Janesville Jets clinch NAHL playoff spot
The Janesville Jets are back in the North American Hockey League playoffs.
Kyle Patava scored with less than seven minutes remaining Tuesday night to lift Janesville to a 2-1 road victory over the Springfield Jr. Blues.
The victory gave the third-place Jets 64 points and a six-point lead over the fifth-place Blues. The top four teams in the NAHL North make the playoffs, and both teams have just two regular-season games remaining.
“Everyone is celebrating,” Jets head coach Joe Dibble said. “To see these guys get rewarded for the work they’ve put in since the trade deadline is nice. A lot of people counted us out, but they stayed with the process.”
Tyler Rehm opened the scoring for Janesville in the first period on Tuesday night, but Springfield answered just 36 seconds into the second.
Later, Patava scored off a pass from future University of Minnesota player Robin Hoglund at 13:31 of the third to send the Jets to victory.
Goalie Brock Kautz made 26 saves in the playoff-clinching effort.
Janesville returns to the playoffs for the fourth time in its five-year existence. The Jets missed out on the postseason last year when they were on the wrong end of a tiebreaker. They won’t have to worry about that this year.
The victory caps an impressive late-season run that has sent the Jets from last place to third. They have won eight of their last 10 games and have picked up 17 points during that span, which dates back to Feb. 28.
“We’ve always known we were capable of doing this,” Dibble said. “It doesn’t seem like work when you’re winning. It just seems like they’re having fun. That’s what this game is all about. We’re just living in the moment and having fun.”
Janesville hosts fourth-place Johnstown (61 points) in a two-game series beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Janesville Ice Arena.