Fairbanks, Alaska – The Springfield Jr. Blues managed to salvage two points from their three game series against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs this past weekend. After being defeated on Thursday and Friday, the Jr. Blues stormed back to take Saturday’s contest. Max Osborne, Jonathan Panisa, and Caden Villegas helped lead the charge offensively as the team adjusts their focus for another three game set this coming weekend.
The Jr. Blues opened their season series with the Ice Dogs on a rare Thursday night matchup. Last year the Jr. Blues had a 5-3 record against the Ice Dogs including a two-game sweep to open the season series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. This year, however, started out much differently.
Fairbanks scored in each period on Thursday en route to a 3-0 victory, the first time the Jr. Blues have been held off the scoreboard this season. The Ice Dogs capitalized on two power play goals and added an empty net tally in a game that saw the Jr. Blues outshoot the home team 25-22. Ryan Wilson got the start and stopped 19/21.
In game two the Jr. Blues looked to spark a rebound by starting Alex Proctor in net, but the Ice Dogs had other ideas. Fairbanks would score three goals in the 1st period and then add three more in the 2nd period as they overwhelmed the Jr. Blues in a 7-1 victory. Osborne scored the lone goal early in the 2nd period assisted by Hugh Quinn. Proctor stopped 15/20 before being replaced by Wilson who stopped 13/15.
Saturday stood to be a pivotal game for the Jr. Blues as three games with the second place Kenai River Brown Bears loomed just around the corner. Springfield came out firing as Jackson Salt scored just 1:36 into the opening frame on the power play to give the Jr. Blues a brief lead as Fairbanks tied it up two minutes later.
From there the rest of the game remained firmly in the Jr. Blues hands as Panisa scored twice in the 1st period and Villegas had a power play tally of his own. Osborne would score a third power play goal in the 2nd period as the Jr. Blues downed the Ice Dogs 5-3. Wilson got the nod in net and stopped 24/27 as he picked up his 6th win of the season.
Salt, Villegas, and Osborne each had two assists in the victory while Quinn, Jeremy Gabriele, Aaron Swanson, and Billy Simms had one assist each.
Jr. Blues Notes:
A Jr. Blues Connection – For the second consecutive weekend the Springfield Jr. Blues called on the St. Louis Jr. Blues for help filling a void left by injury. For the long trip in Alaska, Springfield called up defenseman Joey Boccardi while against the Janesville Jets forward Seamus Campbell filled in and scored his 1st NAHL goal.
Back to his Ways – Jonathan Panisa has played in 5 games since returning to the Jr. Blues after spending the last year in the USHL for the Central Illinois Flying Aces and Des Moines Buccaneers. He currently has 2 goals and 2 assists this season after he put up 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 12 games last season. Panisa, who was a draft pick of the Jr. Blues in 2018, is committed to play collegiate hockey at UMASS Amherst.
A Busy Box – The rivalry between the Ice Dogs and the Jr. Blues is a decade in the making but it doesn’t always lead to rough play and penalties. In Saturday’s game the two teams kept the penalty boxes plenty busy as the Jr. Blues committed 10 penalties for 31 minutes and the Ice Dogs committed 14 penalties for 47 minutes. The combined 78 penalty minutes is the most this season in any Jr. Blues game.
The Jr. Blues remain in Alaska for another tough three game set against the Kenai River Brown Bears. Last year the Jr. Blues held a 7-3 advantage over the Brown Bears, however, this year’s squad from the Kenai peninsula is sitting in 2nd place after sweeping the Chippewa Steel.