Down by two with four minutes left in Friday’s North American Hockey League season opener, the Janesville Jets had a chance.
The visiting Chippewa Steel had just taken a penalty, and the Jets could pull within one goal of the Steel on the man advantage.
Instead Janesville surrendered a short-handed goal to Jacob Dirks, ending the Jets’ chances of winning their opening game of the 2019-20 season.
The goal was Dirks’ third of the night, and the Jets fell 5-2 to Chippewa at Janesville Ice Arena.
“It was one of those games where it seemed like all of our mistakes ended up in the back of our net,” Janesville coach Corey Lievermann said. “I wouldn’t say we necessarily played awful, but we also didn’t compete and didn’t deserve to win that game.”
The Jets got off to a slow start, allowing a goal just four minutes in.
Chippewa dominated much of the first period before Jets forward Jackson Sabo scored his first NAHL goal to tie the game at one.
Dirks scored back-to-back goals to open the second period and Chippewa added one more in the second to make it 4-1.
Lievermann said the team can’t afford to start slow.
“We didn’t protect the house,” Lievermann said. “We’re a skilled hockey team, yes, but if you don’t work it’s going to bite you in the butt,” he said.
Sabo scored again in the third to make it a two-goal game, but that was as close as Janesville would get.
“Sabo’s going to score some goals for us. He proved it tonight,” Lievermann said of the rookie forward.
Sabo was happy to get his first goal but said he’s focused on the team playing better.
“It’s nice to score goals, but it’s a team game. It’s about wins, not about individual performance,” he said. “When the team doesn’t score as many goals as the other team, it’s not fun. We need to work together, and we can do it.
“We’ll be better next time.”
Dirks put the final touches on the game with his hat-trick goal. The two teams will play again Saturday in Chippewa.
Despite Friday’s loss, the team anticipates a better performance for game two.
Taking one in the chin early is not a bad thing. Being able to showcase that were not invincible and everyone is good in this league is a good thing for us,” Leivermann said. “I expect a better effort tomorrow.”
CHIPPEWA 5, JANESVILLE 2
Chippewa 1 3 1—5
Janesville 1 0 1—2
C—Braden Lindstrom (Grisha Gotovets, Zane Demsey), 4:03. J—Jackson Sabo (Philip Bjorkman, Casey Roepke), 18:01.
C—Jacob Dirks (Killian Kiecker-Olson, Michael Black), 10:18. C—Dirks (Kiecker-Olson, Connor Szmul), pp, 17:36. C—Luke Farthing (Lindstrom, Gotovets), 17:54.
J—Sabo (Roepke, Cristian Wong-Ramos), pp, 11:09. C—Dirks (Isaac Moberg, Alec Schwab), sh, 16:11.
Saves—Wong-Ramos 26, Trent Burnham (C) 30.