It was a productive first weekend of the 2015-2016 season for the St. Louis Jr. Blues: two wins over the Nashville Jr. Predators, several new players making big impacts, and two games that showed the club's abiility to handle adversity.
Following an excellent tailgate party put on by the Booster Club, the Saturday night home opener gave fans a wild, back-and-forth night of hockey to take home. The Jr. Blues opened their 2015-16 scoring tally with a goal from Frankie Cardinale (Imperial, MO) assisted by Frankie Melton (Imperial, MO) at 5:24, but then fell behind soon after as the Jr. Preds scored two goals without reply to close out the first 20 minutes. Nashville came out of the gate fast in the 2nd, scoring again to stretch the lead to 3-1, but the Jr. Blues refused to cave in. A power-play goal from Zach Mitchell (Chicago, IL) assisted by Melton and Cardinale at 4:28 was followed up by a brilliant short-handed tally by Sam Maddox (St. Louis, MO) (assists: Brian Schumacher (Imperial, MO), Austin Dempski (O'Fallon, MO)) at the 12 minute mark. Nashville came back to re-take the lead, but 10 seconds from the end of the second term Cardinale added his second goal (assist: Tomas Loeffelman (St. Louis, MO)) to once again put both sides on level pegging heading back into the dressing rooms. Two minutes and twenty-five seconds into the third, Eduard Rumiantsev (Bryansk, Russia) introduced himself to America with his first goal, with Alexander Werdmueller (Laguna Niguel, CA) and Hayden Smer (Mission Viejo, CA) adding their first points with the Jr. Blues. Nashville would once again equalize, but on a power play resulting from a Jr. Preds player grabbing the visor of Smer during an altercation, Melton gave the Jr. Blues a lead they would not relinquish, Cardinale and Mitchell assisting at 11:42. Maddox would add an empty-netter with 43 seconds to go, giving Ian Dvorak (Rochester Hills, MI) the decision after saving 25 of 30 Nashville shots.
Sunday's game was a much more physical, arm-wrestle type of contest after Saturday's wide-open affair, but the Jr. Blues were able to adapt. In a match that was so filled with penalties it even started with the Jr. Blues on a power-play (Nashville were caught crossing over the center red line during the pre-game warmup, which carries with it a minor penalty), St. Louis' penalty-killers were vital to the cause, successfully killing off all eight Nashville power-plays and limiting the amount of shots goaltender Zach Young (Robertsville, MO) saw to only 25, of which he let in only one. The Jr. Blues took the lead with 5:10 to go in the 1st, Loeffelman scoring with Werdmueller picking up the sole assist. Nashville could not solve the Jr. Blues defense until the middle of the 2nd, when they made honors even with 13:51 gone. Indiscipline would prove to be the Jr. Preds' undoing, however: on a two-man advantage late in the 2nd, Mitchell would score his second goal of the weekend, Melton assisting at 18:01. It would stay a 2-1 Jr. Blues lead for the rest of the game, with the final 20 minutes seeing St. Louis kill off three straight penalties to open the period and provide them with the momentum to close out a one-goal game.
For their efforts over the weekend, Frankie Cardinale was named the NA3HL/EASTON Midwest Division 2nd Star of the Week, while Zach Young scooped the Honorable Mention award.
The Jr. Blues take their first road trip of the year this weekend, when they travel to Peoria, IL to play the Mustangs. Game times are 6:45 PM on Saturday, September 19 and 1:15 PM on Sunday, September 20. Both games will be streamed live on FASTHockey, the NA3HL's official broadcast partner.