Cole Brady’s shoulders sank. The Janesville Jets goalie fell to one knee and stared blankly forward. His teammates surrounded him for the final time this season.
The final buzzer had just rung in a 4-1 Fairbanks Ice Dogs win over the Jets on Friday.
The loss completed a Fairbanks sweep over the Jets in the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup Playoffs to end Janesville’s season.
“It’s not how we wanted our season to end. It’s disappointing,” Brady said.
Fairbanks opened the scoring just two minutes into the game on a shot from Matt Koethe.
Janesville struggled to generate offense in the beginning of the game and didn’t register a shot until midway through the first period, but the Jets found a way to tie the game late in the first.
After Fairbanks was already short handed, the visitors took another penalty to give Janesville a two-man advantage on the power play.
Jets forward Brenden Olson scored on a cross-ice feed from Justin Engelkes to tie the game at one.
“We kind of had a play in mind that kind of seemed to work on the 5-on-3 all year long and credit to their coaching staff because they kind of sniffed it out,” Leivermann said.
“(The goal) was kind of an improvised play, but it was big for us.”
The two teams went back and forth in the second before Fairbanks regained the lead with nine minutes left in the period.
The Ice Dogs added another goal late in the second before sealing the win with an empty-net goal in the final minutes of the third.
Brady, who is on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American goalies for the upcoming NHL draft in June, finished with 28 saves and earned high praise from his coach for his play this season.
“If you look at the Janesville Jets from August until now, there probably hasn’t been a player of his caliber in our entire league that’s given his team a chance to win night in and night out,” Leivermann said.
The Jets goalie said that while the team didn’t reach its final goal, he’s still proud of the group.
“They’re all good guys, and I wish all the best for them. It’s a great group of men, and they’re even better hockey players.”
For Leivermann, too, the result is disappointing in a season that saw him take the head coaching position behind an NAHL bench for the first time.
“We made some decisions right before the deadline to get younger. We wanted to build for the future, but we also had a team that we thought could make a playoff push,” he said.
“It’s not the result that we wanted by any means, but credit to the fans for sticking with us through our ups and downs this year.”
FAIRBANKS 4, JANESVILLE 1
Fairbanks 1 2 1—4
Janesville 1 0 0—1
F—Matt Koethe (Tyler Deweese, Lucas Erickson), 2:08. J—Brenden Olson (Justin Engelkes, Nicholas Nardella), pp, 17:09.
F—Luke Ciolli (Noah Wilson, Erickson), 10:51. F—Jonathan Sorenson (Jax Murray, Parker Brown), 15:32.
F—Brown (Murray, Dylan Abbott), 18:52.
Saves—Cole Brady (J) 28, Mattias Sholl (F) 19.