By Mason Lyttle
BROOKINGS, SD— The Jets were swept for the first time this season in South Dakota last weekend as the Brookings Blizzard downed Janesville, 4-3 and 5-3 at the Larson Ice Center in the eastern part of the Mount Rushmore State.
This week, the Jets resume their in-state rivalry with the Coulee Region Chill on Wednesday in La Crosse before hosting the Minnesota Wilderness for a Friday/Saturday series in Janesville. We’ll take a look at each of those teams and break down what’s ahead, but first, a look back on a learning weekend for the Jets.
Friday, Nov 17: Janesville Jets 3, Brookings Blizzard 4 (OT)
Shots: Jets 25, Blizzard 40
PP: Jets 1-3, Blizzard 1-3
Forward Justin Bofshever returned to action after 14 months of rehabilitation on shoulder and knee surgeries, drawing into the lineup on Janesville’s bottom pair. Brookings scored less than three minutes in when Doug Larson (2:47 1st) picked up a loose puck in the slot and put home a snapper. Later in the period, the Jets earned a 5-on-3 but surrendered a shorthanded goal to Josh Boyer (17:16 1st), who scored on a third effort on a breakaway following a pair of saves from Daniel Lebedeff.
Janesville’s energetic second period had the wind let out of its sails late, though, when Andriy Denyskin (19:24 2nd) lifted a backhand up and over Lebedeff.
The Jets’ game-tying goal came from Logan Ommen (16:11 3rd), who crashed the net and put home a rebound chance.
With less than a minute remaining, Brookings momentarily deflated the Jets’ hopes for a point when Connor Koviak put a shot past Lebedeff, who couldn’t get through a sprawled Chase Brand to make the save. Officials conferred and disallowed the goal.
In overtime, Kip Hoffmann drove the net wide but drew a charging penalty, resulting in a Brookings power play. It was Jimmy Elser (2:51 OT) who snapped the Blizzard’s losing streak with a wrister from the slot.
Zachary Borgiel (4-3-0-0) earned his first win in three weeks, making 22 saves on 25 shots. Despite the loss, Daniel Lebedeff (5-3-0-1) was solid for the Jets, stopping 36 of 40 Brookings shots and earning a point in the standings for Janesville.
Saturday, November 18: Janesville Jets 3, Brookings Blizzard 5
Shots: Jets 39, Blizzard 35
PP: Jets 1-7, Blizzard 1-8
On Saturday night, the Janesville Jets (13-6-0-1) again fell behind 2-0 in the first period, but gave up the third goal of the game, as well, making their comeback efforts that much harder. The Jets’ penalty kill went an impressive 7-for-8, and a wild finish nearly saw the Jets tie the game in the dying seconds, but the Brookings Blizzard (11-9-0-1) held on for the home sweep.
The Blizzard again jumped out early, this time from Ukrainian forward Andriy Denyskin (4:51 1st), who picked up an absolute gift of a puck sitting ten feet in front of goaltender Garrett Nieto with no Jets in sight. Denyskin walked in and tucked a backhand for the 1-0 lead. Later, with a man advantage, Carson Kosobud snapped a pass to Vince Marino (12:01 1st) who put a trickling wrister through Nieto for the 2-0 lead.
Midway through the second, the Blizzard’s Griffen Sanom led a 2-on-2 rush up ice, got a step past the Jets’ defensemen, and slid a pass to Connor Koviak (8:35 2nd), who put the Blizzard up 3-0. Defenseman Matt Doyle fell awkwardly into Nieto on the play, and the Jets’ goaltender was slow to get up. He stayed in for one more save, but called in a night on the ensuing media timeout. Daniel Lebedeff assumed the crease with a 3-0 deficit. Minutes later, Jakov Novak threw a beautiful stretch pass to a streaking Kip Hoffmann (10:30 2nd), who beat Zachary Borgiel on a quick shot to cut into the Blizzard lead.
As it often can be, the back-breaker for one team was the eventual game-winner for the other. Not a minute into the third, Doug Larson (0:21 3rd) earned a breakaway of his own and put in a backhand to regain the three-goal lead. Later, with coinciding minors opening up the ice for 4-on-4, Novak started a 2-on-1 and again found Kip Hoffmann (2:44 3rd) who beat Borgiel with a beautiful backhand drag to keep the Jets in the contest.
