Springfield, Illinois – The Springfield Jr. Blues hosted the Chippewa Steel this past weekend for the first time this season, and came away with two of four possible points. Jonathan Panisa helped spark the Jr. Blues offense putting up three goals and an assist on the weekend, while netminder Joe Sharib picked up his first NAHL win. With the series split the Jr. Blues record now sits at 12-24-2-1 for 27 points and are in 6th place in the Midwest Division.
As the rain and ice rolled into town on Friday night, the Jr. Blues and Steel began a hard-fought series that saw the first period of the series opener go to the Steel who led 2-0 at the break. Chippewa maintained that lead until the 3rd period when defenseman Jeremy Gabriele found the back of the net just about halfway through the period. The Steel would add an empty net goal late as they defeated the Jr. Blues 3-1.
Despite stopping several opportunities throughout the game, Sharib picked up the loss in his first start with the Jr. Blues while stopping 33 of 35. Caden Villegas and Panisa picked up assists on Gabriele’s goal.
The temperature rose on Saturday and with it so did attendance as the series finale saw a packed house at the Nelson Center. The Jr. Blues struck early and often in the opening period as Panisa would record a hat trick, Villegas would score his 12th of the season, and Leo Bacallao scored his 6th of the season to lead 5-0 after 20 minutes of play.
Chippewa would then score the next three goals, two in the 2nd period and one early in the 3rd period, to cut the deficit to 5-3. But the Jr. Blues weren’t done: Danila Larionovs scored on a breakaway and Aaron Swanson buried a loose puck in the slot to put the game away and give the Jr. Blues a commanding 7-3 victory.
Sharib picked up the win in net while stopping 27 of 30 shots. Villegas had three assists, while Gabriele, Larionovs, and Hunter Longhi each had two assists. Bacallao, Michael Spinner, Billy Simms, and Jayden Jensen each came away with one assist.
Jr. Blues Notes:
Offense, Offense, Offense – While in some games offense has been hard to find, in other games the Jr. Blues offense has been without equal. Of the 12 victories the Jr. Blues have this season, six games have seen the Jr. Blues score five or more goals. By comparison, last year’s team had 10 such instances where they scored five or more goals in a victory.
Hat Trick Special – The first Jr. Blues hat trick this season goes to Jonathan Panisa, who scored all three of his goals in the first period of Saturday’s victory. Since arriving in early November Panisa has put up 8 goals and 13 assists in 25 games. He has been especially hot as of late: in his last 8 games he has 4 goals and 7 assists.
Full House – Springfield has been the victim of bad weather over the last two weekends, and despite winter weather issues again on Friday, we saw the community turn out in force on Saturday to support the team. We want to thank all of our fans who braved mother nature and we look forward to seeing you all at our next homestand!
After six straight home games to open 2020, the Jr. Blues will now hit the road for four consecutive weekends before we return on February 21st against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Of the 28 regular season home games the Jr. Blues have scheduled, only seven games remain between now and April 4th. Make sure to tune into HockeyTV to catch all of the action this coming weekend as we travel to Topeka to face the Pilots!