Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin – The Springfield Jr. Blues marched into the Chippewa Area Youth Arena over the weekend for the first time in franchise history and swept the Chippewa Steel. After earning four out of four points, the Jr. Blues now sit in sole possession of 3rd place in the Midwest Division with a 28-20-3-1 record for 60 points.
Friday started out in the right direction for Springfield before Chippewa turned the contest into a nail biter. Ben Schmidling and Max Brainin would each score in the 1st period to give the Jr. Blues a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission. The 2nd period would begin well as Nikita Kozyrev pushed the lead to 3-1 on a feed from Brandon Puricelli and Nick Techel. But the Steel would score twice in the final two minutes of the period and the game was tied 3-3 at the break.
Jack Williams would shut the door the rest of the way as he stopped all 11 shots in the 3rd period despite plenty of opportunities for the Steel. Kozyrev would break the deadlock at the 17:50 mark of the 3rd period and give the Jr. Blues a much needed win, 4-3. It was the 8th time this season that the Steel lost a game in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
Heading into Saturday’s contest the Jr. Blues needed both points to keep pace with the Janesville Jets. Brandon Puricelli and the Schmidling twins (Ben and David) would ensure that the Jr. Blues would not come away empty handed.
Puricelli opened the scoring on Saturday just under 10 minutes in, but the Steel would score the next two goals in the game to lead 2-1 late in the opening period. That’s when captain Cade Groton would score his 3rd goal of the season to tie the game 2-2 heading into the break. The fire was sparked and the Jr. Blues would take control of the game from that point on.
Lukas Kucera would break the tie just 2:31 into the 2nd period, his 3rd goal of the season. Ben Schmidling would score six minutes later to make it 4-2, and Max Osborne would extend the lead again just three minutes later. After 40 minutes of action the Jr. Blues were on top 5-2.
Two goals by the Steel in the 3rd period were accompanied by a power play strike from Max Brainin and the final score was 6-4. Janis Voris made 25 of 29 saves to earn his 7th victory. Puricelli had four points on the weekend including a Gordie Howe hat trick on Saturday (goal, assist, fight). B. Schmidling had four points as well (2 goals, 2 assists), and D. Schmidling had three points (3 assists). Nikita Kozyrev ended the weekend with three points (2 goals, 1 assist) and Max Brainin now has 47 points on the season after picking up two points (2 goals).
Jr. Blues Notes:
- Brandon Puricelli has 25 goals and 38 assists for 63 points this season. It’s the highest season point total since Kyle Cook had 70 points in 2011-12.
- Ben Schmidling is continuing to stay hot as he has 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 7 games. Schmidling is in his 3rd NAHL season (Janesville, Johnstown) and has 98 career points (46 goals, 52 assists).
- Noah Marino made his Springfield and NAHL debut over the weekend. He picked up his first junior point with his assist on Ben Schmidling’s 2nd period goal on Saturday.
- Streaking: Techel is currently on an 8 game point streak (2 goals, 8 assists); Puricelli has points in 6 straight games (4 goals, 11 assists); Kozyrev is on a 6 game point streak (8 goals, 4 assists); and D. Schmidling is on a 3 game point streak (4 assists).
- It was the 4th weekend sweep this season for the Jr. Blues. All four sweeps have been within the division (Minnesota, Fairbanks, Kenai River, and Chippewa). The Jr. Blues have been swept twice (Minnesota and Janesville).
- With the Fairbanks sweep of Minnesota, the Ice Dogs are now in 1st place with 66 points. The Magicians have 64 points, the Jr. Blues have 60, and the Jets have 59.