Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues ended 2019 in the right direction, but were unable to contain the Topeka Pilots in their opening series of 2020. After failing to hold a lead on Friday and unable to complete a comeback on Saturday, the Jr. Blues record falls to 10-22-2-1 for 23 points and are in 6th place in the Midwest Division.
Friday night started off well for the Jr. Blues as Leo Bacallao tallied his 5th goal since joining the team late in the 1st period to give the good guys a 1-0 advantage heading into the break. Mason McCormick would increase that lead to 2-0 halfway through the 2nd period to give the Jr. Blues a strong lead heading into the final period. But that, however, is when things would fall apart for the home team. Topeka would score three unanswered goals, including the game-winner with :17 remaining, to defeat the Jr. Blues 3-2. Ryan Wilson got the start in net and stopped 22/25 shots.
In a complete turn-around from the previous night, Topeka jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the Jr. Blues after 20 minutes of play on Saturday night. The attempted comeback would start early in the 2nd period when Billy Simms scored his first career North American Hockey League (NAHL) goal to cut the deficit to 3-1. Caden Villegas would score in the final seconds of the period and we headed into the second break trailing 3-2, but with all of the momentum and support of a packed house.
Villegas would tie the game up 3-3 with his second of the evening and ninth of the season just :23 into the 3rd period. From there the two teams traded several scoring opportunities, and penalties, before Topeka regained their lead on the power play halfway through the period. Despite a litany of shots, opportunities, and close-calls, the Jr. Blues were unable to break through and were defeated 4-3. Alex Proctor got the start in net and stopped 36/40 shots.
Jr. Blues Notes:
Hot, Hot, Hot – Leo Bacallao has 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in his last four games, and has 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in 11 games since joining the Jr. Blues. Jonathan Panisa and Mason McCormick are both currently on 4-game point streaks, with Panisa netting 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) and McCormick posting 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in this stretch.
No More Mr. Nice Guy – The Jr. Blues have had a long history with NAHL teams in Topeka (i.e Roadrunners) and the brewing rivalry with the Pilots is proving every bit as exciting as in the past. Through 8 games played against each other this season the two teams have combined for 472 penalty minutes, an average of 59 PIM per game. The combined penalty minutes between Springfield and Topeka so far is more than 9 teams total penalty minutes for the season!
Electric Atmosphere – The Springfield community showed out in force this past weekend as The Nelson Center was packed for both games. On Friday nearly 750 people were in attendance, while Saturday saw nearly 850 people come through the doors. Lines for ticketing stretched out the door and into the parking lot as we saw one of our best weekends to date. We want to thank all of our fans who came out to cheer loudly for the Jr. Blues!
We will remain at home as we welcome the Minnesota Magicians to town this weekend at the Nelson Center. On Friday January 10th doors will open at 6:00 pm with puck drop set for 7:05 pm, and on Saturday January 11th doors will open at 5:00 pm with puck drop set for 6:05 pm.