Jets open Robertson Cup Championships today
Kip Hoffman, Cullen Munson and Adam Roeder have been here before.
As third-year members of the Janesville Jets, they were part of the 2014-15 team that set North American Hockey League records on their way to the league's Robertson Cup Championships—a final four of the league's top teams in Duluth, Minnesota.
Two years later, the Jets are back again. With Roeder and Munson as captains, the team was a runaway winner of the Midwest Division. With Hoffmann surging in the postseason, they won six of seven regional playoffs games to earn their spot back in Duluth.
They'll open Robertson Cup play at 7:30 p.m. today against the Lone Star Brahmas at the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center. The Aston Rebels face the Aberdeen Wings in the other semifinal final series. Both series are best-of-3 and run Thursday, Friday and Saturday, if necessary. The two teams left standing play a winner-take-all championship game Sunday.
“We fell short two years ago against a really good Minnesota Wilderness team,” Hoffmann said. “With that experience … I think it motivates us just a little bit more to work hard and win this thing.
“It's getting a little harder to sleep at night, knowing what's on the line and how excited we all are and how close we are to winning the title.”
Hoffmann seems to have saved his best for last.
The University of Alaska-Anchorage recruit scored 16 goals in 46 games during the regular season but leads all of the league in playoff goals scored with seven of them in seven games.
“I'm giving it 100 percent on every single shift, just like every other guy in this locker room,” Hoffmann said. “My linemates, Cullen Munson and Peter Bates, have contributed just as much as I have to our success. We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing this whole playoff run—working hard and getting pucks to the net.”
Bates should have a bit of a scouting report on Lone Star. He played 32 games with the team last season before coming over to the Jets.
The Brahmas finished first in the NAHL South with a 44-14-2-0 record for 90 points, one more than the Jets, who went 42-13-1-4 playing in the Midwest. Lone Star swept its opening series but was taken to five games by Corpus Christi in the division finals.
“We watched the first period of their Game 5 yesterday as a team at our hotel, just scouting and seeing what they have,” Hoffmann said. “Lone Star has a lot of big players, but we're strong, skilled and I think we have a good chance of winning.”
The semifinal series will feature two of the postseason's hottest goaltenders.
Janesville's Jacob Barczewski is 6-1 with a 1.72 goals against average and a .935 save percentage. Lone Star's Max Prawdzik is 6-2 with a 1.83 and a .911. However, Barczewski has stopped 31 more shots (199) than Prawdzik despite playing in one fewer game.
So the Jets could be in for a couple low-scoring games the next couple nights in Duluth.
Regardless the score, they hope they're up for the task.
“This is what we play for, to win championships,” Hoffmann said. “Everyone has the same mindset—we're here for a reason and nothing less. We're not going to let up at the end.”