As the Jr. Blues prepare for the annual NAHL showcase this week in Blaine, MN, they come off a hard fought victory Saturday night against the University of Illinois Men’s hockey club. The scoring started early and the hits continued until the end of the game, but at the final buzzer it was the Blues on top 4-3.
The crowd was still pouring into the Nelson Center when returning forward Max Brainin (Buffalo Grove, IL) opened the scoring at 1:03 into the 1st period. After a quick response from the visitors, Brainin added a second goal late in the period to take a 2-1 lead into the break. The Jr. Blues continued to put pressure on the visiting team to start the 2nd period and the effort paid off as Lake Superior State University commit Spencer Denbeste (Marquette, MI) lit the lamp just under three minutes into the period to increase the lead to 3-1. After another offensive response from the Fighting Illini, Giovanni Carabelli (Shelby Township, MI) put his name on the score sheet to make it a two goal lead again, 4-2. The Illini scored late in the period and heading into intermission the game was close, 4-3.
But that was where the scoring would end. Rookie Jack Williams (St. Louis, MO) stood tall in net, turning aside an offensive push by the Illini in the 3rd period. Where the scoring ended, the physicality began. A total of 96 penalty minutes combined were assessed in the final frame, but the Jr. Blues didn’t let the extracurriculars distract them and held on to claim the victory.
Springfield, IL natives Thomas Kolaz and Jack Healy were dressed for the Illini but were kept off the score sheet. The Jr. Blues open the 2018-19 season Wednesday when they take on the new NAHL organization the Maryland Black Bears at the 2018 NAHL Showcase in Blaine, MN.