Janesville Jets continue their ascent toward NAHL playoffs
JANESVILLE—Joe Dibble said his team played 10 strong minutes of hockey on Friday night.
Not even a relaxed effort could keep the Janesville Jets from continuing their ascent through the North American Hockey League standings.
They survived shaky play early and put the Michigan Warriors away late in a 6-3 victory at the Janesville Ice Arena. The victory moved the Jets—in last place just a few weeks ago—into a tie for third place in the NAHL North.
“We're happy with the outcome, but we're not happy with the 60 (minutes of play),” Dibble said. “I would say 10 minutes of that hockey game we played pretty hard, and it happened to be in the third period when it counted.”
It was a battle of survival just to get there.
Janesville's Robin Hoglund opened the scoring less than seven minutes in. But Michigan answered with back-to-back goals in a span of just 10 seconds beginning at the 8:30 mark to snare the lead.
With less than four minutes left in the opening period, Jets defenseman Alex Smith skated the puck into the zone and fired a wrister over Trevor Gorsuch's glove for a power-play goal. His first tally of the season helped Janesville escape the first 20 minutes with a 2-2 tie.
“They were physical, and we shied away from the game of hockey,” Dibble said. “We were lucky to get out of the period with the score the way it was.”
The Warriors regained the lead six minutes into the second, and they carried that 3-2 edge deep into the period.
“The first two periods, there was a little bit of bickering maybe,” Jets assistant captain Jordan Himley admitted. “We were kind of mad or tense. But we finally got it going halfway through the second or so.
“We just had to keep working.”
With less than six minutes left in the second, Evan Feno chased a faceoff deep into the Jets' offensive zone and fired a pass from behind the net to Brandon Schultz in the right circle. Schultz's high blast tied the game for a third time at 3-3.
Three minutes later, Himley provided what would be the game-winner. On the power play, he threw the puck at the net from the right circle. It found its way past Gorsuch, who finished with 22 saves in the loss.
“It just came over to me, and I was all alone,” Himley said. “We just focused on getting everything to the net, especially when we were in a little bit of a slump.”
Zach Avolio put the game out of reach with a highlight-reel goal in the third. He skated the puck in deep, slammed on the brakes to send two defenders by him, spun to find the puck at his feet and then backhanded it in to make it 5-3.
It was the fifth straight victory for the Jets, all with Logan Halladay in net. He made 29 saves to earn his 17th victory.
The Jets now have 57 points, matching Johnstown—which lost in a shootout Friday—for third place. The top four teams in the division will make the playoffs.
“We're loving it,” Himley said. “We've climbed into that third position, and we'll work our way from there.”
Janesville hosts Michigan for the series finale at 7 p.m. tonight.
JANESVILLE 6, MICHIGAN 3
Michigan 2 1 0—3
Janesville 2 2 2—6
J—Robin Hoglund (Kyle Patava), 6:54. M—Zack Szajner (TJ Stuntz, Josh Shellman), 8:30. M—Josh Shellman (Tyler Groat), pp, 8:40.
J—Alex Smith (Hoglund, Adam Winborg), pp, 16:11.
M—Colin Horton (Ryan Dougherty), 6:18. J—Brandon Schultz (Evan Feno), 14:39. J—Jordan Himley (Ian Janco, Carson Vance), pp, 17:27.
J—Zach Avolio (AJ Duggan), 13:48. J—Smith (Patava), en, 19:54.
Saves—Trevor Gorsuch (M) 22, Logan Halladay (J) 29.