Janesville clinches NAHL regular season title
March 16, 2015
By Mason Lyttle
The Janesville Jets have clinched the 2014-2015 North American Hockey League (NAHL) regular season title and home ice advantage throughout the Robertson Cup Playoffs, following a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Magicians on Friday night.
Dan Kucerovy scored a power play goal late in the third period to seal the Jets’ 44th win of the season. After the final seconds ticked off the clock, all players and coaches furiously checked their phones, awaiting the result of the match between the Corpus Christi Ice Rays and the Wichita Falls Wildcats, who, with a loss, would concede first place to Janesville. Corpus Christi scored 39 seconds into overtime, clinching the regular season title for the Jets.
“Playing in Janesville has been huge for us all year,” said captain Drew Callin, who is committed to play this fall at Bentley University. “It’s our home rink and we take pride in what we do here.”
In January, the NAHL announced the format for this year’s playoffs, which remained the same as last year. The highest-seeded team will host every game of both the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals and the Robertson Cup Finals. Both are best-of-three series.
“For us, playing in front of our home crowd and in our home rink, sleeping in our own beds, that’s enormous,” said Jets head coach and general manager Joe Dibble. “No big bus legs, not a lot of travel, and we get to play in front of our home crowd.”
Assistant coach Erik Largen pointed to some average road records of possible Robertson Cup challengers. “It was extremely important for us to clinch home ice,” Largen said. “Even though we feel confident traveling, bringing an opponent here is exactly what we wanted.”
Janesville has already shattered franchise records for wins and points, and is still poised to top the league marks in both categories. The Jets boast a 22-4-2 record at the Janesville Ice Arena, and a 23-5-0 mark on the road.
The Jets are also chasing a bit of regular season history. They currently have 45 wins with four games remaining in the regular season. The NAHL record for wins in a season (48) is held by two teams, the 2003-04 Texas Tornado and the 2005-06 Bozeman Icedogs. The Jets also have 92 points. The NAHL record for points in a season is held by the 2011-12 and 2012-13 Amarillo Bulls with 99. If the Jets win their remaining four games, they would set new league records for both wins in a season and points in a season.
“This group has been on the same page all season,” praised Dibble. “They could have taken some games off or some shifts off here and there, but they haven’t. That’s not the type of team we have.”
Callin, who played in his 100th game as a Jet this weekend, is particularly excited at the prospect of playing the league’s most important series in front of the Janesville faithful.
“Just having the opportunity to play the Robertson Cup [Finals Series] at home is great,” said the Middleton native. “Winning it would be awesome.”