A quick glance at a team’s record might not tell the whole story.
Bloomington Jefferson has been hovering around the .500 mark all season and on Feb. 9, it needed an effort better than a .500 team and got it with a 4-2 nonconference victory against Minnetonka.
Minnetonka came to the Bloomington Ice Gardens as one of the hottest and best hockey teams in the state. Ranked No. 3 in the Minnesota Hockey Hub rankings, and putting 24 goals on the scoreboard during its last three games, the Jaguars were about to host some selfish guests.
Instead of having Alex Glockner between the pipes, the Skippers went with backup Matt Behounek.
Bloomington Jefferson saw it as a slap in the face that Minnetonka would put its No. 2 goalie in.
“We saw that and talked about it in the locker room,” Jaguars forward Eric Freschi said. “It (upset us) and really fueled the fire. We really wanted to win this one.”
When the third period came, want was just an understatement. Bloomington Jefferson came out and played like a team that needed to score, instead of an underdog that had a 3-1 lead.
Perhaps that is what happens when a team feels disrespected.
“They threw in their backup goalie and I don’t know if it’s because they play Edina on Thursday,” Nielsen said. “But it did give us an extra step because we thought that maybe they weren’t going to take us serious or give us respect. We came out hard and glad we beat them.”
When Bloomington Jefferson got a 2-1 lead in the second period on Johnny Rosium’s goal, poking the puck into the Skippers net , the Jaguars continued to play aggressive.
It stayed that way in the third and Jake Pollock extended the Jaguars lead when he somehow chipped a shot by Behounek that appeared to skim the crossbar and also got a late goal signal.
Minnetonka coach Brian Urick was not happy with the way the referee made the call.
“I think it went in,” Urick said. “I was just arguing because the ref never saw it go in, but you know what, the refereeing didn’t cost us the game.”
What beat Minnetonka was a Bloomington Jefferson team that would not cower down to a highly rated team. If anything, the Jaguars rose to the occasion and caused some chaos.
“We know they have beaten Wayzata and Edina, so they are a great team, but we have beaten some good teams, too” Jaguars forward Nick Nielsen said. “We have been a little inconsistent, but if we bring our best game to the rink, we can bear any team in the state.”
Bloomington Jefferson came out swinging and connected first. Nielsen grabbed a loose puck in front of the Skippers net and made a nice move to his backhand to beat Behounek and his team leading 17th of the season.
There was no panic when Sam Rothstein buried a one-timer late in the first. Austin Hunt, who eventually scored the game-winner, had a chance to give the Jaguars a late lead, but misfired on the shot.
Even though Hunt was not successful in the closing seconds of the first, it was a sign of things to come for the remaining of the game.
Rosium gave Bloomington Jefferson the lead in the second, while teammate Hunt added the game-winner less than nine minutes later.
With a two-goal lead heading into the final period, the Jaguars remained aggressive and did not sit back to allow a shooting range to fall upon goalie Eric Fabano.
“We realized that we aren’t good at a prevent defense,” Bloomington Jefferson coach Jeff Lindquist said. “The only time we’re good is if we are on our toes, so that was on purpose.”
After a first 17 minutes of watching Skippers forwards race from their own zone all the way into Jaguars territory, Bloomington Jefferson tightened up the neutral zone and did not allow much to get through.
“We changed our neutral zone forecheck and tried to make their defense make turnovers,” Lindquist said. “They did a great job hitting that cross-ice pass and we were just trying to take that away, because they do it so well. Our guys picked them off and I think it turn the tide for us.”
Minnetonka was not able to hit on home run passes, or connect on the neutral zone cross-ice pass that it has had an abundance of success with.
“They blocked the middle of the ice and locked our strong-side wing down pretty good,” Urick said. “We tried to get it in deep for a forecheck, turned it over a few times in the neutral zone and couldn’t get a forecheck established.”
Ultimately, it came down to Bloomington Jefferson not cowering to one of the state’s elite teams.
It played the role of aggressor, even with a lead, unloading 34 shots on goal.
