The Janesville Jets hoped to keep their February winning streak rolling Thursday night.
The last-place Chippewa Steel came to town for a quick game with second-place Janesville, which was 4-0 so far this month.
The Jets got a reminder that nothing is a given.
Ethan Benz scored a pair of goals, and Chippewa never trailed in a 4-1 North American Hockey League victory at the Janesville Ice Arena.
“One thing for our group, and maybe it’s a youth thing, but responding to success and sustaining and maintaining whatever we’ve done to get to that point has been, at times, inconsistent,” Jets head coach Parker Burgess said. “We put two or three or four in a row together, but then we take a dip.”
Braden Lindstrom put the Steel (6-11-1-1) on the scoreboard midway through the first period.
Benz got his first goal of the game with less than five minutes left in the second when he skated in from goalie Owen Millward’s left side and snuck a shot into the back of the net.
“We had a lot of success this past weekend against Fairbanks, and it just wasn’t able to translate,” Burgess said. “When it doesn’t come as easy, you’ve got to find different ways. I thought instead of maybe simplifying our game, we pressed a little and tried to continue to make the same plays.”
The Jets cut their deficit in half just three minutes into the third period.
Janesville native Jonah Aegerter scooped up a rebound and slipped a wraparound shot into the net to make it 2-1.
Aegerter, just 16 years old and in his first season with the Jets, now has four goals and three assists in 19 games.
“I think for any rookie in this league, it’s going to be a transition, and especially for a 16-year-old playing against 20-year-olds,” Burgess said. “But to be honest, I thought he was our best player tonight. And it started with his work ethic and moving his feet. It wasn’t rocket science or anything super spectacular, he just worked hard and got rewarded for it.
“He’s come a long way and just continues to get better.”
The Jets have been no strangers to come-from-behind victories this season, but a comeback on this night was quickly stifled.
The Steel answered with a breakaway goal off a turnover at the blue line. Conor Ronayne scored just 1 minute, 30 seconds after Aegerter’s goal to make it 3-1.
And Benz followed with another goal five minutes later.
“The season is going to have highs and lows,” Burgess said. “And for us, today was just kind of ‘blah.’ It’s too bad, because we felt good going in, but we just didn’t execute.”
The good news for the Jets is they have little time to dwell. They open a two-game series against Kenai River, in Minnesota, on Saturday.
CHIPPEWA 4, JANESVILLE 1
Chippewa 1 1 2—4
Janesville 0 0 1—1
C—Braden Lindstrom (Grisha Gotovets, Jack Brown), 9:50.
C—Ethan Benz (Ethan Janda), 15:08.
J—Jonah Aegerter (Matthew Romer, Cade Destefani), 3:01. C—Conor Ronayne (Brockton Baker, Spencer Oyler), 4:51. J—Benz (Kylar Fenton, Janda), 9:41.
Saves—Berk Berkeliev (C) 31, Owen Millward (J) 18.