Jets fall in Game 3
To the 956 fans who watched the top-seeded St. Louis Bandits dispatch the fourth-seeded Janesville Jets, 2-1, in Game 3 of a North American Hockey League division semifinal playoff on Friday at the Janesville Ice Skating Center, it was apparent which team was better.
At least it was certainly apparent to Janesville coach Dane Litke.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it was a 2-1 game,” Litke said. “We kept it close, and we got a late goal, but the score really didn’t indicate the play of the game.
“I thought St. Louis played a great game.”
After a spiriting win in St. Louis last Friday tied the best-of-five series at a game apiece, the Jets are now one loss from elimination. The series continues with Game 4 at 7 tonight at the Ice Skating Center.
If necessary, Game 5 would be at 5 p.m. Sunday in St. Louis.
“If we don’t win (tonight), we’re done,” was all Litke said when asked what message he’d deliver his team after Friday’s loss. “It’s do-or-die.”
The winner of the series advances to face second-seeded Traverse City (Mich.) or third-seeded Michigan in the division finals. Michigan took a 2-1 lead in that series with a 3-2 overtime win on Friday.
Brad Smith scored both of St. Louis’ goals on Friday, while the Jets were held scoreless until Jordan Tredinnick beat Bandit goalie Matt Green (18 saves) from the high slot off a nice feed from Ross Mauermann with 2:22 left in the game.
The Jets pulled goalie Tony Kujava shortly after, and Janesville appeared to gain a faceoff to the right of Green with 14.8 seconds left. But the officials apparently ruled that a Janesville player had been in the crease, the faceoff came outside the St. Louis zone and Janesville was unable to generate one last chance.
“I don’t know,” Litke said when asked if he knew what the refs called to bring that faceoff outside the zone. “They said our defensemen were all down there (near the goal). I thought the reffing was not very good tonight.”
After a scoreless first period, successive penalties to Janesville’s Jeff Paczynski and Lawrence Childs gave St. Louis a 5-on-3 power play for 50 seconds in the second period.
The Bandits cashed in immediately when Smith stuffed the puck into the open net off a nice tic-tac-toe passing sequence from Ryan Stouffer and Taylor Wolfe with 5:42 left in the second.
“Specialty teams play a big, big part in the playoffs,” Litke said. “They scored a power-play goal, and we didn’t. That was one of the differences in the game.”
Smith made it 2-0 when he beat Kujava over the shoulder on a pretty wrist shot with 12:53 left in the game. The Jets, meanwhile, mustered very few scoring chances until Tredinnick’s late goal gave them some life.
“They just pressured the puck all over the ice,” Litke said of St. Louis’ defense. “I thought they did a good job of winning all the battles to the loose pucks.”
Kujava, who won Game 2, was solid in his second straight start with 26 stops. David Jacobson started Game 1 in net, but Litke wasn’t sure who will start tonight.
“We’ll worry about that (today),” he said.
ST. LOUIS 2, JANESVILLE 1
St. Louis 0 1 1—2
Janesville 0 0 1—1
SL—Brad Smith (Ryan Stouffer, Taylor Wolfe), pp, 14:18.
SL—Smith (Joe Kalisz), 7:07. J—Jordan Tredinnick (Ross Mauermann), 17:38.
Saves—Matt Green (SL) 18, Tony Kujava (26).