After last week's sweep by the Topeka Roadrunners, the Springfield Jr. Blues fell to 7-11-0 and things started looking a little bleaker than normal. As they came off of a two-game sweep of division powerhouse Janesville, there seemed to be a little hope that the Jr. Blues could salvage a game. After the sweep, the chances of a slump were likely. The Jr. Blues faced the Janesville Jets again last night in the first of a three-game series, and like their previous two meetings managed to put together a win.
The first period produced lots of shot attempts for Janesville and Springfield, but the only shot to find its mark was a cycle that turned into a quick wrister from Chris Sitler at 3:01. His linemates Kyle Cook and Josef Pontasch gots the assists. In the following periods they would become the primary scoring engines for the Jr. Blues. The Jr. Blues also managed a decent penalty kill after Cook's elbowing call at 6:08. Goalie Tyler Parks decided to show a little bit of acrobatics tonight with his kick saves and slides. Parks is about Ben Bishop's height at 6'6" and can get his legs out there for a long save. The first period ended with Jr. Blues up 1-0.
As the second period started, Janesville's Pijus Rulevicius sat down for a hooking penalty at 1:01. This gave Chris Sitler a chance to score at 1:44 on the powerplay, with Cook and Pontasch assisting again. The Jets took over on scoring at 11:39 as defenseman Jeff Paczynski fired off a good power play goal due to Mike Williams' hooking penalty. Rulevicius made up for his earlier penalty by getting his stick past goalie Parks' pads in a scrum and sending the puck into the net at 14:54. Janesville managed to tie the game at 2-2. Undeterred by this shift in momentum, Josef Pontasch fought through a scrum to sink the third Springfield goal at 15:59, assisted by Cook and Sitler.
Why yes, the Sitler-Cook-Pontasch line works well together, doesn't it?
A holding penalty by Ethan Nauman at 18:56 carried over to the third period, so the Jr. Blues played solid defense by intercepting and blocking the puck and playing physically enough to knock Janesville's players off of the puck. In addition, Alex Bonito's penalty kill block of a slap shot put the young forward down for a few seconds and he wound up nearly diving on the puck by the Jr. Blues bench. He limped off the ice, the team's trainer right behind him.
The third period saw the Jr. Blues open up with a solid penalty kill. At 4:58, Stewart Bell fired a straight shot at Janesville goalie Brock Kautz from linemate Dominic Valencia. Kautz, despite being in the perfect position to stop the goal, flubbed it in the rookiest of rookie mistakes. The puck dropped and surprised the goalie, sliding right past him. That was the only real heartbreaker of a goal tonight, to see everything in position for a catch and the goalie standing there surprised as it still goes past him.
Josef Pontasch managed another goal during a power play at 9:21, the only unassisted goal of his line's four goals for the night. Conor Lemirande of Janesville managed a third goal for the Jets at 17:05. They managed to get the goal on a power play with Kautz pulled from the goal for an extra attacker. Despite the swarm of Jets players, the Jr. Blues held for almost the entire two minutes. After three periods, the Jr. Blues got a much needed win with a final score of 5-3.
I hope the coach of the Jr. Blues maintains the Sitler-Cook-Pontasch line. When they're hot, watch out. They've been singled out for praise before in the series against Coulee Region. At tonight's Veteran's Day celebration, the crowd had a paid attendance of 836, plus lots of free admission for veterans and active-duty military personnel. The Jr. Blues play again November 12 at the Nelson Center against the Jets in game two of their series. Puck drop is at 7pm with a Jr. Blues mini-stick giveaway for the first 500 fans. For live viewing, Fasthockey.com has the pay-per-view feed available, and check the #bloozocky hashtag on Twitter for any updates I'm able to send out.