Schneider, Villegas Lead Jr. Blues to Split with Pilots

Topeka, Kansas – The Springfield Jr. Blues fought hard against the Topeka Pilots this past weekend, coming from behind both nights. On Friday the Jr. Blues defeated the Pilots 5-4 in overtime and on Saturday they fell just short losing 2-1. With the weekend split, the Jr. Blues record now sits at 14-29-2-2 for 32 points. 

The weekend opening game on Friday night began in the Pilots favor as they scored twice in the first period to hold a 2-0 advantage heading into the break. The Jr. Blues would respond, however, as Jackson Salt scored early in the 2nd period to cut the deficit to 2-1. Caden Villegas would score his first of two goals just four minutes later to tie the game up 2-2 and switch the momentum into the Jr. Blues favor. 

Ethan Heidepriem, acquired from the Maryland Black Bears before the deadline, tallied his first goal since joining the team early in the 3rd period to give the Jr. Blues their first lead of the weekend. Topeka wouldn’t go quietly as they scored two goals of their own to reclaim the lead, 4-3. Late in regulation, the Jr. Blues poured on the pressure and Villegas put home a loose puck in the slot to tie the game 4-4 and sent us to overtime. 

In the extra frame, Carson Jones out hustled two Pilots players and found Cole Schneider alone in the slot for the game-winning goal, Jr. Blues won 5-4. Ryan Wilson earned his 10th win of the season as he stopped 26 of 30 shots. Jones and Hunter Longhi each had two assists, while Jeremy Gabriele, Trevor Scherer, Jonathan Panisa, Schneider, Giovanni Carabelli, and Cam Wuesthoff each had one assist. 

Topeka would jump out in front on Saturday night as well and took a 1-0 lead into the 2nd period. The Jr. Blues would tie the game up 1-1 just :57 into the middle frame as Panisa one-timed a feed from Villegas that squeezed through Guy Blessing’s pads. The game, however, would end up being decided on a crazy bounce off the glass that found a Topeka player’s stick in front of the net. Pilots won, 2-1. 

Wilson started in net for the Jr. Blues and stopped 23 of 25 including several remarkable saves that kept the Jr. Blues in the game. Billy Simms got the second assist on Panisa’s goal. 

Jr. Blues Notes:

Sticking In Division – With the conclusion of Saturday night’s contest in Topeka, the Jr. Blues remaining schedule consists solely of divisional opponents. Fairbanks comes to town for three games this weekend before we take on Janesville (6), Minnesota (2), and Chippewa (2) the rest of the way. 

Keep On Rollin’ – Jonathan Panisa is currently representing the Jr. Blues at the Top Prospects Tournament alongside teammates Leo Bacallao, Jackson Salt, and Caden Villegas. In this morning’s tournament opening game against Team South, Panisa picked up an assist as he continues to remain hot. In his last seven games, Panisa has 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists). 

Well-Behaved Affair – The Jr. Blues and Pilots had combined for over 500 penalty minutes through the first 10 games they saw each other this season. This past weekend’s matchup, however, was relatively calm as the total penalty minutes for the weekend was 48, a far cry from the triple digit weekends we have seen multiple times this season. 

Up Next:

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs come to town this weekend for a three game series that begins Friday evening and concludes Sunday afternoon. Friday’s game starts at 7:05 pm, Saturday begins at 6:05 pm, and Sunday starts at 4:05 pm. Doors open one hour before the start of each game. Make sure to stick around after Sunday’s contest for a post-game skate with the team!