Jets set for first playoff launch
Janesville’s first-year expansion junior hockey team finished third in the NAHL North Division and gets a shot at the so-called “second season.”
The Jets open the NAHL North Division playoffs tonight at Traverse City, Mich.. The first two games of the best-of-five series are today and Saturday, with games three and four (if necessary) scheduled for the Janesville Ice Skating Center on Friday, April 9, and Saturday, April 10.
Game 5, if necessary, would switch back to Traverse City on Sunday, April 11.
Janesville was 6-3-1 against Traverse City during the regular season. Despite the success, Jets coach Dane Litke said none of that matters in the postseason.
“What happened in the regular season means nothing now,” Litke said. “Traverse City might have shown a couple of tendencies on tape that we can prepare for, but it basically comes down to starting fresh and playing hard for 60 minutes.
“This is an exciting time for a lot of these guys because it’s their first experience with playoff hockey. That’s why it’s important to come out strong right away.”
Janesville finished third in the NAHL North Division and wrapped up a postseason berth more than a month ago.
Rui Encarnacao, who signed to play for the University of Connecticut next season, leads the Jets in scoring with 52 points. Ross Mauermann, a 2009 Janesville Parker graduate, is second on the team in scoring with 41 points and leads the team with 28 assists.
Matt Wichorek will start in goal tonight for the Jets after compiling a 19-15-4 regular season.
Janesville finished the regular season on a three-game losing streak, and that concerns Litke.
“I hope that stems from the fact that we clinched a playoff spot awhile ago and nothing else,” Litke said of the three losses. “Sometimes, that comes with the territory when you’re dealing with young men.
“But all-in-all, I was pleased with the way our season went. You never know what to expect with an expansion team and how you’re welcomed in the community. Our fan response was fantastic.”
The Jets averaged 691 fans per game in 29 home games and finished with a total attendance of 20,051.
The winner of the Jets/North Stars series will play the winner of the Motor City/Marquette series for the North Division championship. The four division winners will play in the NAHL’s Robertson Cup at Wenatchee, Wash., on May 4 and May 9.
Jets playoff tickets available
Tickets for the Janesville Jets/Traverse City North Stars playoff game on Friday, April 9, will go on sale Monday at the Janesville Ice Skating Center.
The box office will be open from 11:30 a.m-1 p.m. on Monday, April 5; 5-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7; and from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday, April 9.
The first 300 fans at Friday night’s game will get a free rally towel courtesy of game-night sponsor Best Buy.
Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for students/seniors.