The Springfield Jr. Blues haven’t changed their game - the game has come to them.
Since starting the season 0-6, the Jr. Blues have ascended the NAHL North Division standings, winning six of eight games since a league Showcase drought in mid-September.
Springfield claimed two of three games last weekend against visiting Janesville and presently sits in a third-place tie in the division.
“To be honest, we’re playing the exact same game, going about our business the exact same way,” said Jr. Blues head coach Andy Maher. “We had a few unfortunate results at the Showcase. We played very well Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we just couldn’t get the puck to go in. We felt we actually should have come away from it 3-1.
“Now, we’re still plugging away and finally getting those pucks to go in, and, as a result, we’ve won some hockey games.”
The Jr. Blues began to right the proverbial ship with a three-game sweep over the Michigan Warriors at McMorran Arena on Sept. 24-26. Ethan Nauman struck for the shootout session game-winner in the finale.
After splitting a home-and-home series with perennial junior powerhouse St. Louis in the interim, Springfield bounced back from last Friday’s opening 4-1 setback with subsequent 5-2 and 4-1 victories over the Jets.
“The key for us has been puck management,” Maher explained. “Coming through the neutral zone, getting the soft chips - we aren’t the kind of team that looks to get into a run-and-gun kind of game. We get the puck in deep and go hard.”
Nauman, who also logged Sunday’s game-winner, is tops among Blues skaters with 20 points over 14 outings. His 13 assists are second in the NAHL. The Mosinee, Wis. product has seven points in his last five contests.
“Ethan’s a very good skater, possesses great speed, and has tremendous skill,” Maher opined. “But his biggest asset is his hockey sense. He finds himself in the soft spots, puts himself where he needs to be, and goes places and does things that other players at this level aren’t always willing to.”
Red Bank, N.J., native Jack Callahan, a Quinnipiac University (Atlantic Hockey) recruit, anchors the Springfield blue line, but his offensive contributions have also been a key ingredient in the Blues’ resurgence.
“Without a doubt,” added Maher. “Jack’s one of our captains, our leaders, and he brings top-end game every single night. He has dynamic offensive ability, and can play both ends of the rink at a high level.”
Maher and his Jr. Blues will take their show on the road for nine of their next 11 games, beginning with a three-game weekend set against Traverse City at Centre ICE Arena this weekend. Trips to Chicago, St. Louis and Port Huron follow.
Maher says he knows the value of each intradivisional showdown in the new standing-room-only, eight-team North.
“I think what it does is make every game against the North teams just that much more important to win,” said the coach. “There really isn’t a lot of room for error with so many quality teams. So far, I think we’re above .500, so we’ll just try to keep building on that.”