Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues split our weekend series with the Chippewa Steel, and when the dust settled Sunday morning the Jr. Blues had moved into a tie for 1st place in the Midwest Division! The Jr. Blues’ record currently sits at 12-6-0-1 for 25 points, the best start for the Jr. Blues in nearly 20 years.
On Friday, the Jr. Blues went into their weekend series knowing that they needed to grab as many points as possible with Fairbanks already claiming a win on Thursday. Things didn’t go our way, to say the least. Chippewa scored 4 times in the opening period and that was really the story of the night. No scoring happened in the middle or closing frames. Ethan Robertson, making his first start since being injured in October, stopped 11 of 15 while Ethan Roberts stopped all 10 shots in relief.
The good news from Friday? After digesting the game and turning our focus towards game two of the weekend, we learned that Fairbanks had lost to Janesville and that Anchorage had lost to Kenai River. In short, while we were disappointed in our performance Friday, we hadn’t lost any ground in the divisional standings.
Saturday proved to be one of the best nights of the season to this point. In front of a packed house of over 1200+ fans, the Jr. Blues bounced back in fashion to claim a 3-1 victory and prove that resiliency isn’t just a cliche. After falling behind 1-0 on a goal by the Steel in the 1st period, Mason Hoehn picked up his 5th of the season to tie the game up heading into the intermission.
A back-and-forth middle period saw no goals scored and we headed to the final period needing a boost to claim the important 2 points. The Jr. Blues peppered 14 shots on Steel netminder Croix Kochendorfer in the 3rd period and finally at the 14:32 mark were able to break through on a shot from the point by Noah Marino. Despite a last minute push by the Steel, the Jr. Blues were able to seal the victory with an empty net goal scored by Hayden Riva.
Roberts, making his league leading 15th appearance, stopped 32 of 33 shots to pick up the win and improve his record to 8-4-0-1 with a 2.30 GAA, .923 SV%, and 1 SO. Will Magnuson, Andrew Schultz, Cole Schneider, and Carson Jones all picked up assists in the game.
By the Numbers:
- The Jr. Blues have been dynamite when scoring first. We are 10-2-0-1 when we get on the scoreboard first, however, Saturday’s victory was just the second time this season we have won when not scoring first. The other instance came against the Steel in Chippewa on October 8th.
- The Midwest Division is proving to be one of the strongest divisions in the league this season. There are 6 teams in the division with at least 20 points, led by the Jr. Blues and Fairbanks with 25 each, more than any other division in the NAHL. The next best divisions are the East and South who both have 3 teams with 20 points.
- Hayden Riva’s empty net goal on Saturday made him the 10th Jr. Blues player to record their first junior hockey goal this season. He joins Connor Smith, Hagen Moe, James Callahan, Noah Holt, Zach Bade, Michael Valdez, Andrew Schultz, Mac Gadowsky, and Coby Weber.
- There were just 3 penalties called in Saturday’s contest for a total of 6 PIM. That’s the 2nd lowest number of penalties in a Jr. Blues game this season, trailing our contest with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on October 22nd where only 2 penalties were called all game. Overall the Jr. Blues have 330 penalty minutes on the season, 4th most in the league.
The Jr. Blues head up to Alaska for our second and final trip to the Great White North. We will first stop in Fairbanks to battle with the Ice Dogs this Friday and Saturday. Both games begin at 7:30 pm AKST (10:30 PM CST) and can be watched exclusively on HockeyTV!