Having grown up just down the road from where he plays his junior hockey, Tanner Polglaze gets plenty of love when he takes the ice for the Janesville Jets.
The Beloit native produced a moment of magic for his supporters Friday. Polglaze’s spectacular goal late in the third period was the difference as the Jets edged the Springfield Jr. Blues 2-1 at the Janesville Ice Arena.
Janesville (22-8-2-0) moved eight points clear of Springfield (18-14-1-1) for second place in the NAHL’s Midwest Division. The Jets are 5-2 against the Jr. Blues this year, including 3-0 in the past seven days.
Polglaze made his fourth goal of the season one to remember, helping Janesville win its fifth straight game.
With the game knotted 1-1 and overtime nearing, Sam Renlund put Simon Sagissor’s centering pass on goal. Springfield goalie Juraj Ovecka gave up a short rebound, and Polglaze, with two defenders draped over him, managed to flip the puck back into the net while being driven to the ice.
“I went to the net,” Polglaze said. “That’s where the goals go in. Two defenders hit me down and I swatted it in. It felt good to get that goal.”
“Overall, hard work by the whole line,” Janesville head coach Gary Shuchuk said of the go-ahead goal. “Tanner went hard going to the net and got rewarded.”
Springfield out-worked Janesville in the first period and went in front when Ethan Stewart split two defenders before beating Garrett Nieto on a shot to the lower-left corner.
The Jets answered just over a minute into the second period. Defenseman John Pesek took a heavy shot from the blue line. Ovecka couldn’t contain the rebound and Jakov Novak’s back-handed shot was his 16th goal of the season.
“(Their) goalie made some big saves early and I think our guys were getting frustrated,” Shuchuck said. “I kept telling the guys, ‘Stay the course. Stay with the plan. Things will work out.’”
Janesville’s blue-liners hung tough in front of Nieto. The Jets killed all four of Springfield’s power plays, including a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period. And in the final seconds, Nieto, sprawled on the ice, used his right pad to deny Brandon Puricelli and preserve the win.
Nieto, who spent last season with Springfield, made 24 saves to improve to 4-1 against his former team. The 6-foot-3 keeper has a .943 save percentage when facing the Jr. Blues, 13 points higher than his overall mark (.930).
The Jets can finish off a multi-weekend sweep of the Jr. Blues tonight at 7 p.m. Springfield will be aiming for its first win of 2018.
“It’s going to be another battle,” Polglaze said. “They’re going to want that win really bad. We’ll just have to match, or be better than them, with intensity and hopefully get that sweep."
Tonight’s game will be preceded by a Police vs. Firefighters game at 4:30 p.m. Fans will be admitted free and can bid for jerseys and make donations to firefighters and police charities.
JANESVILLE 2, SPRINGFIELD 1
Springfield 1 0 0—1
Janesville 0 1 1—2
S—Ethan Stewart (Jordan Muzzillo, Spencer DenBeste), 15:17.
J—Jakov Novak (Benji Eckerle, John Pesek), 1:11.
J—Tanner Polglaze (Sam Renlund, Reid Hill), 17:00.
Saves—Juraj Ovecka (S) 37, Garrett Nieto (J) 24.