JANESVILLE, WI— These Jets are serious about competing.
A big weekend stood before them: host the league’s best team, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, and try to snap their 21-game point streak. Then, get on a bus just 12 hours later and go battle a rival on their home ice.
The end result was three out of four points in the standings as Janesville pushed Fairbanks to a shootout before dominating the shot totals in a 3-0 road win over Springfield.
The Jets have lost just one regulation contest since Christmas break, putting together an impressive 8-1-0-1 record in that stretch and widening the gap over third place to 10 points.
Janesville has 23 games left on its regular season slate versus Fairbanks’ 20, and visits the Ice Dogs for a critical three-game stand in March. Making up the 12-point ground is certainly not impossible.
No bones about it. Pushing the Ice Dogs to a shootout Friday was a statement, and the Jets underlined it with a dominant road win on Saturday. The Road to the Robby is starting to take shape, and the Jets are serious players.
After two periods, the Janesville Jets (24-9-2-1) trailed the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (29-5-3-2) on the shot clock by 12, and in the goal column by one, but battled back with a harder third period effort, tying the game and getting a point in the standings from a shootout loss.
Both goaltenders, Daniel Lebedeff for Janesville and Josh Benson for Fairbanks, were pitching shutouts through 36+ minutes of action. Late in the second period, the Ice Dogs’ Luke Oyrsiuk (16:47 2nd) sniped a wrister on the power play to break the ice and gain the 1-0 lead.
With a little help from 6:00 of power play time, the Jets evened the shot efforts in the third period at nine a piece. Pushing hard with the extra attacker, defenseman Carter Ekberg found Kip Hoffmann (19:49 3rd) on the back door for the game-tying goal with less than a dozen seconds left in regulation.
The Jets’ penalty kill unit came up huge in overtime, killing a 4-on-3 in the period’s final 1:59 to force a shootout, where the Ice Dogs eked by the Jets in the sixth round.
Daniel Lebedeff (10-6-2-1) was excellent for the Jets, turning away 30 of the Ice Dogs’ 31 shots in 65 minutes of play, and a still four of six in the shootout. Josh Benson (18-3-2-2) came away with the win, however, stopping 17 of 18 shots and five of six beyond overtime.
The Janesville Jets (25-9-2-1) leaned on a tremendous shutout from Daniel Lebedeff and goals in every period on the way to a 3-0 win over the Springfield Jr. Blues (18-16-3-1).
Ten minutes into the first period, the Jets broke the ice from the stick of Jordan Steinmetz (9:59 1st), who collected a pass from Benji Eckerle and sniped home his sixth of the season. From there, the play turned physical, with a few crushing hits from each team turning up the intensity.
The Jets took the game’s first penalty just 17 seconds into the 2nd period. The kill did its job, and Janesville earned a couple of cracks at the power play in the middle frame, but couldn’t generate much. Late in the period, Sam Renlund (16:28 2nd) buried a rebound from a Steinmetz shot to double the lead for the Jets.
Determined to put this one away, alternate captain Jakov Novak (3:44 3rd) scored a beautiful goal just one match removed from the expiration of his 12-game point streak. Novak collected a puck at the near blue line, approached his defender, and toe-dragged it in tight before sniping his 20th of the season glove side. The Jets piled on the shots in the closing 15 minutes, finishing with a total of 20 in the third period alone.
Daniel Lebedeff (11-6-2-1) would not be beaten, turning aside shot after shot in the 28-save shutout performance on his way to earning NAHL Midwest Division Star of the Week. Evan Fear (8-7-2-0) was solid in net for the Jr. Blues against 45 shots, but needed something even more special for the win.
Midwest Division Recap
It was an odd week for the Midwest Division. There were no weekend series, and two of the six teams, the Springfield Jr. Blues and the Minnesota Magicians, had Friday off.
The Coulee Region Chill battled back from three one-goal deficits to beat the Kenai River Brown Bears on Friday night by a 5-4 score in La Crosse. The Chill then hosted the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and dropped a close 2-1 contest to Fairbanks, whose point streak now stands at 23 games. After Friday’s loss, the Brown Bears traveled west to Richfield, Minnesota, where the Minnesota Magicians overcame a two-goal third period deficit to oust Kenai River in the shootout, 6-5.
In the standings, two double-digit gaps sit above and below the Jets, and a third between the playoff teams and those whose seasons will cap at 60 games. Plenty of hockey remains to be played, but as it stands now, the Magicians and Jr. Blues are battling for 3rd place, while the Chill and the Brown Bears continue to trade 5th and 6th place.
Midwest Division Standings:
|1||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||40||30-5-3-2||65|
|4||Springfield Jr. Blues||38||18-16-3-1||40|
|5||Coulee Region Chill||38||10-20-3-5||28|
|6||Kenai River Brown Bears||40||12-25-1-2||27|
Friday, Feb 2: Kenai River Brown Bears @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m. CT
Saturday, Feb 3: Coulee Region Chill @ Janesville Jets — 7:00 p.m. CT
This weekend, the Jets again play a pair of games against two different opponents. The Brown Bears have dropped 10 of their last 12 games, but have recently dialed in to a scoring touch, tallying four or more goals in three of their last five contests. The Chill, meanwhile, are 1-2 in their three games since returning from their winless Alaska trip and will be coming to Janesville off the heels from a two-game home series vs. Springfield.
PROMOS AND EVENTS
Friday night is the Jets’ Scout Night, sponsored by Dreier Dental, where the organization will recognize local boy scout and girl scout troops.
Saturday night is Youth Hockey Night, sponsored by Bjoin Limestone, in concordance with Janesville Youth Hockey’s hosting of Janesville Hockey Rocks, their 2018 Red, White, and Blue Tournament. The Jets will hold an extended 1st intermission to showcase participating mite teams in a skills exhibition.
After the game on Saturday, the Jets are holding their second annual Skate with the Jets, presented by Mercyhealth. Jets players will skate with fans post-game, and skate rentals are free for all in attendance. The Skate with the Jets event is only open for fans who attended the Jets game.
IN THE COMMUNITY
Tues Jan 30
Jets players will visit first grade and kindergarten classrooms at Madison Elementary School as part of the recently unveiled BMO Harris Reading Club Program.
Jets players will also pay visit to Aptiv in Janesville to play a special noodle hockey match with adults with developmental disabilities.
Wed Jan 31
Jets players will visit Jefferson Elementary School as part of the Literacy Role Models Program, where they will read to underprivileged children who lack strong male role models.
In the evening, Jets players will help lead drills at Janesville Youth Hockey’s in-house Red, White, and Blue practice.
Thurs Feb 1
Jordan Steinmetz & Benji Eckerle will visit Madison Elementary School as they continue their Junior Achievement curriculum with a 1st grade classroom.