Mason Salquist waited more than 22 games to score his first North American Hockey League goal.
The Janesville Jets forward waited just one full period to make it two.
Salquist’s surprise offensive outburst for a fourth line that provided three goals helped carry the Jets to a 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Wilderness in the opener of a two-game series Friday night at the Janesville Ice Arena.
“Tonight, the pucks went in. We buried them and we made plays,” Jets head coach Gary Shuchuk said. “Other games, we’ve had similar opportunities and just couldn’t score.
“It’s great, because you want to get scoring from all four lines,” Shuchuk said. “Mason, Tommy, you do that and get secondary scoring from guys that you’re not necessarily counting on to score, it’s great. It kind of takes the burden off other guys.”
The Jets set their season high for goals in a game thanks to a line that included Salquist at center with Tommy Middleton and Logan Ommen on the wings.
Salquist’s first goal of his career was one for the highlight reel, as he played the puck between a defender’s skates before recollecting and giving the Jets a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
“It was a good breakout, and my wingmate, Tommy, made a good play,” Salquist said. “I just went down, somehow made it through that defender and scored.
“We played good tonight and had a lot of energy.”
Salquist’s second goal gave Janesville a 3-2 lead at the next intermission. Middleton attempted a wraparound, and the puck fluttered through the crease to Salquist waiting at the back door.
The game’s most important goal, however, might have come when Salquist returned the favor. Coming out of a penalty kill, he hit Middleton with a breakout pass and Middleton gave the Jets a 4-3 lead four minutes after Minnesota had tied the game with a goal just 17 seconds into the third period.
“We had to wake up,” Shuchuk said. “That’s been an Achilles heel. But it’s, ‘OK boys, tie game, what are you going to do?’
“They responded well. That’s what you want to see. They did pretty good in the face of some adversity.”
Jack Vincent scored a minute and a half later to give the Jets their first two-goal lead of the night.
The Wilderness got back within a goal, 5-4, by scoring on a power play with just under five minutes left.
But when they pulled their goalie in the final minutes, the Jets salted the game away with a pair of late goals.
Cole Brady made 19 saves to improve to 11-5-0-1 this season between the pipes for Janesville.
Six different players scored for the Jets, including Vincent and Matt Hanewall, who lead the team with seven this season. Janesville hadn’t scored more than five goals in any of their first 24 games this season but still sit in second place in the Midwest Division.
“It feels good to put a few in,” Salquist said. “Now we’ve just got to do it again tomorrow.”
The Jets will go for the series sweep and their fourth victory in a row when the two teams meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday night at the ice arena.
JANESVILLE 7, MINNESOTA 4
Minnesota 1 1 2—4
Janesville 2 1 4—7
J—Brenden MacLaren (Andrew Hicks), 8:52. M—Oula Kuure (Ryan Nelson), pp, 12:56. J—Mason Salquist (Sean Driscoll), 18:48.
M—Jacob Herter, 14:31. J—Salquist (Tommy Middleton), 18:59.
M—Dylan Johnson, 0:17. J—Middleton (Salquist, Phillip Bjorkman), 4:52. J—Jack Vincent (Nicholas Nardella, Erik Palmqvist), 6:19. M—Aaron Myers (Nate Horn), pp, 15:02. J—Matt Hanewall (Driscoll), en, 18:51. J—Austin Koss (Jordan Halverson), en, 19:33.
Saves—Kaleb Johnson (M) 31, Cole Brady (J) 31.