Richfield, Minnesota – The Springfield Jr. Blues arrived in Minnesota on Friday needing two wins against the Magicians to stay alive in the 2020 Robertson Cup Playoffs hunt. Unfortunately, the Jr. Blues were only able to secure two of the four possible points and are now mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Friday night’s game marked the opening of the final weekend series against the Magicians this season, and the Jr. Blues would strike first. Just four minutes into the opening period, Billy Simms connected on a stretch pass to Danila Larionovs who would sneak the puck under the pads of Magicians netminder Dysen Skinner to give the Jr. Blues a 1-0 lead. Caden Villegas would double up the lead less than six minutes later, burying a back door pass from Hunter Longhi on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play between the two and fellow linemate Ethan Heidepriem.
The Jr. Blues would stretch their lead to three early in the 2nd period when Jack Rhode’s shot from the top of the circle was deflected by a Magicians defenseman and found it’s way into the back of the net. Minnesota would get on the board halfway through the 2nd period and we would head into the third and final period leading 3-1.
Ryan Wilson would stop all 17 shots that he faced in the 3rd period and Rhode would score an empty netter late to seal a 4-1 victory for the Jr. Blues. Wilson stopped 42 of 43 overall on the evening, while Simms, Longhi, Heidepriem, Jeremy Gabriele, and Adisen Brueck each recorded one assist.
As Saturday’s game approached, the finals from around the division (Chippewa & Janesville both lost on Friday) gave the Jr. Blues some extra motivation to secure two more points. Carson Jones opened up scoring less than two minutes into the game as Magicians goaltender Samuel Vyletelka mishandled a bouncing puck and Jones slammed it home. Danila Larionovs would score his second of the weekend when he deflected a clearing attempt from a Minnesota defenseman that sneaked past the goalie. However, from there the Magicians took control and didn’t let go.
Before the 1st period was over the Magicians had tied the game up 2-2, and just :16 into the 2nd period they took their first lead of the weekend. Jayden Jensen would answer back for the Jr. Blues as Jones found him wide open at the back door to tie the game 3-3. Minnesota would score twice in the following five minutes and halfway through the period the Jr. Blues trailed 5-3.
Michael Spinner (not Brian Craven) would get the Jr. Blues within one as he fired a slapshot home from just inside the face-off circle, and heading into the 3rd period the Magicians held a slim 5-4 advantage. Minnesota would regain a two goal cushion off a face-off shot halfway through the 3rd period and the 6-4 score would turn out to be the final.
Ryan Wilson and Alex Proctor combined to stop 27 shots in the evening, while Caden Villegas picked up two assists. Jensen, Jones, Gabriele, Mason McCormick, and Rhode each had one assist.
Jr. Blues Notes:
Mr. 200 – Jr. Blues captain Giovanni Carabelli appeared in his 144th career game for the Jr. Blues and his 200th NAHL game overall on Saturday. Carabelli’s 144 games now place him #7 on the all-time list for the Jr. Blues, leap-frogging Jon Gaffney and Max Osborne. His 200 NAHL games places him 25th all-time, joining Riley Murphy (Aberdeen Wings) and Preston Weeks (Kenai River Brown Bears) as the only current players with 200 or more games played.
Villy the Kid – Caden Villegas is currently on a three-game point streak as he has accumulated 1 goal and 3 assists dating back to the February 29th game against Janesville. For the season Villegas is leading the Jr. Blues offensively as he has 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points, career highs in all three categories. The Plano, TX native is in his second season with the Jr. Blues and is committed to play collegiate hockey for Union College.
A Rough Stretch – After the come-from-behind victory over Topeka on January 24th, the Jr. Blues were just four points out of the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. Since that victory the Jr. Blues are 3-10-0-1 and are currently 15 points out of 4th place. Our departure from the playoff race means we will not make the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17.
The Jr. Blues return to town for a weekend series with the division rival Janesville Jets. Join us on Friday at 7:05 pm for game one sponsored by Iron Worker’s Local #46 and on Saturday at 6:05 pm. We will be off next week before returning home April 3rd and 4th to finish the regular season.