 shots from the Springfield Jr. Blues (18-12-1-1), picking up a 2-0 win in the Land of Lincoln Friday night.
The first period was a fatiguing, feel-each-other-out process that saw only eight total shots in the frame, four a piece. In the dying seconds of the period, defenseman Matt Doyle (19:34 1st) collected a puck by the near boards and threw it towards the net, where it ricocheted off a Jr. Blues defenseman and in for the game’s first goal.
After a scoreless second, the Jets’ special teams finally struck when Jakov Novak (4:13 3rd) put home a rebound for his 15th goal of the season. The penalty kill came up big with a checking from behind minor to Benji Eckerle, and Nieto made a couple of huge saves down the line to close out the win.
Evan Fear (8-4-1-0) made 18 saves on 20 shots in the loss, but no effort would beat Garrett Nieto (10-3-0-0), whose recorded his second shutout of the season on 26 saves.
Saturday, January 6: Janesville Jets 3, Springfield Jr. Blues 2
Shots: Jets 41, Jr. Blues 44
PP: Jets 1-4, Jr. Blues 0-4
The Janesville Jets (21-8-2-0) stole an early lead and never trailed in a shot-heavy 3-2 win over the Springfield Jr. Blues (18-13-1-1) on Saturday, extending the win streak to four games.
Forward Simon Sagissor (0:42 1st) got the Jets going early, converting a sweet pass from Jakov Novak and tucking a backhand five-hole for his fourth goal of the season. A few minutes later, the Jets’ penalty kill went to work with Sam Renlund in the box for cross checking. Just seconds after Renlund stepped out of the box, the Jr. Blues gained the zone and forced a turnover for Spencer DenBeste‘s (5:41 1st) game-tying goal. Later in the period, on the power play, Brenden MacLaren (12:07 1st) put home an absolute snipe from above the dots to give the Jets a lead they would not relinquish. The Jets finished the first period with 15 shots on goal, 11 more than the previous night’s quiet opening frame.
The Jets added another 15 pucks on net in the long shift, but couldn’t find twine until Jordan Steinmetz (17:00 2nd) roofed a short side wrister for his fifth goal in eight games.
The Jr. Blues started, but couldn’t finish, their comeback efforts midway through the third period when former Jet Brandon Puricelli (12:57 3rd) scored in his first game back with the Jr. Blues from the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.
Garrett Nieto (11-3-0-0) saw the team’s shutout streak close at a little more than 130 minutes, but was still excellent on a very busy night, stopping 42 of 44 Springfield shots. Despite a perfect third period, Evan Fear (8-5-1-0) allowed three goals on 41 shots, giving him two consecutive losses for the first time since early November.
Midwest Division Recap
The Jets’ sweep of the Jr. Blues came at a critical time as the only set of division games in a weekend full of sweeps. The Central Division’s Minnesota Wilderness traveled to La Crosse, where the Coulee Region Chill hung nine goals on the board on Friday night and finished the sweep with a 2-1 win on Saturday. In Richfield, the Aberdeen Wings defeated the Minnesota Magicians in a pair of games, though the Magicians earned a point on Saturday with an overtime loss. Both Alaska teams went out east, with the Kenai River Brown Bears losing a pair in Johnstown to the Tomahawks, and the division’s current front-runner, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, totaling nine goals in their sweep at Wilkes-Barre. The Ice Dogs’ four points keep them seven ahead of Janesville, though the Jets hold two games in hand, with January 26 matchup in Janesville looming.
Midwest Division Standings:
|1||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||23-5-3-2||51|
|3||Springfield Jr. Blues||18-13-1-1||35|
|5||Coulee Region Chill||9-15-1-5||24|
|6||Kenai River Brown Bears||10-22-1-1||22|
Friday, Jan 12: Springfield Jr. Blues @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m. CT
Saturday, Jan 13: Springfield Jr. Blues @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m. CT
The red-hot Jets return to the Janesville Ice Arena this weekend as they again play the Jr. Blues in another big weekend series. Springfield entered the holiday break on a three-game win streak, dating back to the Jr. Blues’ last visit to Janesville (a 4-1 win on December 9), but have since won just one of their last four. Head coach Tyler Rennette’s squad now find themselves tied with the Minnesota Magicians for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division, and this weekend they will begin a stretch of six road games in their next seven.
PROMOS AND EVENTS
Saturday night, the Jets are teaming with Janesville Police, Janesville Fire, and Beloit Fire for the second annual First Responders Night, featuring a Guns ‘N Hoses charity game set for 4:30 p.m. at the Janesville Ice Arena. The Police vs. Fire game is open to the public and free to attend. Fans can buy their ticket to the Jets game at the gate for the charity game, or are welcome to stay just for the charity game. The beer stand will be open for the charity game and will feature half-priced beverages until the Jets’ doors open at 6:15 p.m.
Jets players will also wear specialty jerseys in their pre-game warmups, which will be available through a silent auction at the game. Funds raised from this event will benefit local police and fire charities.
IN THE COMMUNITY
Tues Jan 9
Jets players will have lunch with 1st and 2nd graders at Robinson Elementary as part of the school’s “Honors Lunch” program.
Wed Jan 10 & Thur Jan 11
Jets players will “ride along” with members of Janesville Police Department as a ramp-up to this Saturday’s First Responders Night.
Thurs Jan 11
Jordan Steinmetz & Benji Eckerle will visit Madison Elementary School as they start their Junior Achievement curriculum with a 1st grade classroom.