Jets reach Robertson Cup Championship
It takes nine postseason victories to win the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup championship.
The Janesville Jets are two-thirds of the way there, but they're not celebrating quite yet.
Kip Hoffmann scored two goals and added two assists and Michael Maloney had a goal and an assist late Saturday night in Alaska, propelling the Jets to a 5-2 victory over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Janesville won the Midwest Division finals series 3-1 and advanced to the Robertson Cup Championship beginning Thursday in Duluth, Minnesota.
“The guys are obviously excited to get there, but I think it also refocused everybody to make them realize there's so much more still left on the table,” Jets coach Joe Dibble said in a telephone interview from Alaska on Sunday. “We've already been here, already done this. Now we want to make a good impression and show why we've had the season we've had while we're at the Robertson Cup.”
The divison finals wrap up tonight when the Minnesota Wilderness and Aberdeen Wings play Game 5 of their series. The Aston Rebels and Lone Star Brahmas have already wrapped up their place in the final four in Duluth.
Janesville will be the No. 3 seed in the Roberston Cup Championship and will face Lone Star in a best-of-three series beginning Thursday at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center. Aston will be the top seed and will face the winner of tonight's game. The winners of the best-of-three series play for the Cup on Sunday in a one-game championship.
The Jets will not return home before heading to Duluth. They flew from Alaska early this morning to Seattle on the way to Minneapolis and then on to the finals from there.
“We're letting them get more rest instead of having four days of travel … if we came back to Janesville,” Dibble said. “It was 10 or 12 less hours on a bus.”
The Jets hope momentum continues to carry over from the divisional playoffs. They outscored Fairbanks 15-6 over the four games of that series after sweeping Coulee Region in the first round.
“We weren't really able to get our legs under us until the third period on Friday night, but in the third we were dominant, and that carried over into Saturday,” Dibble said of the series against Fairbanks. “That's a good hockey team that gave us everything we could handle.
“I think our depth was important and our goaltending was really good. The depth of our forward lines, they just keep coming at you.”
Goalie Jacob Barczewski made 18 saves Saturday to earn the win. He's 6-1 in the postseason with a 1.72 goals against average and .935 save percentage, all marks that are good for second in the league among postseason goalies.
Hoffmann, who scored 16 goals and had 32 points in 46 regular-season games, leads the league in postseason goals with seven of them in seven games and has added four assists.
Janesville has reached the Robertson Cup Championship for the second time in three years. In 2015, the Jets lost a pair of 2-1 games against the Wilderness in the semifinals.
“It's an elimination game every day—that's the way we're going to approach this,” Dibble said.
JANESVILLE 5, FAIRBANKS 2
Janesville 3 1 1—5
Fairbanks 2 0 0—2
J—Jack Gates (Cole Paskus, Michael Maloney), 2:41. F—Grayson Gavin (Connor Chilton), 6:10. J—Kip Hoffmann (Cullen Munson, Adam Roeder), 7:13. J—Maloney (Hoffmann, Roeder), 18:09. F—Bauer Neudecker (Daniel Haider, Hampus Eriksson), 19:26.
J—Peter Bates (Hoffmann, Roeder), pp, 10:09.
J—Hoffmann (Colin Felix, Munson), en, 19:32.
Saves—Jacob Barczewski (J) 18, Erik Gordon (F) 25.