Johnny Panvica turns up the ice during Saturday's 3-1 victory over Burnsville. (Photo by Katherine Matthews)
Grant Martens tends to the puck in a 3-1 win over Burnsville. Photo by Katherine Matthews
Injuries happen a lot in hockey. It's a physical sport. But sometimes the injuries occur all at the same time. That's when bad things can happen.
Just ask Bloomington Jefferson coach Jeff Lindquist. When two of his top players, senior forward Johnny Panvica and goalie Grant Martens, went down with injuries at the same time in the middle of the season, the Jaguars were a wreck.
They lost five straight games and the team's record stood at 6-7-1 on January 9.
"In my coaching career, I've never had more games missed due to injury and to key people," Lindquist said. "I mean, (Panvica and Martens) are big guys to miss. Putting our 10th-best forward in for Johnny is tough."
But now everybody is healthy and the Jaguars are one of the hottest teams in the state, winning their last six games, including a 3-1 toppling of Burnsville (19-7-1) on Saturday evening at Braemar Arena.
Both Panvica and Martens described how tough it was to be on the sidelines watching their team struggle during the stretch of injuries that plagued the Jags. Panvica said he had never missed any games due to injury. Martens missed his final opportunity to play big rival Bloomington Kennedy.
"It's always hard watching your team go out there and battle without you so I was glad to get back," Martens said.
The Jaguars are playing their best hockey of the year and it's coming exactly at the right time, near the end of the season, and they hope it lasts for a deep postseason run.
But the season could've been much different. Like all talented senior hockey players, Panvica was being courted by junior teams after the 2012-13 season.
"Ultimately I just decided that I wanted to be with my friends and play for my school," Panvica said. "I just thought that was too important to miss for an entire year, my last year, and a shot at making the tournament."
Martens said pretty much the same thing and that he wouldn't miss playing with his neighbor and best friend, Panvica, for anything.
The two buddies were all smiles after making another memory together by knocking off No. 2-seeded and No. 6 state-ranked Burnsville, and they know they're both lucky to be out on the ice after experiencing what it's like to watch the games from the bench.
With the win on Saturday, Panvica and Martens have another chance for some special moments in the Section 2AA championship on Wednesday against either Edina or Prior Lake.
Lindquist didn't want to look that far ahead just yet though. He wanted to take in the moment of the Jaguars reaching their first section final since 2010.
"You know what? I'm going to celebrate this one today," Lindquist said. "Tomorrow I'll turn my mind towards the next one. I'm going to enjoy this one."