Back home: Jets look for NAHL series lead
If the Janesville Jets can hold “serve” tonight and Saturday, the local North American Hockey League team will be going to the division finals.
Janesville plays St. Louis in Games 3 and 4 of their best-of-five division semifinal playoff matchup at the Janesville Ice Skating Center. Game 3 is at 7:30 tonight with Game 4 set for 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Jets, the No. 4 seed in the North Division, earned a split with the top-seeded Bandits in last week’s first two games of the series at St. Louis. Janesville lost the opener, 3-2, on Thursday, then came back to down the Bandits, 4-3, on Friday.
“That was nice for a couple of reasons,” Jets coach Dane Litke said of the victory for Janesville’s second-year team. “It was our first-ever win in St. Louis and our first-ever playoff win. So we feel good about that.”
The Bandits finished first in the division to earn the No. 1 seed. St. Louis finished the regular season with 12 more points than the Jets, but the first two games in St. Louis were close throughout.
Winning Game 2 puts Janesville in position to win the series with victories tonight and Saturday.
“It always helps when you’re tied 1-1, rather than being down 0-2,” Litke said. “Now it’s the best-of-three series. We worked hard for that one on Friday.”
The Jets have to be happy to be back at the Ice Skating Center. Janesville had the best home-ice record in the 26-team league this season at 23-4-2. Two other North Division teams—St. Louis and Traverse City—were tied with the second-best marks at 22-6-1.
However, playoff hockey often is a tossup, no matter where it is played.
“You never know,” Litke said. “We just have to take care of business. Our chances go up being at home.”
Alex Brooks leads the Jets in the two playoff games with three assists. John Olen and Connor McBride each have two goals, while regular-season leading-scorer Ross Mauermann has a goal and an assist.
David Jacobson, who is 26-14 with eight shutouts this season, started in goal in Game 1. Tony Kujava (9-5, 4 shutouts) started in goal in the Game 2 victory.
Litke would not commit to a starting goalie for this weekend. He did not know if Jacobson or Kujava would start both weekend games, or if he would alternate.
“I wish I could answer that,” he said of the goalie situation.
Tickets for the home games are $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors. Tickets go on sale 90 minutes before face-off, or they’re available in advance by calling the Jets ticket office at (608) 752-5387.
Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for Monday at St. Louis.