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FEATURE: Jaxson Stauber's Season Turnaround Fueled by Historic Win Streak

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The second half of Jaxson Stauber’s season has been extraordinary. He currently rides a win streak into the final weekend of the regular season that has stretched to 13 games and blossomed into a new IceHogs franchise record. In that span, he has recorded his first two professional shutouts and has helped pilot Rockford to the team’s best regular season since the 2015-16 campaign, regardless of how the last weekend of the campaign shakes out. Stauber’s win streak has marked a giant leap forward for not only himself, but for his team as well.

He has not lost in regulation since a 5-2 defeat on Jan. 26 to the Milwaukee Admirals, and his unbeaten streak now stretches to 14 games- just one shy of Corey Crawford’s Rockford franchise record 15-game unbeaten streak set in 2007-08. The netminder has even set some offensive records for Rockford and is now the only IceHogs AHL goalie to record five points (1G, 4A) in a season.

Stauber’s tandem with rookie Drew Commesso (Stauber is also technically a rookie, despite 23 pro appearances last season) has given Rockford a reliable one-two punch in net that Head Coach Anders Sorensen has rode nearly the entire season. The pair has been dynamite in the last few months, with Stauber’s win streak leading the way.

His current run is unprecedented in IceHogs history, but Stauber hasn’t paid much attention to the streak. In fact, he doesn’t even get caught up in wins and losses.

“Winning and losing is so subjective," said Stauber. "I think to a goalie, like, it's sometimes you win in spite of a bad performance from your goaltender, sometimes the goalie can steal wins. So, I think if I can just do my job and keep it in a place where the game is within reach then that's going to give us a chance.”

The Wayzata, Minnesota native is dialed into the micro, not the macro, of his work this season.

“Early on I was thinking about it because I hadn't won that many games in a row this season, but probably in a while in my career. I think anytime you win five in a row is pretty cool,” reflected Stauber. “But I think I got past that certain point when it got to like eight or nine where I'm not really thinking about it anymore.”

Since the start of February, Stauber is 13-0-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Those figures contrast sharply to his first 14 appearances of the season in which he recorded a 5-7-1-1 record, 3.54 goals-against average, and .887 save percentage.

If you’ve watched Stauber in net over the last three months, it’s hard to imagine him struggling. Yet, things weren’t going Stauber’s way earlier this season. He was shelled for seven goals in his first start of the campaign on Oct. 13 against San Jose (the team struggled as a whole and surrendered 49 shots), and his numbers trailed those of his teammates. When Mitchell Weeks was called up from the ECHL in late December, Weeks replaced Stauber in the rotation and posted better numbers with a 2.80 goals-against average and .892 save percentage through five games.

IceHogs Goaltending Development Coach Matt Smith challenged Stauber to use the time in a positive manner. “There was a point where he was the third goalie,” said Smith. “He didn’t sulk or mope.”

“Obviously in January when I wasn't playing, that was hard for sure,” reflected Stauber. “But I just believed that if I kept working and making those changes and if I got an opportunity that eventually that stuff would pay off. And I think that first game back against Milwaukee wasn't, wasn't great.”

After three weeks on the shelf, Stauber received his next opportunity on Jan. 26 at Milwaukee, only to surrender five goals to a charging and high-powered Admirals group that claimed a 5-2 win. Things did not appear to be getting better for the second-year IceHog.

Jaxson Stauber Becomes First-Ever AHL Goaltender to Score Goal and Record Shutout in Same Game

On Feb. 3, Stauber began to steer his season to smoother seas. He cut down 22 of 25 Manitoba shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Moose and played closer to his potential. The game was the last before the 2024 All-Star break, and the reprieve served as a jump start to Stauber’s win streak, and to his season.

“It was like a clean reset,” remembered Stauber. “So I was just preparing to build off that last game, from Manitoba. And I think that's kind of the mindset that I've had throughout this. When I've played well, just to try to build on that, that game going into the next one. Not necessarily looking at it as this whole big picture, just win this one.”

His current 13-game heater began with a momentous occasion. On Feb. 10, the team honored former IceHogs goaltender and two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford by retiring his number 29 and inducting him into the team’s ring of honor. Crawford, who spent three seasons in Rockford from 2007 to 2010, was on hand that night and had a chance to speak with the team before the tilt against the Chicago Wolves. The presence of Rockford’s career leader in wins seemed to inspire the 2023-24 Hogs, as the group claimed a 2-1 victory on home ice, and Stauber stopped 15 of 16 Chicago shots. The game marked a turning point for Stauber and was the first time all season he kept the opposition to one goal.

“When I think of the beginning of that streak, starting with that game back from All-Star break, I think we beat Chicago and they retired Corey Crawford’s number, that was a fun game. And then leading to that next week, a little three-game stretch there really gave me a lot of confidence that the work that I was doing in the change that I was making were paying off.”

