Heading into this past weekend, only one team had a chance to catch the Jr. Blues. The Chicago Hitmen were tied with the Jr. Blues on the loss side of their schedule. The Jr. Blues would have had to lose all 8 games in regulation and Chicago would have had to win all 8 remaining games, including two with St. Louis. However, the Hitmen dropped a game on Friday night in a shootout loss to Minnesota, securing the division for St. Louis.
Head Coach JP Beilsten said, "We set goals early in the season. Obviously winning the division is at the top of the list, but when you play in the division we are in, and the teams in the North all season that is a lofty goal. Anytime you can get home ice advantage for the playoffs, it's a good thing. From playing in front of your family, friends, and fans to the cost of travel, that is what you hope for. On top of having to beat the teams we've had to play all year has been a huge challenge."
Beilsten continues, "This is a little different than last year when we won the league on the last day of the season, but still presents a new set of challenges. Last year we couldn't let down just to get that first National bid and we were a little tired. This year, we can't go into a shell and look forward to the playoffs. We have 6 tough games coming up and we want to finish strong."
When asked about the divisional playoffs Beilsten said, "I don't care if you finished 1st or 4th, the only benefit for us is the home ice and no travel. Quad City beat us as the 8th seed last year and they always seem to play their best against us. This year, they have beaten us 2 times in a shootout and rolled us 7-0. If we look past them, we will lose. Chicago, we have split with in the last two weekends and overall 5-3 against them. They are one of the top teams in the league and playing some of their best hockey right now. They will be peaking in the playoffs. If we take them lightly, we will lose. Peoria is another team that is big and strong. They just picked up the top player in the league from last year and will be a tough opponent, whoever they play. This division playoff could be won by any one of the four teams in it. That's what we love, and hate, about this division because it only makes you better. It doesn't give you time to rest, ever."
Up next for St. Louis, Peoria this weekend at the Affton Ice Rink.