“It was just good to get a win and a win against a good team,” Nielsen said. “Hopefully it will keep us rolling as we get into sections.”
With Edina and Eden Prairie on the schedule to close out the week, Minnetonka picked a bad night to have off in preparation for two more big games.
“We got outplayed tonight,” Brian Urick said. “They played really well over there. We lost a lot of battles and gave up way too many scoring chances.
“We got what we pretty much deserved and got outworked by a better team. This is maybe an eye opener for us, so we are not as good as we think we are. We have to get back to winning the battles and doing the little things. Probably the biggest is playing better in our own end. We didn’t do that tonight.”
If Bloomington Jefferson did not go through so many highs and lows, its record could be really impressive.
An 11-8-2 campaign is nothing to frown upon considering its schedule this season. A tough South Suburban Conference has Burnsville, Eagan and Apple Valley in it, while playing most of the Lake Conferences’ best teams as well.
The one thing Lindquist has been looking for is a consistent effort every night. Instead there has been some Jekyll and Hyde going on in Bloomington.
“Our biggest challenge is consistency,” Lindquist said. “We have been up and down this season. If we stay consistent, we can do more things like this.”
Bloomington Jefferson has beaten Eagan and Apple Valley this year to stay within fighting distance, but has fallen to others, sometimes even by large amounts.
“We have had a tough win, tough loss, tough win, tough loss,” Freschi said. “Getting back in the win column is nice and we need to keep them coming.”
Prior to Minnetonka making its way to the Bloomington Ice Gardens for a nonconference game, the Jaguars were losers of two consecutive games, giving up five goals in each of them.
“We have some kids with a lot of skill, but last week we gave up a lot of goals and that is unacceptable and you’re not going to win. I was happy with our defensive effort and thought that was the key tonight."
There are only four games left on the Jaguars schedule and it just earned a quality win.
Burnsville and Eagan are slated to conclude the regular schedule, so time will tell if the win against the Skippers will propel on the state’s most storied programs will stay on course without suffering a setback.
“Our confidence is really high right now,” Freschi said. “I hope we can use it to get us ready for sections.”
Nick Nielsen had a goal and an assist and Eric Fabano collected 26 saves for Bloomington Jefferson in a 4-2 upset victory against Minnetonka at the Bloomington Ice Gardens on Feb. 8.
Holding a lead of 4-1, the Jaguars stuck to an aggressive plan and did not allow the Skippers to get too much of their potent offense rolling.
Bloomington Jefferson did not go into a defensive shell, but instead, came out in the second and third periods as if it were a team that needed to tie the game.
Along with Nielsen, Johnny Roisum, Alex Hunt and Jake Pollock scored. Pollock also had an assist and joins Nielsen in the multi-point department.
Max Coatta had two assists on the evening for the Skippers. Sam Rothstein and Erik Baskin had goals for Minnetonka, while goalie Matt Behounek had 30 saves on 34 shots.
It will continue to be a tough week for the Skippers. They drop to 15-5-1 and will host Lake Conference rival Edina on Thurday and two days later, Eden Prairie.
Bloomington Jefferson improved to 11-8-2 and will also get back in conference action. Two games on the road against Rosemount and Eastview are on Thursday and Saturday.
1. Nick Nielsen, Bloomington Jefferson
A goal and a helper gave the Jaguars leading scorer two huge points and a huge upset win against Minnetonka.He also had several other chances and his line was key to keeping the puck in the Skippers zone, not allowing their potent offense get on track.
2. Eric Fabano, Bloomington Jefferson
Had a solid 26-save effort, one being a diving save on a one-timer late in the second period. If he didn't make that stop, Minnetonka could have gone into the third with a one-goal defecit and some momentum. Instead, the Jaguars had a lot of confidence and played like it in the third thanks to Fabano's great play in net.
3. Vinni Lettieri, Minnetonka
Even though he did not put up any points, he was noticed on the ice. Lettieri stetched the ice and forced a Jaguars defenseman to always keep tabs on him. He did his best to set up his teammates, or create shots on his own.