The Janesville Jets’ playoff situation could not possibly be spelled out more plainly.
If the North American Hockey League team wants to continue playing, it will need to win Friday night’s Game 3 against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at the Janesville Ice Arena.
And to win Game 3, the Jets are almost certainly going to need to discover some offensive firepower. They scored just once—and that goal came from a defenseman—in the first two games of the series last weekend in Alaska.
“It’s a little disappointing for us,” Jets coach Corey Leivermann said of his team’s offensive struggles. “Fairbanks is playing some very good hockey, and credit to them. But I’ve been telling them (the players) it’s a man’s game now.
“It’s about being willing to take a cross-check to your back in front of the net to draw a penalty or maybe get a goal—something along those lines.
“We’ve just got a lot of perimeter players.”
The Ice Dogs—the top seed out of the Midwest Division—shut out the Jets 2-0 in Game 1 on Friday night.
They won 4-1 in Game 2 one night later. Jordan Halverson’s goal off a faceoff tied the game 1-1 early in the second period, but that was the only offense the team mustered on the weekend.
Game 3 begins at 7 p.m. Friday. Leivermann said he is asking his players to get to the front of the net to create blue-collar scoring chances rather than look for highlight-reel plays.
“We’re not saying go fight or be crazy, but you’ve got to play hard in the tough areas, the dirty areas,” Leivermann said. “That’s what the playoffs are about.”
The Jets were also 0-for-10 on the power play in the first weekend of the series.
“That was when we seemed to let our foot off the gas a little bit instead of bearing down harder,” Leivermann said.
Now the Jets must respond with their backs against the wall.
The good news is they have one of the best young goalies in the NAHL in Cole Brady. So if they can find a way to score a goal or two Friday, momentum may swing their way and give them an opportunity to get back in the series.
“We’ve had spurts, but spurts aren’t good enough to win in the playoffs,” Leivermann said. “We’ve got to play like it’s the last game of the year, nothing to hold back, do whatever it takes.
“We have our moments where we show how good of a hockey team we can be. But moments isn’t enough.
“So the message is pretty simple: Win this hockey game or go home and never play with these guys again.”