Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues headed into the final weekend of the 2021-22 NAHL Regular Season needing four points to clinch the first division title in nearly 20 years: they got three. With an overtime loss on Friday and a commanding victory on Saturday, the Jr. Blues finished the 60-game schedule with a 36-20-2-2 record for 76 points, 2nd best in the Midwest Division and 7th best in the league overall.
Friday: SPR 4 – 5 JNE
On Friday the longtime rival Janesville Jets arrived in town needing to secure four points in order to reach the playoffs, while the Jr. Blues needed four points to win the division out from under the feet of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The visitors got the scoring started, but their lead would be short lived as Zach Bade tied things up less than 10 seconds later with his 13th goal of the season.
Unfortunately for the Jr. Blues, the Jets would score two more times in the 1st period and we came out for the 2nd period trailing 3-1. Carson Jones would tally his 14th of the year two and a half minutes into the middle frame before Bade picked up his second of the night, this time on the power play, to tie things up 3-3 eight and half minutes into the 2nd period.
Janesville would answer the bell, however, after killing off a penalty they were able to beat netminder Ethan Roberts to take a 4-3 lead. But, Zach Bade had other plans. The Rosemount, MN native notched his third goal of the game, second of the period, and 15th of the season to knot things up 4-4 heading in the second intermission.
Both teams battled hard in the 3rd period, trading scoring chance after scoring chance, but neither Roberts nor Jets goaltender Owen Millward flinched and we headed to overtime with the game remaining 4-4. Luck would be on the side of the Jets as they kept their playoff hopes alive with a 5-4 victory.
Roberts turned aside 36 of 41 shots in the overtime loss, while Brayden Cook, Cole Dubicki, Hadley Hudak, Mac Gadowsky, and Jones all had one assist.
Saturday: SPR 9 – 4 JNE
With the divisional crown out of grasp, the only thing left to do on Saturday evening was ensure that the packed house at The Nelson Center got to go home on a high note as we waited to find out who our first round opponent would be. Forwards Leo Bacallao, Joey Dosan, and Carson Jones, all in their final junior hockey season, reminded the Springfield fans why they’ve been one of the top teams all season long.
It started early in the 1st period when Bacallao snuck past the Jets defense and buried one past Owen Millward for his 23rd of the season to give us a 1-0 lead. We’d maintain that slim advantage heading into the 2nd period, but from there things got a bit crazy. Dosan grabbed his 11th of the season less than a minute into the middle frame, followed up by Mac Gadowsky’s 2nd of the season and first since the Showcase a minute later to give the good guys a 3-0 lead two minutes into the 2nd period.
Connor Smith would extend our lead to four on his 13th off a beautiful feed from Zach Bade, and then the period would be capped off on a breakaway goal from Tristan Shewchuk, his 8th of the year, to send the fans into the intermission cheering on a 5-0 lead. Once again, from here, things got even more crazy.
Janesville scored for the first time of the evening at the end of a five minute power play to make it 5-1, but Dosan would grab his second of the evening less than 20 seconds later to push the lead to 6-1. The Jets, however, continued to fight and scored three times in the next five minutes to narrow the gap to 6-4 with less than eight minutes to play. The Jr. Blues needed a spark, and that spark would come off the stick of Cole Dubicki.
Dubicki fired a laser over the left shoulder of Millward to let the air out of the comeback for Janesville and make it 7-4 on his 22nd goal of the season. Bacallao would grab his 24th on a breakaway, empty net goal to make it 8-4, and Andrew Schultz would get his 3rd of the year late to seal the victory, 9-4.
Ethan Roberts finished the season by stopping 40 of 44 to pick up his 19th win of the season. Carson Jones had three assists, while Bade and Dubicki each had two of their own. Brayden Cook, Bacallao, and Schultz all had one helper.
Behind the Shield:
- The Jr. Blues have had one of the best seasons in franchise history: our 36 wins and 76 points are second only to the 1997-98 Jr. Blues who went 42-12-0-2 for 86 points. It is one of seven seasons in our history with more than 70 points, and three of those seasons have come under the guidance of current Head Coach Tyler Rennette.
- Scoring for the Jr. Blues this season was spread evenly throughout the lineup, as every forward and defenseman had at least one goal, even goaltender Ethan Roberts got on the scoresheet! Three players had 20+ goals (Bacallao, Dubicki, Moe), eight players had 10+ (Bacallao, Dubicki, Moe, Jones, Smith, Bade, Dosan, Novak), and 13 players scored their first junior hockey goals with us this year (Smith, Bade, Callahan, Valdez, Scott, Riva, Schultz, Magnuson, Gadowsky, Juzych, Hudak, Roberts).
- The Power Play this season finishes up at 24.6%, 3rd best in the Midwest Division and 5th best in the league overall. Our 33 power play goals scored is actually 19th best in the league, but our 134 power play opportunities are the fewest.
- Leo Bacallao finished up the regular season portion of his junior hockey career with two goals, his 7th multi-goal game of the season which leads the Jr. Blues. Hagen Moe has the second most with six.
- The Jr. Blues Alumni Association hosted their 4th Annual Alumni Game before our contest on Saturday. Notable alumni included Bo Cheeseman, Jared Rickord, Kyle O’ Kane, Nate Chasteen, and Mike McKenna. McKenna, one of four alumni to reach the NHL, stuck around after the alumni game to drop one of the ceremonial puck drops, sign autographs for fans, and gave a short speech to the team after the game.
What’s Up Next:
The Springfield Jr. Blues are heading back to the Robertson Cup Playoffs! For the 18th time in franchise history, we will be in the playoffs and we want you to be there to cheer us on! We will be releasing game information as soon as possible.