Springfield, Illinois – It’s been nearly a month since the Springfield Jr. Blues have hosted a home game at The Nelson Center, but this weekend we will face a strong Minnesota Wilderness team as we celebrate Halloween and hope to keep the momentum going! The Jr. Blues currently have a 10-5-0-0 record for 20 points and sit atop the Midwest Division standings.
The Jr. Blues are coming off an extended trip to Alaska where they played five games – three against Anchorage and two against Fairbanks. For many of our players it was their first taste of Alaska and their first opportunity to experience playing in the Big Dipper Ice Arena. But it wasn’t just Fairbanks who supplied an electric atmosphere as Anchorage had three consecutive sellouts in their first home series in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
But it’s time to look forward – and what’s in front of us is a tough weekend series with a divisional foe. The Wilderness are new to the Midwest Division this season but have been part of the NAHL since 2013 and won the Robertson Cup in 2015. The Jr. Blues will look to lean on their veterans up front – Jonathan Panisa, Leo Bacallao, Carson Jones, and Joey Dosan – as well as on Ethan Roberts, who has been solid between the pipes all season long.
For the Wilderness (8-3-1-0, 17 pts), they’re looking to build off an incredibly hot stretch since the Showcase. Since mid-September they are 7-1 including two sweeps of the Janesville Jets, a series split with the Minnesota Magicians, and a sweep of the Kenai River Brown Bears. They are led up front by Gunnar Thoreson and Ethan Wolthers who both have 16 points on 5 goals and 11 assists and are backstopped by Jacob Zacharewicz who has a 5-2-1-0 record with a 4.16 GAA and .863 SV%.
Behind the Note:
- Our last contest against the Wilderness was during the 2019-20 season when we played them at the NAHL Showcase. The Wilderness won that game 5-1. Prior to that, we had split a four-game interdivision series with them during the 2017-18 season.
- The Jr. Blues are currently one of two teams in the NAHL with at least 10 wins and 20 points, the only other team is the Maryland Black Bears. As we had mentioned in last week’s preview, this is the best start for a Jr. Blues squad in team history.
- The Jr. Blues power play currently sits at 27.8%, 2nd best in the division and 3rd best in the league overall. The penalty kill is at 84.2%, which is 3rd best in the division and 14th overall. For the Wilderness their PP is at 27.5%, just behind the Jr. Blues, and their PK is at 70.6%.
- For the fourth time this season the Jr. Blues will battle it out with a fellow Robertson Cup Champion. We played Bismarck (2010) and Aberdeen (2019) at the Showcase, while last weekend we played Fairbanks (2011, 2014, 2016) and this weekend we play the Wilderness (2015). The only active teams with championships that we do not play this season are Shreveport (2018, 2021) and Lone Star (2017).
This Weekend’s Game:
Our game on Friday begins at 7:05 pm with doors opening at 6 pm. We will have our pregame happy hour starting at 6 and running up to 7, make sure you arrive early to enjoy beer specials and get ready for Jr. Blues hockey! On Saturday our game begins at 6:05 pm with doors opening at 5 pm. We will be having a costume contest during our 1st intermission for Children 12 & Under with a special Jr. Blues gift for the winner! Grab your tickets in advance by visiting tickets.jrblues.com – save some time (and money) and skip the line at the door!