Topeka, Kansas – The Springfield Jr. Blues earned a weekend split against the Topeka Pilots on the road this past weekend. With two points picked up the Jr. Blues are inching closer to playoff contention sitting just one point behind the Minnesota Magicians and four points behind the Janesville Jets, who have the last playoff spot.
After several weekends of bad weather, it was a nice change of pace to arrive in Topeka, KS and not see rain, snow, or ice in the forecast. Friday night’s game started out in favor of Topeka as the Pilots jumped on the board early to take a 1-0 lead. Billy Simms would respond just a few minutes later to tie the game on an odd-man rush assisted by Hunter Longhi, but Topeka would add a goal late in the 1st and early in the 2nd to take a 3-1 lead.
The comeback train would start when Danila Larionovs buried a feed from Longhi just six minutes later as the Jr. Blues began to fight back into the game. Longhi would pick up his third assist of the evening on a beautiful pass to Leo Bacallao in the slot to tie the game 3-3 heading into the 3rd and final period. Cam Wuesthoff finished off a 2-on-1 break early in the final frame to put the Jr. Blues in front, and Jack Rhode would score just three minutes later on another 2-on-1 to put the Jr. Blues ahead 5-3.
Gino Carabelli would score his 4th goal of the season short handed after Topeka pulled their goalie to make it 6-3. Wilson turned aside 34 of 37 to earn the victory in net, his 9th of the season and first since January 10th against Minnesota. Simms, Cole Schneider and Michael Spinner each had two assists, while Carabelli and Carson Jones each had one.
Saturday began in similar fashion for Topeka as they scored twice early to lead 2-0 less than three minutes into the game. After a timeout by Head Coach Tyler Rennette, Aaron Swanson would score his 11th goal of the season to cut the lead to just one. Topeka, however, would not give in this time and responded late in the 1st period and would hold a 3-1 lead heading into the 2nd period. A goal late in the 2nd period and one early in the 3rd period would stretch Topeka’s advantage to 5-1, and despite Longhi scoring to make it 5-2, the Jr. Blues would not be able complete the comeback.
Wilson got the start again in net, but this time took the loss stopping 32 of 37 shots. Jonathan Panisa had an assist on each goal.
Jr. Blues Notes:
20 Point Plateau – With the offense on Friday and Saturday, the Jr. Blues now have 5 players with 20 or more points this season. Caden Villegas is leading the charge with 32 points (12 G, 20 A), followed up by Hunter Longhi (10 G, 13 A) and Jonathan Panisa (8 G, 15 A) who each have 23 points. Aaron Swanson has 21 points (11 G, 10 A) and Danila Larionovs has 20 (8 G, 12 A).
Rough Stuff – The Jr. Blues and Pilots seem to really not like each other. In 10 games played so far this season, the two long time rivals have combined for 550 PIM, more than 7 teams have total for the entire season. The penalties reached a peak on January 4th with 121 combined minutes, after posting a season series low 8 minutes the night prior.
Race for the Robby – A few weeks ago, playoff hopes were bleak. But if you look at the standings, things aren’t set in stone yet. Janesville holds the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division with 33 points in 39 games, Minnesota is in 5th place with 30 points in 39 games, and the Jr. Blues have 29 points in 41 games and are in 6th place. The boys head to Janesville this weekend, while Minnesota battles St. Cloud in a home-and-home series. The next couple of weeks are going to be pivotal in the playoff push for all three teams.
The Jr. Blues will continue their road stretch this upcoming Friday and Saturday as they travel to Janesville to take on the Jets. With just four points separating Springfield and Janesville, this upcoming weekend could be huge for playoff implications. Both games begin at 7:05 pm and can be seen live on HockeyTV!