I almost arrived late at this game, and would have missed a great opening to the first period of the game. This was the largest Sunday afternoon crowd I have ever seen at Nelson Center. 768 paid to get in for a 4pm game. The promotion today was a salute to the grade school kids who raised funds for the Jump Rope for Heart program. The concession crew got swamped. Fortunately the stand is right at center ice so you can just turn around to see the game as it plays. Gabe Antoni started the previous two games, so Tyler Parks got some precious ice time.
Jr. Blues Captain Stewart Bell dropped the gloves with Janesville's Pijus Rulevicius at 0:02. Rulevicius is a brawler and had it not been Bell, Bell's linemate Tyler Rehm would have gladly fought him as well. Rulevicius got the win in close fight, and he would continue to goad the Jr. Blues for the rest of the game. Sadly for him, they decided the best revenge for the fight would be a shutout.
Mike Williams opened up the scoring at 5:39 in the first period with a power play goal assisted by his d-men Kevin Walters and Cody Dixon. Despite trading penalties in the first, neither team could capitalize on their advantage in the first period. Janesville outshot Springfield 16 to 5.
The second period started with the Jr. Blues killing a penalty carried over from the first period. A hooking penalty at 8:48 on Janesville gave Chris Sitler a wonderful little tap in from Walters and Sitler's longtime linemate Josef Pontasch. Pontasch caught his own rebound off of Tony Kujava and passed it to Sitler. The Jr. Blues would go 2 for 3 on power plays. The shot difference was less in the second, going 12 to 8 in favor of Janesville.
Janesville's attempt to fluster Parks with heavy close-in shooting failed in the first two periods, but the Jets continued to hope the Jr. Blues goalie would make a mistake. Their hope was for nothing. Radim Matus scored unassisted at 2:18 to drive a further nail in Janesville's coffin, and Josef Pontasch joined in the scoring at 10:04 from linemates Chris Sitler and Kyle Cook.
Remember how I mentioned the shutout? Yeah, Parks got a shutout. The Jr. Blues use very aggressive forechecking and backchecking to keep opponents off their rhythm. It works well as most of the shots against Parks were weak or unsure. Springfield swept the second-place Jets and got two shutouts in a row on them. Springfield's record goes to 29-25-2 and Janesville goes to 36-18-4.
During the third period the three scratches of the Jr. Blues came out to the stands to sign autographs for some of the kids. Ben Kramer was limping a bit from last night's incident where a Janesville player landed on his leg, but seemed to be a bit upset at not being in the lineup. Bit of a rink rat, that kid. Guan Wang and Gareth Williams were also out recovering from a few minor lingering injuries.
The next games are March 23 and 24 at Nelson Center. They'll be playing the St. Louis Bandits, the Midwest Division's first place team. The Jr. Blues will need to dig deep to keep the Bandits from clinching the division title at Nelson Center. Game time is 7pm on both nights, and tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids, military personnel and seniors. Friday's game will be the last in their player trading card/ refrigerator magnet giveaway and Saturday's game will be the College Commitment and Billet Family Recognition game.
While I can't give out any discounts or anything, I'd love to see some more SLGT presence at the games. If you can make the drive to Springfield for a game please consider it. The boys do better with a packed house.