After Crawford night, Stauber’s next start came against Chicago again on Feb. 16 at home, and his performance cracked the AHL record books. Up 3-0 with a minute left in the third period, Stauber scored the 23rd goalie goal in AHL history. Not to be lost in the novelty of a goalie goal, Stauber also stopped all 24 Chicago shots to become the first AHL goaltender to record a shutout and a goal in the same game. In back-to-back starts, Stauber had now stacked his two best statistical games of the season and captured the attention of the AHL. He now stood poised on the precipice of what would become a season-changing run.

“I don't know if the goal necessarily gave me confidence in my puck-stopping ability,” Stauber laughed. “But that little stretch there was great.”

Smith saw the positive trend start for Stauber even before the results began to tilt in his favor. “I think he was always on this path. Now was he going to win this many games in a row? I didn’t predict that, but we did see a lot of progression from him at the end of that stretch when the team was struggling.”

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Following the historical performance on Feb. 16, Stauber held a shutout bid into the third period in his next game on Feb. 21 at Iowa before the Wild finally scored late in regulation. Stauber and the Hogs picked up a 3-1 win, and momentum was starting to pick up.

“I think it was a combination of managing depth, that being a more tactical thing, and then some technical things,” said Stauber. “Fiddling around with my stance a little bit and finding position where I could present myself to be a little bit bigger and keep my chest up, but still be patient and react to shots.”

“A lot of it for us was getting him to put himself in positions to make the game easier,” stated Smith. “A lot of it was postural. Getting him to play bigger and look bigger to the shooter, and putting himself in positions where it was easy for him to move east-west, so when pucks moved laterally, we’re looking at, ‘where could we put him in the crease to make his job simpler and make his move shorter?’”

Some of Stauber’s wins during the streak have resulted from the best goaltending work of the 6-foot-3 backstop’s career, and some have come on nights where he was less than pleased with his own performance.

On Mar. 2 at Grand Rapids, Stauber let in four goals on just 24 Griffins shots and was unhappy with his personal output. Fortunately, the IceHogs scored three goals in the span of 1:28 in the third period to snatch a 5-4 overtime victory over the Griffins. In his next start on Mar. 13 at Texas, Stauber returned to form and kept a high-powered Stars group at bay with 31 saves in a 4-3 win.

“I felt really strongly about that game [Mar. 13], and I was coming off one [Mar. 2] where I didn't feel like I had a strong game. So to have that bounce back was huge. I had to wait nine or 10 days to play just because of the schedule. It’s not fun to sit on a game like that [Mar. 2] and have to chew on it.”

“His biggest strength is that he’s very calm,” noted Smith. “He doesn’t seem to get rattled too much. And that’s where I thought the blend could take shape- using his calm demeanor and making his routes a little shorter, and making himself look bigger.”

Other outings from Stauber during the current streak have been more than ‘bounce back games’, they’ve been downright spectacular. When the Admirals rolled into town again on Apr. 2, Rockford’s offense sputtered and mustered just one goal on 18 total shots in regulation. Stauber answered the bell for his team and withstood a 35-shot barrage, allowing just one goal in regulation and then stopping both Milwaukee attempts in the shootout to claim a 2-1 victory. The Ads had been a perfect 5-0 in shootouts prior to Stauber’s efforts.

Not only has some of Stauber’s best work come during the critical home stretch of the regular season, but it has also come against top competition. Below are his numbers against Milwaukee and Grand Rapids; the current first and second seeds in the Central Division:

  • Stauber vs. Milwaukee: 2-1-2-0, 2.78 GAA, .914 SV%
  • Stauber vs. Grand Rapids: 3-0-0-0, 1.63 GAA, .930 SV%

Notably, the Rockford netminder allowed just two total goals over a three-game span from Apr. 2 to Apr. 12. His 34-save win against Milwaukee started the stretch, and he followed it up with 19 saves on 20 shots against Grand Rapids on Apr. 6 and a 27-save shutout in a 2-0 win against the Griffins on Apr. 12. Those three stellar outings came at a crucial juncture for Rockford with the Hogs trying to run down the Griffins for second place in the division.

“If you go back to after the holidays, I thought he’s really picked his game up,” said Head Coach Anders Sorensen after the Apr. 12 win. “He’s quiet in net, and he looks big.”

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Last season, Stauber didn’t see the ice in crunch time. Current Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Arvid Soderblom started the last seven games of the regular schedule when Rockford needed wins to make the playoffs, and it was Soderblom in net for all five postseason games.

In 2023-24, Stauber has put together the best stretch of his young professional career when the Hogs have needed him most. He has won 13 games in a row, and he has helped make Rockford one of the AHL’s hottest teams heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs. On a personal level, these last three months have been potentially career changing. He has shown tangible improvement from last season and from earlier in the current year, and he has his sights set on new heights.

“Obviously the goal is to play in the NHL. But right now, it's fun to be here. And I think we have a great opportunity coming up here this last week of the regular season and then heading into playoffs. I feel really good about the group that we have. So I'm just kind of excited to see what we can do come playoff time.”