The second road-trip of the young season sent the Jr. Blues north to the capital of Wisconsin, the beautiful city of Madison, and a series with the Wisconsin Whalers. The two teams have had somewhat of a rivalry over the past few seasons, with both clubs elevating their games against each other to produce some classic fixtures.
When arriving at the Oregon Ice Arena on Saturday night, the Jr. Blues were greeted by a boisterous group of traveling supporters: the St. Louis Prospects AAA U11 team, who were also in Madison that weekend to play a series of friendlies with the Madison Capitols. The support from the young players and fans propelled the Jr. Blues to a hot start, Dan Dunaway (St. Louis, Mo.) picking up his first goal of the season at 5:37 assisted by two men making their season debuts: Dylan Carroll (St. Charles, Mo.), who was returning after surgery on his wrist, and Ivan Galaguzov (Yekaterinburg, Russia), who had come back after a stint with the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues. After the first intermission, the Jr. Blues would expand the advantage courtesy of Carroll at 3:42, Dante Jones (Toronto, Ont.) and Dawson Marshall (St. Charles, Ill.) picking up the assists. The Whalers would pull one back at 5:09, but just 24 seconds later Galaguzov would score to restore the two-goal cushion, helped out by Matt Monreal (Wauwatosa, Wis.) and Dunaway. Dunaway and Monreal would combine for a power-play goal at 10:05 to chase the Whaler goaltender, and the switch in goal seemed to turn the tide in favor of the hosts, as they scored two goals within thirty seconds to make it a 4-3 game. The equalizer eventually came at the six-minute mark of the third period, and despite the Jr. Blues firing a fusillade of shots at the Whalers goal (69 in total, including 37 fired at the substitute ‘keeper alone) a shootout was required to determine the victor. It was Carroll that proved the hero for the Jr. Blues, scoring in the first round and providing the winning tally as the visitors won 5-4 (1-0 SO). Hunter Smith (Flower Mound, Tx.) picked up the win, stopping 32 of 36 shots in regular play and all three Whaler shootout attempts.
While Saturday’s game was a nervy, at times frustrating win for the visitors, Sunday’s game was anything but. While only one goal was scored in the first period, Ethan Dabbs (Manchester, Mo.) netting his first goal in junior hockey from Matt Hohl (Fenton, Mo.) and Cam McAtee (Wentzville, Mo.) at 6:18, the second saw the Jr. Blues tack five on and firmly take control of the game. Dabbs got his brace from Tom Yurisich (Batavia, Ill.) and Dante Jones (Toronto, Ont.) at 2:04, Yurisich would add the third 30 seconds later from Dabbs and Jones, Monreal picked up a short-handed marker at 5:41 with Dunaway and Regnars Udris (Talsi, Latvia) assisting, McAtee would add a power-play tally from Galaguzov and Joe Papa (St. Charles, Ill.) at the 7:05 mark, and then with 19 seconds remaining in the period Dunaway would score another goal with the man-advantage, helped by Carroll and Ben Jones (Imperial, Mo.). The domination continued in the third, starting as Dunaway got his second at the 5:08 mark, Udris and Galaguzov providing the assists. Carroll then continued his excellent weekend with another goal at the 8:36 mark, this time with Hunter Muzzillo (Capron, Ill.) and Marshall picking up the helpers. Wisconsin would pull one back at 9:59, but less than a minute later Hohl recorded his first junior hockey goal, with Dunaway and Monreal assisting. Dabbs would complete his hat-trick and take the score to double digits at 16:26 (Papa and Ben Jones assisting), as the Jr. Blues ran out 10-1 winners, outshooting the Whalers 59-30. 13 of the 18 out-skaters for the Jr. Blues recorded at least one point, while Blake Bjella (Mesa, Az.) improved his record to 2-0-0, with 29 saves.
Next weekend has the Jr. Blues heading east to Dayton, Ohio, where they will meet the Dayton Falcons in a playoff re-match. Game times will be September 30 at 6 PM Central and October 1 at 1 PM CDT.