JANESVILLE, WI – The Janesville Jets open the 2016-17 season, their eighth in the North American Hockey League, with a home series versus the Minnesota Wilderness on Friday and Saturday.
Last season was another year of records for the Jets. Forward Adam Winborg, now at the University of Michigan, broke Ross Mauermann’s franchise scoring record. Alex Smith set the same benchmark among defenseman and took home the NAHL’s Community Service Award. Goaltender Jack LaFontaine, who joins Winborg at Michigan this fall, became Janesville’s first ever NHL Draft pick in June when his name was called in the third round, 75th overall, by the Carolina Hurricanes. Most importantly to the Jets’ hockey operations staff, Janesville saw 16 NCAA commitments, including 12 from active rosters.
Central to the narrative of this developing rivalry are two back-to-back postseason defeats Janesville has suffered at Minnesota’s hands. Last season, the Jets finished strong to clinch second place in the extremely competitive Midwest Division, only to surrender home ice advantage to the Wilderness and ultimately drop a close four-game series, 3-1, with two losses coming in overtime and double overtime. Two seasons ago, Janesville rode a historically skilled team to league records in wins (49), points (100), and fewest goals allowed (116). That unit breezed through the North Division playoffs, and would have hosted the Robertson Cup Finals if it weren’t for a pesky, defensively strong Wilderness team, who swept a best-of-three series in Janesville.
After one season together in the Midwest Division, the two clubs will have to apply the “interdivisional” label to their rivalry, with the Wilderness and Minnesota Magicians swapping places. While the Wilderness will now compete in the league’s Central Division, the Jets could not be happier with their opening night opponent.
Eager to exact revenge and spoil newcomer Tim Madsen’s NAHL head coaching debut, the Jets will employ another dangerously skilled roster with plenty of depth. Janesville returns 10 players, all skaters, from its year-end roster. Returning forwards include Peter Bates (25GP, 3G, 7A, 10PTS; uncommitted), Cullen Munson (60GP, 12G, 18A, 30PTS; uncommitted), alternate captain Cole Paskus (49GP, 13G, 13A, 26PTS; uncommitted), Michael Maloney (43GP, 4G, 5A, 9PTS; Brown University), Jack Gates (50GP; 2G, 9A, 11PTS; Colorado College), Kip Hoffmann (52GP, 12G, 12A, 24PTS; University of Alaska-Anchorage), and Adrian Holesinsky (26GP, 9G, 21A, 30PTS; uncommitted). On defense, Janesville returns Blake Wareham (34GP, 3G, 4A, 7PTS; uncommitted), alternate captain LordAnthony Grissom (56GP, 2G, 9A, 11PTS; uncommitted), and captain Adam Roeder (51GP, 6G, 10A, 16PTS; uncommitted).
The Jets bolstered their lineup with two of the top eight selections in June’s NAHL Entry Draft. Defenseman Frankie Sullivan was the team’s first selection (fourth overall), a skilled, offensively-gifted native of Connecticut who spent last season with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Grande Prairie Storm. Four picks later, Janesville added more size and skill in left winger Jakov Novak, a Canadian power forward who potted 37 goals and 21 assists in just 40 games for New Hampton School in New Hampshire last season. In the net, the Jets added Derek Schaedig, a 6’4” backstop from Michigan who won both the 2016 Ann Arbor News Hockey Player of the Year award as a high school senior, and Goaltender of the Year recognition from the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association. Sharing the net with Schaedig is Jacob Barczewski, a 6’3” netminder from the T1EHL’s St. Louis AAA Blues program.
“We want to be a fast-paced hockey team that pressures the puck and plays with a lot of pace,” said head coach and general manager Joe Dibble, who will begin his fifth year behind Janesville’s bench this weekend. “Yes, we want to score a lot of goals and really be a threat offensively, but we also want to be just as hard to play against in the defensive zone as the offensive zone.”
Helping guide the penalty kill and defensive structure will be new assistant coach Kyle Forte. Forte joined the Jets in early May following Cody Campbell’s departure for a head coaching position in the North American Prospects Hockey League. Forte is a team-first coach with a dedication to work ethic.
“When I played for Dibble, it was all about pushing yourself and making yourself the best player, the best human being you can be,” Forte said earlier this summer.
After defeating Janesville in the Division Semi-Finals, the Wilderness took the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, eventual Robertson Cup Champions, to a decisive Game 5, but failed to knock off the regular season champions. Three days after the end of their season, the Wilderness announced they were parting ways with head coach Corey Millen. Tim Madsen filled in a week later, bringing seven years of experience as an assistant at Niagara University and a Robertson Cup Championship, also as an assistant, from the 2008-09 St. Louis Bandits.
The Jets’ opening night is proudly sponsored by Blackhawk Community Credit Union, who will hand out magnet schedules to the first 350 fans in attendance. Saturday night’s game will feature a rain-or-shine pre-game tailgate party with music, food trucks, lawn games, and free Labatt Blue.
Doors open at 6:00pm, and puck drops at 7:00pm.
Contact the Janesville Jets’ front office at (608) 752-JETS, or go to www.janesvillejets.com for tickets, the complete regular season schedule, season ticket information, and sponsorship opportunities. Stay connected to the Jets through Facebook (/janesvillehockey) and Twitter (@JanesvilleJets1).
— JANESVILLE JETS —