Late in the third, still trailing by two goals, the Blizzard set the table for a huge Jets comeback. Penalties to Josh Boyer and Carson Kosobud came just 70 seconds apart, giving the Jets a 6-on-3 advantage with Lebedeff pulled. Jakov Novak (19:20 3rd) blasted home a one-timer to cut the lead in half, but the goal came mere seconds after the expiration of Boyer’s penalty, meaning the goal brought the Blizzard back to five skaters.
The Jets pressured on one more rush, but the Blizzard cleared the zone and Jimmy Elser (19:53 3rd) iced the sweep with an empty-netter.
The Blizzard went back to Zachary Borgiel (5-3-0-0) Saturday, who earned the win with a 36/39 evening. Daniel Lebedeff (5-4-0-1) was very good in relief of Nieto, making 17 saves on 18 shots. The sometimes-frivolous nature of hockey scoring reared its trivial head on Saturday’s scoresheet. Novak’s goal with 40 seconds remaining meant the game-winning goal was then Brookings’ fourth, not their third, and that was a goal surrendered by Lebedeff, so Nieto’s night became a no decision, and Lebedeff’s became a loss.
Midwest Division Recap
It was another weekend of Midwest vs. Central matchups, with the Springfield Jr. Blues and the Coulee Region Chill playing the lone in-division series. The Chill smoked the Jr. Blues 7-1 on Friday, but Springfield battled back and earned a 4-3 shootout win on Saturday. Coulee Region’s three points jumped them over the Kenai River Brown Bears, who were swept at home by the Bismarck Bobcats. Farther north, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs also used a three-point weekend to better leverage themselves in the standings, moving into second place after a split with the visiting Minot Minotauros. The Jets’ spot in first place was threatened after the Minnesota Magicians bested the Aberdeen Wings, 4-2, on Friday, but Saturday proved different as the Wings ousted the Magicians, 7-1, to keep Janesville ahead by a point.
Midwest Division Standings:
|2||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||11-5-2-2||26|
|4||Springfield Jr. Blues||10-8-1-1||22|
|5||Coulee Region Chill||6-7-1-4||17|
|6||Kenai River Brown Bears||8-12-1-0||17|
Wednesday, Nov 22: Janesville Jets @ Coulee Region Chill — 7:00 p.m. CST
Friday, Nov 24: Minnesota Wilderness @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m. CST
Saturday, Nov 25: Minnesota Wilderness @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m. CST
Sometimes for a slumping team, the best schedule is a busy one. The Jets have three opportunities this week to right the ship, starting on Wednesday with a visit to the Green Island Ice Arena for another edition of the Battle of Wisconsin. The Coulee Region Chill are red-hot, riding an eight-game point streak that dates back to their 3-1 win over the Jets on Saturday, October 28. Miami commit Nick Bowman leads the way offensively, and recently earned the Bauer Midwest Division Star of the Week for his six-point weekend in Springfield. Air Force recruit Brandon Koch leads Chill defensemen in scoring with 16 points, a mark bested only by two other NAHL blueliners. Emil Zetterquist continues to impress in net for the Chill. The Swedish goaltender recently committed to St. Lawrence University and has posted a .943 save percentage or better in each of his last four starts.
The Jets are 2-1 this season versus the Chill, and hold an all-time 44-18-5-5 record in the Battle of Wisconsin.
After Thanksgiving, the Jets start a stretch of eight-straight home games, hosting the Minnesota Wilderness on Friday. This year’s team looks different than the Wilderness squads that dashed Janesville’s postseason hopes in back-to-back seasons. Tim Madsen’s boys will be hungry this weekend, as a 7-10-2-1 mark across the first third of the season is not exactly status quo in Cloquet. Canadian Kosta Likourezos leads Wilderness skaters with 18 points, followed closely by captain and top-scoring defenseman Eric Gotz (16 points), who last week committed to Miami. Veteran Trevor Micucci takes the bulk of Minnesota’s starts, but has yet to find his groove, posting a .897 save percentage against a 3.4 goals against average.
The Jets won last year’s series, 3-1, including a sweep in Janesville to start the season.
All games this weekend will be broadcast LIVE on HockeyTV.com. Catch Mason Lyttle’s Jets call on Wednesday and tune in for Mike Hammett after the holiday. Click below for rates to watch the Jets both home and on the road.
PROMOS AND EVENTS
This Friday is the Jets’ annual Black Friday Blowout, sponsored by Blains’ Farm & Fleet. One lucky fan in attendance Friday will win a free snow thrower, retail valued at $400. Friday is home game #250 for the Jets’ franchise, and to celebrate, we’re offering $2.50 beers from 6:00 through the end of the 1st intermission.