Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues split their weekend series against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. They now have a 11-13-2-1 record on the season which puts them one point behind Kenai River, who currently holds possession of the 4th and final playoff spot.
On Friday night fans wore their best Ugly Christmas Sweaters, but the Jr. Blues played beautifully against a surging Fairbanks squad. Ben Schmidling scored his 10th goal of the season halfway through the 2nd period on the penalty kill to open the scoring, assists on the goal went to Max Brainin and Sam Sterne. The goal was Springfield’s third and Schmidling’s second shorthanded goal of the season.
The Ice Dogs were resilient, however, tying the game up late in the 3rd period on Tanner Edwards 5th goal of the season. At the end of regulation the game was still tied 1-1 and would head to overtime to determine the winner. Just 1:58 into overtime, Brainin would score his 10th goal of the season to give the Jr. Blues a 2-1 victory over Fairbanks. The victory was the third straight win for Springfield over their division rival.
Jack Williams earned his 8th win of the season while stopping 33 of 34 shots sent his way. Brainin and Schmidling both tallied their 10th goals of the season, as well as their 13th assists during the game. They are tied for second on the team in points with 23. Ryan Reid assisted on Brainin’s overtime goal to give him his 6th assist of the year and raise his point total to 10.
Saturday the Ice Dogs looked hungry to earn a weekend split as they scored the first three goals of the game and would not look back. Jonathan Sorenson opened the scoring in the 1st period by the Ice Dogs who would take a 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission. In period two the Ice Dogs would add to their lead on goals by Jack Johnston and Parker Brown, and heading into period three the Jr. Blues trailed 3-0.
An early goal in the final frame from Brandon Puricelli would breathe life into the team, and the building, as stuffed animals were flung onto the ice for our Teddy Bear Toss. Picking up the lone assist on the goal was Max Brainin. The jubilation would be short lived, however, as Luke Cioli would score for Fairbanks just 1:21 later to make it a 4-1 lead with less than 15 minutes left in the game.
As Jr. Blues fans have seen numerous times this year, the boys battled back late with one final push. Puricelli would score his second of the game and 18th of the season on the power play, and Ben Schmidling would score his 11th of the year to make it a 4-3 game. Despite the pressure that was put on Fairbanks, they would add a empty net goal to seal the deal 5-3.
Jack Williams stopped 30 of 35 shots in the loss, his 8th of the season. Brandon Puricelli now has 18 goals on the season which is tied for 3rd in the league. Max Brainin picked up three assists on Saturday to push his point streak to three games. There were a few new faces on the ice for the Jr. Blues this weekend due to injuries (Groton, D. Schmidling) and call ups (Panisa, Villegas); Zach Bauer, Blake Finley, Darren Johnson, and Aaron Swanson all made their Jr. Blues debuts on Friday night. Finley, a defenseman for the Peoria Mustangs of the NA3HL, is the second player from Peoria to play in Springfield this season (Trudel).
The team travels to Topeka, KS to take on the Pilots this weekend for the 4th time this season already. The two teams have split each weekend series against each other, with the road team winning all three Friday games and the home team winning all three Saturday games. The next home games will be January 4th and 5th against the Minnesota Magicians.