I may have missed last night's live game and their 500th win, but I am pleased to say that I was at the Nelson Center for the Springfield Jr. Blues' 501st win. A weekend that started with an unexpected loss turned into a series win as the Springfield Jr. Blues beat the Chicago Hitmen 7 to 4. Last night had goals and fights galore. The Jr. Blues decided to keep the party going on a lazy December afternoon. Oh, while it might not have been a natural hat trick, Josef Pontasch got three goals in his hat trick this evening. It was quite the beauty.The first period started with little acrimony. A fine setup by d-man Kevin Walters and Jr. Blues captain Stewart Bell led to a Gavin Tufte goal for the home team at 4:13. Chicago's Sean Madigan roughed one of the Springfield players and was sent to the box for two minutes at 5:47, chirping all the way and egged on by one of his coaches. At 7:47, he paid for it when Stewart Bell skated past the box. Madigan decided to swing at Bell from the box as he was leaving, and the captain was having none of it. Madigan found himself flat on the ice as Bell threw him roughly and commenced to beating him. Sadly, the referee saw only the last half of the fight. The referee awarded Bell a fighting major, an instigator minor, a fighting game misconduct and an ejection. Madigan got sympathy and was allowed to stay in the game unpenalized. The Jr. Blues would be down for seven minutes on the major penalty. I also began to wonder if the Jr. Blues were getting the St. Louis Blues' luck for lousy officiating. Despite being a man down for seven minutes, Ethan Nauman took a wonderful breakaway opportunity and scored short-handed at 9:03. The Hitmen cleared their heads and remembered they were the ones on the power play and answered the Jr. Blues' shorty with a power play goal by Sean Madigan at 9:35. Yeah, the kid who jumped the Jr. Blues' captain and didn't get so much as a minor scored. The Jr. Blues prevented the Hitmen from adding to their total for the rest of the power play. At the end of the first, Springfield led 2-1.
The second period would show less violence than last night's second-period nastiness. It would still be filled with penalties, though. Mike Williams showed his skills for the Jr. Blues at 10:14 with an unassisted power play goal thanks to a tripping call on Chicago's Sean Reynolds. Josef Pontasch netted his first goal of the night at 12:19 during another power play for Springfield. Chicago took quite a few penalties trying to out-grind the Jr. Blues, and the Jr. Blues made them pay for it. A tripping call on new Springfield player Mitch Rogge at 13:08 didn't help the Hitmen much; Pontasch took another breakway from the Hitmen to score a short-handed goal at 15:06. At this point, it was hoped there would be an even-strength goal for Pontasch's hat trick. The second period ended with the Jr. Blues in firm command of the situation and leading 5-1.
In the third period, the Hitmen came out strong like they did on Friday night, and proved that if they couldn't win, they'd at least threaten to do so. The second goal of the game for the Hitmen came at 2:08 as Zach Shrotenboer got a power play goal from a feed by Eric Szafranski. Ben Kramer, not content to rest on his laurels from last night's blueline snipe, scored a power play goal of his own at 5:40 with Chris Sitler and Ethan Nauman assisting. The Jr. Blues regained their four-goal differential. David Gandara scored for the Hitmen at 7:04 to keep the Jr. Blues sweating a little and making it 6-3. Tokyo's own Shigenobu Kakudate cranked up the anxiety for Jr. Blues fans as he scored at 11:40 to bring the score to 6-4. Having seen the Jr. Blues collapse on Friday and knowing the Hitmen wanted a little revenge for Saturday, worrying would be warranted.
Oh, wait, remember what I said about Josef Pontasch in the first paragraph? Yeah, he got his third goal at 19:01, an empty-netter. Hat trick? Hat trick.
The Jr. Blues won the game 7-4 and took the weekend series. Both teams took a Broad Street approach to this series: they arrived at the puck in ill humor. Entertaining hockey resulted for the meager crowd of 312. Again, Sunday afternoon games are always a good way to watch a game without the ensuing chaos of lots of little kids.
The next series for the Jr. Blues will be against their bete noire, the St. Louis Bandits. It's a home-home-home series, where two games will be played in Springfield and one will be played in St. Louis. The first game of the series will be Friday, December 16 at 7pm at Nelson Center in Springfield. The second Teddy Bear Toss of the year will happen here for the local children's hospital. I was also wrong about ticket prices. They're $8 now, not $7. Kids,college students, senior citizens and military personnel get in for $5. If you're not otherwise engaged, why not make the drive to Springfield and watch some hockey in person? It's a pretty good deal.