The Chippewa Steel ended a lengthy losing streak with a bang this past weekend.
Now the North American Hockey League team hits the road as it looks to start a winning streak as the Steel play games this Friday and Saturday evening at Janesville.
Chippewa ended a 13-game losing streak last Saturday in convincing fashion with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Jets at Chippewa Area Ice Arena. The win came one day after a tight 4-3 defeat — the Steel had six one-goal defeats during the losing skid. Even though Friday’s loss pushed the streak to a baker’s dozen, Steel coach Al Rooney felt his team’s performance in the first game of the weekend series set the tone for Saturday’s win.
“Honestly, I felt like we outplayed them on Friday, too,” Rooney said. “We let in a couple of bad goals where we exposed ourselves to counterattacks and they were opportunistic and they scored on their chances. But we outchanced them, outplayed them I felt most of Friday as well.”
Grant Reichenbacher had a hat trick, Killian Kiecker-Olson added two goals and Tomas Vochozka also found the net for Chippewa as the team scored twice in the first period before adding three goals in the second to pull away. Kiecker-Olson was named the Midwest Division Star of the Week by the NAHL earlier this week.
“We needed that same sort of effort Saturday night and we came out energized,” Rooney said of the win. “It was nice to get the first goal for a change and the guys just bought in and hopefully it’s a big step.”
Austin Mikesch, Mason Vukonich and Camden Thiesing each had two assists and goaltender Josh Langford stopped all 24 shots he faced in goal for the team’s most lopsided victory on the young season.
The win was the team’s first since a 4-1 victory over the Lone Star Brahmas on Sept. 21 at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn. The Steel and Jets now meet for another two-game set, this time in Janesville. The Jets have won three of the first four meetings between the two teams, sweeping both meetings at the end of September.
The NAHL’s two Wisconsin-based teams play for the Blain’s Farm and Fleet America’s Dairyland Milk Can trophy, which goes to the winner of the season series. The two teams square off 10 times during the season with this weekend’s series being the last meetings until a two-game set at Chippewa Ice Arena on Feb. 8-9.
Rooney said he doesn’t expect the quick turnaround to face the same opponent again to have much of an impact one way or the other.
“The only little difference could be obviously there going to be hungry to get back at us on their home ice but it should also allow us a little more confidence,” Rooney said. “We just played well against them two nights in a row. There’s no real change in the dynamic of our gameplan, we’ve just got to keep doing what we did this weekend and see if it allows us to get consistent success.”
The Steel play six of their next eight games away from home before a stretch of six out of seven at home in December.
“The energy has been great in practice the last few days,” Rooney said. “It’s amazing what a win can do to revitalize everybody. (Earlier this week) we had two really good practices and the whole thing now is anyone can win on any occasion now, the goal is to do it consistently and it’s really about the process and what we’re doing and the result will take care of itself.
“If we can play like we did this past weekend again, our chances are we’ll be in a position to get a (good) result.”
Chippewa enters the series sixth in the division with a 4-13-1-1 record and 10 points. Janesville is second with 21 points and has a 10-7-1-0 mark.
Rooney said forward Gristha Gotovets could be activated from the injured reserve list this week but won’t be quite ready for game action this weekend. Gotovets has been out since the Oct. 18 contest against the Minnesota Magicians.