PREVIEW: Jets @ Jr. Blues (Game #1)

By Mason Lyttle

Sat 9/16 | 6:05pm| Jets @ Jr. Blues | Springfield, IL
LINK: Jets’ call on HockeyTV.com (Mason Lyttle)

After coming within two wins of the franchise’s first ever Robertson Cup Finals appearance, the Jets are reloading in net, on the blue line, at forward, and behind the bench.

The Shuchuk era begins this Saturday in Springfield, Illinois, with 20 Jets debuts.

The Jets will open their ninth season of NAHL play with both a new head coach and a new assistant coach for the first time since the franchise’s inception.

Gary Shuchuk was named the Jets’ third head coach in August, following the resignation of Joe Dibble, who ended his five-year tenure with the Jets to spend more time with his family in Minnesota.

Beside Shuchuk will be Corey Leivermann, hired in June to take over for Kyle Forte, who left to focus on his USPHL Minnesota Moose franchise and his hockey charity organization.

Of the Jets’ 27-man roster, 16 skaters and both goaltenders are new to the organization.  Janesville returns defensemen Carter Ekberg and Alec Semandel, as well as forwards Brenden MacLaren, TJ Polglaze, David Schmidling, Ben Schmidling, Jakov Novak, and Kip Hoffmann. Logan Ommen, a ’99 forward, starts his rookie season this year with three games under his belt as an affiliate last spring.

This Jets roster also features 13 players debuting in the NAHL, and 10 who have yet to play a game in North American junior hockey altogether.

Number Name Position Jets Debut? NAHL Debut? NA Jr Hockey Debut?
8 MacLAREN, Brenden F X X X
9 POLGLAZE, TJ F X X X
10 McCOSHEN, Cale F
11 BARBOLINI, Matt F
14 SCHMIDLING, David F X X X
18 RIPLEY, Blake F X X
21 OMMEN, Logan F X X X
23 BOFSHEVER, Justin F X X
24 SCHMIDLING, Ben F X X X
26 ANDERSON, Jesse F X X
27 ECKERLE, Benji F
36 SOLIS, Nathan F
68 NOVAK, Jakov F X X X
71 PALMQVIST, Erik F
78 FILLION, Christophe F
81 HOFFMANN, Kip F X X X
86 HANEWALL, Matt F X X
89 STEINMETZ, Jordan F
4 DRISCOLL, Sean D X
15 EKBERG, Carter D X X X
19 SCHWENGLER, Dawson D
22 MATTHEWS, Wyatt D X X
28 BJORKMAN, Philip D
57 DOYLE, Matthew D
77 SEMANDEL, Alec D X X X
1 NIETO, Garrett G X X
30 LEBEDEFF, Daniel G X X

Coach Shuchuk has preached a puck possession strategy since his arrival in Janesville. With a young, fast roster, his Jets will look to make a big statement this Saturday as the Midwest Division’s oldest rivalry starts another season.

SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES

OVERVIEW:

2016-17 Record: 27-28-4-1

2016-17 Home Record: 16-12-2-0

2016-17 Playoffs: Did not qualify

2016-17 Goals For/Goals Against: 174GF/189 GA

2016-17 Power Play: 17.6% (16th in the NAHL)

2016-17 Penalty Kill: 79.5% (17th in the NAHL)

Top Returning Scorer: Fabio Hollenstein (53GP – 10G – 20A – 30PTS)

WHO’S UP FRONT:

Kyler Yeo: The ’99 forward potted 13 goals and added 21 assists for 34 points in 25 games last year as a senior at Hill-Murray School in Minnesota. Son of Mike, head coach of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, Kyler was a 3rd round pick of Springfield’s in June’s NAHL Entry Draft.

Nikita Kozyrev: The Estonian is familiar with the Jets after a season with the Minnesota Magicians.  At 5’8″ and just 155 lbs, Kozyrev is a speedy winger who could benefit from new head coach Tyler Rennette‘s more offensive style of play.

WHO’S ON D:

Fletcher Fineman: The Florida native and Union College commit was tabbed team captain for his second year with the club. Fineman has long reach at 6’3″ and managed a team-best +8 mark last season.

WHO’S IN GOAL: 

Juraj Ovecka: At 6’6″, the Jr. Blues’ Slovakian netminder is the biggest of their three vying for the starting job. Though undrafted in June’s NHL Entry Draft, Ovecka was ranked #13 among draft-eligible European goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting.

JANESVILLE JETS

OVERVIEW:

2016-17 Record: 42-13-1-4

2016-17 Road Record: 18-9-1-2

2016-17 Playoffs: 2-0 L vs. Lone Star Brahmas, Robertson Cup Semifinals

2016-17 Goals For/Goals Against: 224GF/153 GA

2016-17 Power Play: 24.3% (1st in the NAHL)

2016-17 Penalty Kill: 82.7% (9th in the NAHL)

Top Returning Scorer: Kip Hoffmann (46GP – 16G – 16A – 32PTS)

WHO’S UP FRONT:

Kip Hoffmann: The fourth-year veteran, captain of this year’s Jets, wrecked opposing defenses and goaltenders in last season’s playoffs with nine goals in nine games. The Huntley, Illinois, native has returned to Janesville in the best shape of his life and is primed to lead his locker room into another season.

Erik Palmqvist: The 6’6″, 218 lb Swedish beast is hard not to notice. One of Dibble’s last recruits out of the College Hockey Sweden camp, Palmqvist boasts the forward group’s longest reach and can make plays in tight.

WHO’S ON D:

Carter Ekberg: The veteran blueliner stole hero status in last year’s playoffs with a double overtime winner against Coulee Region in Game 2 of the Midwest Division Semifinals. Ekberg will be counted on this season to eat minutes and play smart, mistake-free hockey.

WHO’S IN GOAL:

Daniel Lebedeff: The future Wisconsin Badger comes to the Jets after a season and change with USHL Madison, where he appeared in 31 games over the last two seasons. Lebedeff, a ’99 goaltender from Helsinki, Finland, is only a year and a half removed from winning the 2015-16 NAPHL U18 Championship with the U18 Capitols. Garrett Nieto, whose brother, Gavin, played for the Jets in 2014, could see the net instead, as Saturday’s game would be a revenge match for the former Jr. Blue.

Sat 9/16 | 6:05pm| Jets @ Jr. Blues | Springfield, IL
LINK: Jets’ call on HockeyTV.com (Mason Lyttle)