Traverse City spoils Jets' playoff debut

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James Cook/Special to the Gazette
April 3, 2010
— Coach Dane Litke was concerned about his Janesville Jets heading into the North American Hockey League playoffs with a three-game losing streak.

That concern was realized here Friday night as Traverse City pounced on the Jets with a four-goal second period and went on to a 7-1 victory in the opening game of a North Division best-of-five, opening-round series.

“They’re a good team, and we knew they were going to come out, and we didn’t have an answer for them,” Litke said. “They beat us in every aspect of the game, and that’s why the score was 7-1.”

Doug Radke, hoping to reverse his playoff fortunes with a reverse mohawk, had a lot to do with that. Radke—playing with a sizable chuck of his hair cut off down the middle—helped cut down the Jets with a pair of second-period goals.

One of the two teams will win its first playoffs series in franchise history. The main difference is the Stars have been there twice before, while the Jets are a first-year team and obviously new to the postseason.

Meanwhile, Radke took the plunge and shaved the top of his head—a cut he said he’ll keep for the remainder of the playoffs.

“I wanted to keep every thing on the sides coming out my helmet,” Radke said. “When I go to school, I can put a hat on. Last year, I dyed it blonde, and I had a terrible playoffs, so I was like, ‘I’m not doing that this year.’ ”

After an even first period, Traverse City kicked it into high gear. Janesville outshot the North Stars, 11-8, in the first period, but Traverse City responded with an 18-7 effort in the second.

Derek Jacobson scored on an assist from Kurt Akers to lift Janesville into a 1-1 tie at the 8:16 mark of the first period. But then, things changed.

“Our forecheck improved from the first,” Traverse City coach Anthony Palumbo said. “We forced some turnovers and were able to turn those into goals. That was really the key to the game.”

Those turnovers often ended up in the Janesville net in a game that was nowhere near what either coach expected.

“I kind of expected a game like the first (period), where we controlled for a little while and then they took it to us for awhile,” Palumbo said. “I know they’re capable of playing much better. And we better be ready.”

The Jets are 3-1 this season following a loss by four of more goals.

“Hopefully, we’ll come out and play hard,” Litke said. “Our last three games haven’t been very good. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call for them.”

One player the Jets need to step up is Rui Encarnacao, the team’s leading scorer who

hasn’t recorded a goal or assist in his last three games. He has a -5 rating in that span and

didn’t play regularly on Friday.

“He didn’t play very well,” Litke said. “And we can’t go with guys who aren’t performing. So we sat him a couple shifts, with the thought that it would fire him up.

“He did better there at the end of the game. But the playoffs are different, and guys are going to get keyed on, and you have to find a way to work through that and persevere.”

The Jets had an uphill battle, however, after Traverse City scored four goals in a 5:17 span of the second period to pull away from the 1-1 tie.

Radke started and ended the second-period surge, taking a pass through traffic from Doug Clifford and skating across the crease to roof a backhand shot into the net midway through the second.

Chris Salomone struck off a Kelin Ainsworth pass form behind the net to put Traverse City on top 3-1. Tim Opie skated in on a one-man rush and pushed in his own rebound under the pads of Matt Wichorek for a 4-1 lead as Kyle Jean and Nilan Nagy drew assists.

Radke then made it a 5-1 bulge when he picked off a pass in the Jets’ defensive zone and buried a hard wrister, using a defender as a screen.

“Our defense struggled,” Litke said. “They came hard with pressure, and our defensemen were making quick decisions with the puck.

“We kept taking the puck back, taking the puck back, and we were losing the zone. Then we turn the puck over. From that time when you turn the puck over to when we get back in our defensive coverage, that’s when they were picking us apart.”


Janesville 1 0 0—1

Traverse City 1 4 2—7

First Period

TC—Kyle Jean (Alec Shields, Tim Opie), 1:24. J—Derek Jacobson (Kurt Akers), 8:16.

Second Period

TC—Dan Radke (Garrett Thompson, Doug Clifford), 10:11. TC—Chris Salomone (Kellin Ainsworth), 13:52. TC—Opie (Jean, Nilan Nagy), 14:31. tc—Radke (Eric McLintock), 15:28.

Third Period

TC—Phil Wendecker (McLintock), 4:33. TC—Eric Rivard (Andy Huff), 17:22.

Penalties—Janesville 6 for 15 minutes, Traverse City 9 for 21:00.

Shots on goal—Janesville 26, Traverse City 35.

Power plays—Janesville, 0-for-6; Traverse City, 0-for-3.

Saves—Matt Wichorek (J) 28, Drew Sandberg (TC) 25.

Time—2:07. Attendance—712.

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