Janesville was nearly perfect in the opening 20 minutes of Thursday’s North American Hockey League game at the Janesville Ice Arena.
In the end, the Jets needed every bit of their commanding start.
They nearly squandered a four-goal lead but held off Coulee Region’s second-period charge in a 6-4 victory.
The Jets scored just three minutes into the game when forward Tanner Polglaze caught a pass and sent a blistering wrister over the outreached glove of Chill goalie Emil Zetterquist.
The Jets scored three more times in the next five minutes.
Jets defenseman Carter Ekberg scored the second goal by slipping a shot under Zetterquist’s left arm from the high slot. Jets captain Kip Hoffmann joined in on the scoring with a shot that rang off the post and in before Benji Eckerle scored his fifth of the year on a breakaway to give the Jets a 4-0 lead.
Before the opening period was halfway over, Zetterquist was pulled and replaced by backup Josh Graziano.
“We were using our speed in the neutral zone and we were getting to the net in the first period,” Jets head coach Gary Shuchuk said.
On the other bench, Chill coach Ryan Egan was upset with the showing.
“It was disappointing,” Egan said. “You can’t spot a team four goals and expect to win hockey games. We didn’t have much pushback in period one, and then we got a little in period two but it just wasn’t enough.”
The Chill responded by rattling off three straight goals to open the second period.
They scored once on the power play, Gavin Holland then tallied his 14th of the year midway through the period after taking a feed from Sam Dabrowski in the slot, and Holland added his second of the game just five minutes later while shorthanded.
“We took some penalties, and they got some goals and things just sort of snowballed,” Shuchuk said. “You could see it happening, and we have to keep building on our killer instinct.”
Shuchuk’s goalie noticed the difference too.
“We were a little loose, and it showed in the second period,” said starting goalie Garrett Nieto, who turned aside 23 shots in the win. “We weren’t blocking shots and moving our feet, and it changed the game a bit. As a goalie, you just have to stay checked in and get some saves for your team. I think it was a wakeup call for all of us.”
Jakov Novak scored his league-leading 26th goal and 58th point to put the Jets up by a pair in the third period before Price scored his second of the game on another Chill power play to bring Coulee within one.
Matt Hanewall closed out the scoring and iced the game with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Graziano finished with 32 saves on 33 shots.
“It was a gut check,” Shuchuk said of the final period. “I told the guys after the second that they just had to compete. In the first period we competed, and in the second they took it from us and they competed more than us.”
Thirteen players scored at least a point in the win for the Jets, who now travel to Springfield to play back-to-back games against the Jr. Blues beginning Friday night.
JANESVILLE 6, COULEE REGION 4
Coulee Region 0 3 1—4
Janesville 4 0 2—6
J—Tanner Polglaze (Matt Hanewall, Phillip Bjorkman), 3:16. J—Carter Ekberg (Sam Renlund, Jordan Steinmetz), 4:25. J—Kip Hoffmann (Steinmetz, Brenden MacLaren), 7:59. J—Benji Eckerle (Jakov Novak, Matthew Doyle), 8:10.
CRC—Colin Price (Marshal Plunkett), pp, 3:52. CRC—Gavin Holland (Sam Dabrowski), 11:06. CRC—Holland (Jackson Decker, Grant Reichenbacher), sh, 17:15.
J—Novak (Eckerle, Renlund), 11:31. CRC—Price (Plunkett, Holland), pp, 13:43. J—Hanewall (Simon Sagissor, Sean Driscoll), 19:31.
Saves—Josh Graziano (CRC) 32, Emil Zetterquist (CRC) 5, Garrett Nieto (J) 23.