Gary Shuchuk wasn’t asking his players for an ESPY-level goal. He just wanted the puck in the back of the net.
His Janesville Jets had gone over six minutes without a shot on goal to start the second period and trailed visiting Kenai River by one Friday at the Janesville Ice Arena.
Then Jordan Steinmetz found an opening, and the shots didn’t stop flying. Janesville overcame a sluggish start and beat Kenai River 4-1 in a penalty-filled NAHL game.
The win keeps the Jets (17-7-2-0) firmly in second place in the Midwest Division, one point behind leader Fairbanks.
Kenai River (9-17-1-0) had all the momentum before Steinmetz scooped the puck out of a scrum in the right circle and wristed a shot over the glove of goalie Gavin Enright at 9:18.
“I always joke with the guys, ‘We’re trying to get an ESPY goal,’ those fancy goals, and we need to just try to get the puck in the net,” Shuchuk, Janesville’s head coach, said.
Steinmetz, a Chippewa Falls native, has scored a goal in three straight games.
“I’ve just been trying to make plays,” Steinmetz said. “Bearing down on my chances, and I’ve had some good luck.”
“We just had to get the puck to the net and keep doing the right thing,” Shuchuk said. “All Jordan’s goals, all three of them, they were right in that area. He’s getting rewarded for hard work.”
Less than two minutes later, Jakov Novak scored his 12th goal of the season off a pass from Kip Hoffmann, and Janesville didn’t look back. The Jets outshot the Bears 14-3 over the final 14 minutes of the period.
Hoffmann scored twice in the third period, including a tap-in empty-netter with one second left, to pad the lead.
Kenai River, which had converted 27 percent of its power plays entering play Friday—fourth in the NAHL—cashed in its first man-advantage just 4:40 into the game. Sacha Guillemain buried Zach Krajnik’s centering pass from the left boards for a 1-0 lead.
The Jets killed the Bears’ next four power plays.
“I think the big thing was they came out and pushed the play on us,” Shuchuk said. “We just had to get the puck to the net and keep doing the right thing. We weathered the storm.”
Janesville hosts rival Springfield tonight in its fourth-annual Teddy Bear Toss game at 7 p.m. Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears to the game, and to throw them on the ice when the Jets score their first goal. The bears will be collected and donated to the Salvation Army’s Toys for Tots program.
JANESVILLE 4, KENAI RIVER 1
Kenai 1 0 0—1
Janesville 0 2 2—4
KR—Sacha Guillemain (Zach Krajnik, Connor Fedorek), 4:40.
J—Jordan Steinmetz (Benji Eckerle, Matt Hanewall), 9:18. J—Jakov Novak (Erik Palmqvist, Kip Hoffmann), 10:48.
J—Hoffmann (Novak, Reid Hill), 7:29. J—Hoffmann (Philip Bjorkman), 19:59.
Saves—Gavin Enright (KR) 32, Daniel Lebedeff (J) 28.