Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues picked up all six possible points this past weekend as we swept the Anchorage Wolverines to move into 1st place in the Division and in the league overall! We begin this week with a 29-10-1-2 record for 61 points – the best season the Jr. Blues have had since our Championship seasons in 1996 and 1997.
Friday: SPR 3 – 2 ANC
Our weekend series began on Friday night and, unfortunately, it didn’t start the way we wanted it to. Anchorage was able to score the first goal of the weekend halfway through the 1st period and we would head to the intermission trailing 1-0.
Ethan Chesney, recently called up from the Peoria Mustangs of the NA3HL, scored his first goal in the NAHL on a scramble in front of the Wolverines net to tie the game up 1-1 just :50 into the 2nd period. Both Aksel Reid and Raythan Robbins would shut down any further offense in the frame and we headed to the final 20 minutes all squared with Anchorage.
The Wolverines would answer the bell early in the 3rd period to go up 2-1, but that would be the final time they would lead all weekend long. Hagen Moe scored from behind the goal line on a shot that ricocheted off Robbins’ back to tie the game 2-2. Less than three minutes later, Connor Smith would beat Robbins on a breakaway to give us the lead 3-2 and that would be the final score.
Reid picked up the win in net by stopping 39 of 41 shots including 16 in the 2nd period alone. Isaac Keller had two assists in the contest while Brayden Cook, Michael Valdez, and Leo Bacallao each had one.
Saturday: SPR 5 – 2 ANC
Both teams headed into Saturday night desperate to grab points as the Midwest Division continues to tighten down the stretch. After a scoreless 1st period, Leo Bacallao would get the offense going on his 18th of the year just under two minutes into the 2nd period to give us a 1-0 lead. Anchorage would answer with a goal of their own to tie things up, but Hayden Riva would redirect a pass from Mac Gadowsky to put us back in front 2-1 halfway through the period.
A late goal from Anchorage meant that we would start the 3rd period tied 2-2, but whatever Head Coach Tyler Rennette said to the boys in the locker room must’ve sparked something within them as the Jr. Blues controlled play in the final 20 minutes. Hagen Moe would score his 18th of the year when he banged home a loose puck in the slot to give us a 3-2 lead, and then less than a minute later Cole Dubicki would pick up his 19th goal on a laser of a shot to make it 4-2. Ike Keller would score on the empty net to make it 5-2 and that’s how the game ended.
Aksel Reid picked up his 3rd consecutive win by stopping 23 of 25 shots while James Callahan added two helpers in the game. Carson Jones, Tristan Shewchuk, Fisher Scott, Gadowsky, Dubicki, and Reid all had one assist in the game.
Sunday: SPR 2 – 1 ANC (SO)
We walked into Super Bowl Sunday with sole possession of 1st place in the Midwest Division, but with an opportunity to create space between us and Fairbanks, the extra two points were crucial.
A back-and-forth contest saw no scoring in the 1st period and it took until the 18:52 mark of the 2nd period for the first goal of the game to be scored. Cole Dubicki’s wrist shot from the point found its way through traffic on the Power Play to give us a 1-0 lead heading into the 3rd and final period of play. Unfortunately, Anchorage refused to go away and found a loose puck in the slot and finally were able to beat Ethan Roberts to tie the game up 1-1. No further scoring happened in regulation and five minutes of overtime proved to not be enough hockey, so we headed to a shootout.
Leo Bacallao, the second shooter for the Jr. Blues, beat Raythan Robbins five hole to put us in the lead before the Wolverines answered in Round 3 to extend the game, again. But after a phenomenal blocker save from Roberts, it was Ethan Chesney who found the game on his stick in Round 4.
He didn’t miss.
The Jr. Blues won the game 2-1 to sweep the Wolverines and push their winning streak to four games.
Roberts was lights out in net, stopping 45 of 46 shots including at least a dozen point blank opportunities. Michael Valdez and Bacallao picked up the assists on Dubicki’s goal.
With the weekend sweep the Jr. Blues leapfrogged the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to take over 1st place with 61 points. The Ice Dogs sit fairly comfortably in 2nd place with a 28-15-1-1 record for 58 points while the Wolverines begin to feel pressure in 3rd place with a 21-15-4-1 record for 47 points. The Minnesota Wilderness, who at one point were in 7th place just over a month ago, are now in 4th with a 22-18-1-0 record for 45 points and the Magicians sit in 5th place with a 19-16-4-2 record for 44 points. The Jets, who moved above .500 for the first time this season on Saturday, sit in 6th place with a 20-19-0-1 record for 41 points and the Steel have now fallen into 7th place with a 19-22-0-2 record for 40 points. Kenai River wraps up the division in 8th with a 11-29-3-2 record for 27 points.
By the Numbers:
- Cole Dubicki is currently the league leader in scoring as he has registered 20 goals and 39 assists in 46 games split between Kenai River and the Jr. Blues. Since joining us he has scored 3 goals and added 1 assist in five games. And we can’t forget the goal and two assists he picked up during Top Prospects either!
- The Jr. Blues are currently the only team in the league who has three or more players with 18+ goals on the season (Dubicki-20, Bacallao-18, Moe-18). Several teams have at least two players, but we’re the only ones to have three.
- The goaltending duo of Aksel Reid and Ethan Roberts combined to stop 107 of 112 shots from Anchorage this past weekend. Reid, who joined just after Thanksgiving, has yet to lose in regulation and Roberts now has 16 wins on the season despite missing nearly a month due to injury.
- A theme of firsts emerged this past weekend. Ethan Chesney scored his first NAHL goal and first shootout goal; the Jr. Blues picked up our first three game sweep of the season; the Jr. Blues have possession of 1st place in February for the first time in nearly 20 years; and Mac Gadowsky picked up an assist in his first game since getting injured back in September.
The Jr. Blues head back to the road for a pair of games against the Janesville Jets this weekend up in Janesville, WI. Both games begin at 7 pm CST and can be seen exclusively on HockeyTV! Make sure to select the Away Feed to hear our Road Broadcast team call all of the action!