Another shift from summer to fall means the start of yet another hockey season, and in 2017 the St. Louis Jr. Blues started their chase for the newly-rechristened Fraser Cup by traveling to their oldest foe, the Peoria Mustangs, for their first series of the new year.
The first game of the year on Saturday, September 9 saw a dream start for the Jr. Blues, with debutant Jake Kram (St. Louis, Mo.) scoring at 8:58 to put the Notes on the board first, the assist credited to Dante Jones (Toronto, Ont.). However, in what became a theme for the evening indiscipline would hamper the Jr. Blues, as Peoria scored a power-play goal shortly after Kram’s marker to level the terms. With less than a minute to go in the opening frame the Mustangs would gain the lead, but not without controversy: a goal with :56 on the clock was initially chopped off as the referee believed the net came off before the puck crossed the line, but after consultation with his linesmen he reversed his decision.
Period number two saw the Mustangs double their advantage less than 90 seconds in, but the rest of the second 20 minutes was all Jr. Blues, with multiple players getting excellent scoring chances and the men from St. Louis dictating the pace of play. However, for all their shots (they outshot the Mustangs 11-5 in the 2nd, and 37-20 overall) they could not find the back of the net until the 4:42 mark of the third, where fellow rookie Jack Hazelton (St. Louis, Mo.) scored unassisted to bring the Jr. Blues within one. Unfortunately 38 seconds later Peoria would restore the two-goal cushion, and for the rest of the night the Jr. Blues frustrations would boil over as they had to kill off four penalties, conceding one other goal a man down as Peoria ran out 5-2 winners. Goalie Hunter Smith (Flower Mound, Tx.) made 15 saves in a losing effort.
Sunday saw a new day and a new attitude for the Jr. Blues, as they played an energetic, controlling game from the opening faceoff. It took just two minutes and four seconds for St. Louis to hit the front, with Matt Monreal (Wauwatosa, Wis.) scoring with an excellent shot from the right-side faceoff dot: Daniel Dunaway (St. Louis, Mo.) and Tom Yurisich (Batavia, Ill.) would pick up the assists. Just over two minutes later the Jr. Blues would make it two, picking up their first power-play goal of the year courtesy of Ben Jones (Imperial, Mo.), with Dunaway and Mark Capkovic (Oakville, Mo.) assisting. The remainder of the first twenty saw the Jr. Blues largely suffocating the Mustangs in their own end, out-shooting them 13-6.
In the 2nd, the scoring continued for the travelers, as Hazelton picked up a rebound goal at 7:51 following sustained pressure in the Mustang end to make it a 3-0 affair, assisted by Regnars Udris (Talsi, Latvia). Once again, another goal came quickly for the Jr. Blues: this time it was Udris himself with a great wrist shot, Dawson Marshall (St. Charles, Ill.) recording the assist and chasing the Mustangs goaltender in the process. Peoria would pull one back late in the period, but yet again in the final twenty minutes St. Louis would dictate the action, Capkovic able to take advantage of a blocked shot coming directly to him by scoring at 14:52. The Mustangs would score later on in the period but it would be for naught, as the Jr. Blues ended the weekend with a 5-2 win and a series split. Once again the Jr. Blues outshot the Mustangs, this time 30-19: Blake Bjella (Mesa, Az.) picked up the win in his first start, recording 17 saves.
Next weekend for the Jr. Blues will be a bye: after that, they travel to Oregon, Wis. to play the Wisconsin Whalers. Game times there will be September 23rd at 7 p.m. and September 24th at 1 p.m.