Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues opened up the 2019-20 regular season with a split against the Topeka Pilots, an outcome familiar to fans from last season. On Friday evening the Jr. Blues defeated the Pilots 2-1, while on Saturday the Pilots defeated the Jr. Blues 5-4. The teams will meet each other again in two weeks at the Nelson Center.
Friday night was the Jr. Blues home opener and the energy within the Nelson Center proved to be just enough to propel the home team to victory. Danila Larionovs scored just past the halfway mark of the 1st period on a feed from newcomer Hugh Quinn and Caden Villegas to put the good guys on top 1-0.
Jeremy Gabriele would extend that lead to 2-0 in the 2nd period on a feed from Larionovs and Jackson Salt. Topeka would fight back, however, scoring their lone goal of the contest late in the 3rd period. The goal was originally credited to Connor Zilisch, but has since been adjusted to Austin McCarthy with assists from Zilisch and Michael Muschitiello.
Goaltender Ryan Wilson got the start for the Jr. Blues and stopped 29 of 30 shots that he faced to pick up his second win of the season. With :1.2 left in regulation, Wilson stopped a penalty shot attempt by Quinn Green to give the Jr. Blues the victory.
If Friday night went according to plan, Saturday night fell off the rails. Topeka would score 4 times in the 1st period to chase Ryan Wilson from the game. Austin McCarthy, Kyler Yeo, Nick Nardecchia, and Quinn Green each scored while 8 different Pilots players picked up assists. Trent DeNuccio and Danila Larionovs each scored for Springfield in the 1st period, but at the break Topeka was in front 4-2.
The Jr. Blues continued to battle back from the deficit with DeNuccio’s second goal of the game in the 2nd period, and Caden Villegas 1st goal of the season in the 3rd period. Despite the hard fought battle between the two clubs, Austin McCarthy’s second goal of the game in the 2nd period would be prove to be the decisive point as Topeka held on to win 5-4.
Alex Proctor, who replaced Wilson to start the 2nd period, stopped 16 of 17 shots the rest of the game. Max Osborne, Camron Cervone, Barrett Ott, Adisen Brueck, and Villegas each had one assist in the game while Hugh Quinn had two assists.
By The Numbers:
Familiar Faces – Camron Cervone, Hugh Quinn, and Jeremy Gabriele each spent time in Topeka last season. Quinn appeared in 58 games for the Pilots, while Cervone appeared in 21 games and Gabriele played in 1 game. On the other side, Kyler Yeo and Kaiden Scott each played for the Jr. Blues during the 2017-18 season. Yeo played in 26 games while Scott played in 15. Both Yeo and Scott played for Topeka last season.
Home Opener Excitement – The Jr. Blues victory on Friday night is the 1st home opener win in Springfield since the 2015-16 season (def. Coulee Region 3-2). Last season the Jr. Blues pushed the Kenai River Brown Bears to OT before losing on opening night.
A Trend? – The Jr. Blues and the Pilots played each other 8 times last season and split the season series 4-4. Each Friday game was won by the visiting team, and each Saturday contest was won by the home team in decisive fashion. This year they will meet 12 times with each team getting six home games. Will the trend of weekend splits with the Pilots continue?
New Faces – Since our final preseason game on September 13th, our roster has changed quite a bit. Adisen Brueck, Spencer Silver, Hugh Quinn, Hunter Longhi, and Hunter McCurdy have all joined the team in the last two weeks. Let’s make sure to give them all a big Jr. Blues welcome when you see them at the rink or around town!
The Shreveport Mudbugs will come to town this weekend for a pair of games. Friday night gets started with doors opening at 6:00 pm and puck drop set for 7:05 pm. It will be our first College Night with the Jr. Blues game of the season. College students with a valid college ID will receive discounted tickets at the door for just $5, and we will be having a pregame happy hour starting at 6:00 pm.
Saturday night’s contest starts with doors opening at 5:00 pm and puck drop set for 6:05 pm. These games will be the only home games against the Mudbugs this season as our next series with them will be in Louisiana in February. Tickets are available by calling or stopping by our office during the week, purchasing them through HappsNow online, or can be bought at the door the night of the game.