By Mason Lyttle
JANESVILLE, WI— After a pre-Thanksgiving win in La Crosse, the Jets suffered their second sweep in as many weekends with a pair of losses to the Minnesota Wilderness. The 3-5-2 slump, dating back to October 28th’s 3-1 loss to Coulee Region, gave the Fairbanks Ice Dogs an opportunity to overtake the Jets for top place in the Midwest Division. Janesville’s overtime loss Saturday gave them their 30th point of the season, representing a tie with Fairbanks, but the Ice Dogs’ game in hand gives them the tiebreak.
This weekend, the Jets can right the ship and exact some revenge with the Brookings Blizzard coming to town. Head coach Moe Mantha’s Blizzard swept the Jets two weekends ago in South Dakota. Brookings is coming off of a split in Minot with the Minotauros, and in the extremely-tight Central Division, occupy the fourth and final playoff spot, just one point out of a three-way tie for first.
The Janesville Jets (14-6-1-0) never led over their in-state rivals, but battled back from two one-goal deficits to force a shootout, where they beat the Coulee Region Chill (6-7-1-5).
After a scoreless first period, Coulee Region earned the game’s first goal on their second power play opportunity when Bailey Martin (4:04 2nd) redirected a soft shot from Nick Bowman past Daniel Lebedeff and in. Late in the period, it was Janesville’s turn for a tip-in. Reid Hill fired a shot from the blue line which Sam Renlund (16:32 2nd) found wood on to tie the game at 1-1.
In the third, on another man advantage, the Chill struck again when a point shot trickled through the Jets’ penalty kill. Coulee Region swarmed Lebedeff, and it was Connor Zilisch (4:46 3rd) who came up with the go-ahead goal. The Chill’s lead hardly lasted three minutes, though, when Jakov Novak (7:58 3rd) stripped a Chill defenseman of the puck, walked in, and buried his 10th of the season.
Lebedeff denied Marshal Plunkett and Andy McGlynn in the shootout, and both Renlund and Novak followed up their regulation performances with a shootout goal each, earning Janesville its 14th win of the season.
The Janesville Jets (14-7-1-0) were blanked Friday night on home ice, unable to get one past goaltender Ryan Fanti and the Minnesota Wilderness (9-10-2-1).
For the second straight game, the first 20 minutes elapsed with neither team finding the back of the net. Early in the second period, Minnesota’s Nick Altmann (4:57 2nd) put home a rebound and broke the scoreless streak. Later in the period, with the Jets on the power play, the Wilderness caught the Janesville man advantage unit scrambling. Daniel Lebedeff turned away a partial breakaway chance from Ashton Altmann and the ensuing rebound by Luke Dow, but defenseman Ondrej Trejbal followed up and scored his first North American goal to double the Wilderness lead.
Minnesota picked up the insurance marker from Josh Fricks (6:01 3rd) on a delayed 3-on-2 rush.
In the series rubber match, the Janesville Jets (14-7-2-0) came out much stronger but twice surrendered a two-goal lead, allowing the Minnesota Wilderness (10-10-2-1) the come-from-behind overtime win.
Rookie defenseman Matt Doyle (16:32 1st) got the Jets going with his first NAHL goal late in the first period. Doyle collected a cross-zone pass from below the far dot and threw a wrister on net, which beat a screened Ryan Fanti.
Early in the second, Sam Renlund and Simon Sagissor worked to strip a Wilderness defenseman behind the goal line, and TJ Polglaze (3:48 2nd) capitalized on a loose puck in a prime scoring area, burying his second of the season for the 2-0 lead. About three minutes later, Isaac Kobienia (6:33 2nd) drove the net and tucked a backhand to cut the lead in half. Janesville led, 2-1, after 40 minutes of play.
Less than a minute into the third period, Jakov Novak (0:37 3rd) regained the two-goal lead for the Jets. Novak snapped home a quick pass from Polglaze on a 3-on-2 zone entry, with Erik Palmqvist driving the net and taking a Wilderness defenseman with him. From there, things quickly fell apart for Janesville. The penalty kill gave up its first on a screened shot from Ondrej Trejbal (6:21 3rd), and another from Josh Fricks (14:56 3rd) late in the period. Trejbal faked the one-timer from Nikolai Lyssogor and found Fricks on a slap pass low in the slot for the equalizer. With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Logan Ommen received a game misconduct for boarding Trejbal, sending the Wilderness to a five-minute power play that leaked into the overtime period.
Ryan Fanti (4-2-0-0) hung on for the sweep, blanking the Jets in the game’s final 20 minutes and making 28 saves on 31 total shots. Daniel Lebedeff (6-5-2-0) played 40+ minutes of one-goal hockey, but the penalty kill collapse gave him his second overtime loss of the season as he finished with 27 saves on 31 shots.
Midwest Division Recap
The ever-tightening division saw plenty of movement last weekend. Leapfrogging the Jets for first place were the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, who visited their in-state rivals, the Kenai River Brown Bears, and hung 12 goals on the scoreboard in a weekend sweep. The Springfield Jr. Blues also moved up in the standings with a road sweep, defeating the Minnesota Magicians 3-2 on Saturday and following up with a 4-0 shutout on Sunday. The Magicians’ slump was extended to four, including a 4-1 loss Wednesday night in Cloquet to the Wilderness. The Coulee Region Chill went dry in a home-and-home series with the Central’s Austin Bruins, losing 5-2 at the Riverside Arena and 1-0 at home on Saturday.
Midwest Division Standings:
|1||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||13-5-2-2||30|
|3||Springfield Jr. Blues||12-8-1-1||26|
|5||Coulee Region Chill||6-9-1-5||18|
|6||Kenai River Brown Bears||8-14-1-0||17|
If there’s a silver lining to this recent Jets slump, it’s that the last four losses didn’t gift a division opponent with a pair of points. Janesville continues a mid-season trend of interdivision opponents this weekend, hosting Moe Mantha’s Blizzard, who just two weeks ago swept the Jets at home. Brookings scored in the first five minutes of each game and built a 2-0 lead on Friday and a 3-0 lead Saturday. While the Jets battled back in each, the South Dakota series highlighted the need for this team to start its games on time. A juicy opportunity for revenge awaits the Jets this weekend.
Both games this weekend will be broadcast LIVE on HockeyTV.com. Mike Hammett will bring you the action from the Janesville Ice Arena. Click below for rates to watch the Jets both home and on the road.
PROMOS AND EVENTS
This Saturday is the Jets’ second annual Hockey Bingo Night, sponsored by Mid-States Concrete. The first 200 fans through the door will receive a printed Bingo card to mark throughout the game, with events like “Hoffmann shot on goal,” “Brookings penalty,” and “Chilly sighting” occupying the spaces. The first fan to present a winning card to the Jets’ promo table will receive a $50 merchandise gift voucher.