Jets playoff bound

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John Barry
Thursday, March 27, 2014

Joe Dibble called the final two minutes of the Janesville Jets' hockey game on Tuesday night the longest of his career.

The Jets held a 2-1 lead and knew if they could hold on at Springfield they'd clinch an appearance in the NAHL playoffs. And Dibble, Janesville's second-year head coach, came here after a stint coaching in Springfield.

Through all the stress, Jets goalie Brock Kautz made the 2-1 lead hold up to increase his franchise lead for career victories. And Janesville earned a spot in the postseason after missing out last year because it was on the wrong end of a tiebreaker.

“It was excitement, but there were also a lot of tired players,” Dibble said. “These guys have put in so much to get to this point, and they wanted it so bad that it was almost like they were so excited and exhausted at the same time.

“They celebrated for a couple minutes and then when we were on the bus it was like, 'All right, let's go to sleep.'”

The Jets needed their rest with the final series of the season looming. It begins tonight with back-to-back home games against the Johnstown Tomahawks.

Johnstown enters the weekend holding the fourth and final playoff spot from the NAHL North Division, leading Springfield by three points. Janesville, in third, leads Johnstown by three and trails Michigan by four.

“(Friday) night will tell a lot,” Dibble said. “Obviously we want to win these last two games at home, but I think the important thing right now is the playoffs.

“We're going to try to make a run at this thing.”

It's already been quite the stretch.

At one point in last place and left for dead by many, the Jets have stormed back. The victory at Springfield gave them eight in their past 10 games.

“It was my old team and my old rink,” Dibble said. “When we scored that third goal (to make it 2-1), I wanted to jump out on the ice I was so excited. The last two minutes of that game were the longest.

“You want it so bad for these kids, just for them to get what they deserve.”

What they've already earned is a playoff spot and at least one more home game after this weekend. If the standings hold, Janesville and Michigan will square off in a five-game series, with the Warriors holding home-ice advantage.

First things first, the Jets will attempt to sweep the season series with Johnstown. They swept a road series with the Tomahawks four weeks ago. The puck drops at 7 p.m. tonight at Saturday.

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