By Emily Polglaze (@enpolglaze) | March 23, 2018 | 12:30 p.m.
While the NAHL season is still in session for another month, the college ranks are gearing up for postseason action. The NCAA Division I Tournament begins with regional rounds on March 23, and the Janesville Jets have 10 alumni set to play in the DI tournament, and two recent alums will compete in the NCAA Division III Frozen Four this weekend.
SIOUX FALLS REGIONAL
U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons
#10, Senior forward Jordan Himley:
Himley spent time with the Jets from 2011-2014 and was once the team’s top scorer. In his final season in Janesville, Himley led the Jets in goals with 25, points with 49, short-handed goals with three, and game-winning goals, with eight. He was tied for second on the team with 24 assists. Himley was last season’s leading scorer for the Falcons with 37 points, and was named a Second Team All-Conference selection in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. In his final season, Himley has played in 35 games and is third in points for the Falcons with 21. He helped lead Air Force to the NCAA bid by tallying a goal and an assist in the AHC Tournament Championship game, and he was named to the All-Tournament Team. Himley last saw NCAA action with the Falcons in 2016.
#18, Junior forward Evan Feno:
Feno, a Colorado native, played with the Jets for two seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Feno tallied 24 points in his first season, and made big strides in his second with Janesville, when he doubled his points with 49. He was part of the Jets team that set a NAHL record for points in a season and won a North Division title with Janesville. Feno suffered a torn ACL that has inhibited him from playing this season, but he has 37 points in his 75 games played with the Falcons so far. This is Feno’s second NCAA experience as an Air Force Falcon.
Air Force (22-14-5) faces off against 1-seed St. Cloud State University (25-8-6) on Friday, March 23 at 3 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Minnesota State University-Mankato Mavericks
#14 Sophomore defenseman Michael Bigelbach:
The Red Wing, Minn. native made a short stop in Janesville in the 2013-14 season after playing most of the year with Minot. He registered two points in 18 games and also played in three playoff games with the Jets. He went on to play the next two years in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers, before starting his college career in Mankato last season. He played in seven games as a rookie with the Mavericks and tallied two assists. This will be his first NCAA appearance.
#21, Junior defenseman Alec Vanko:
Vanko, an Oregon, Wis. native, played for the Jets for one season in 2012-13. In 36 games, he tallied one goal and 16 assists, before spending the next two seasons in the USHL. He’s played 24 games over three seasons with the Mavericks and has registered two goals and five assists. Minnesota State hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2015, so it will Vanko’s first outing.
Minnesota State (29-9-1) will take on the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (21-16-3) on Friday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN3.
Cornell University Big Red
#29, Junior defenseman Alec McCrea:
The Californian McCrea had the perfect development formula: NAPHL to NAHL to USHL to NCAA. The NAHL leg of his journey was spent in Janesville. McCrea suited up for the Jets during the 2011-12 season and had one goal and one assist in his 50 games. He played for Waterloo for three seasons after Janesville, and eventually served as captain of the Blackhawks in his last year. As a rookie at Cornell, he led all defenseman with 15 points, and led the team in plus/minus with a +11 rating in his sophomore year. Now in his third season with the Big Red, he has five goals and seven assists in 31 games, which is good for second among defensemen. It will be McCrea’s second NCAA experience with Cornell.
The Cornell University Big Red (25-5-2) plays the Boston University Terriers (21-13-4) March 24 at 12 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNews.
University of Michigan Wolverines
#18, Sophomore forward Adam Winborg:
Just two years removed from Janesville, Winborg once served as an alternate captain for the Jets. The Swedish import played three seasons with Janesville, and he led the team in points with 55 (19 goals, 36 assists) in his finale 2015-16 season. He was also the team’s top in points and goals the season before with 52 points and 29 goals. The first Swedish player to suit up for Michigan since 2011, Winborg tallied 16 points in his 30 freshman season games. This year, Winborg has three goals and five assists. It will be his first NCAA tournament appearance as Michigan missed the tournament last season.
#45, Sophomore goaltender Jack LaFontaine:
Jack LaFontaine spent only one season with the Jets, but he made a lasting impact. LaFontaine remains the only Jet ever selected in the NHL Draft, a third round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016, and he also played with current teammate Winborg during his Jets tenure. During his 2015-16 campaign with Janesville, LaFontaine suited up for 41 regular season games and posted a 24-8-7 record with a .921 save percentage. In the playoffs, LaFontaine started four games and held a 1.89 goals against average. LaFontaine saw game action in 11 outings as a freshman, and compiled a 1-7-1 record with a .911 save percentage. As a sophomore, he’s also appeared in 11 games so far and has a 4-4-0 record. Like Winborg, it will be LaFontaine’s first taste of the NCAA Tournament this year.
Northeastern University Huskies
#23, Freshman forward Brandon Schultz:
Schultz split his junior career between the NAHL and USHL, and Janesville was his first stop. In the 2013-14 season, Schultz was a somewhat quiet player for the Jets with seven points in 36 games, but the following year, he hit a stride. In his 56 regular season games during the 2014-15 campaign, Schultz had 28 goals and 30 assists, good for second on the Jets squad. He also helped lead the Jets in the postseason that year, with nine points in as many playoff games, and played with current teammate Solow during this time. After his career in Janesville, Schultz played for the Waterloo Blackhawks and Lincoln Stars before making his college debut at Northeastern. He has played in 22 games as a rookie with the Huskies, and has two goals and two assists. He will make his first NCAA Tournament appearance this weekend.
#28, Freshman forward Zach Solow:
Zach Solow may have ended his junior run in the USHL, but he also spent some time in Janesville. Solow played 61 regular season games with the Jets over two seasons, and tallied 30 points during that time. He was part of Janesville’s run to the Robertson Cup in 2015 and played in three games with three points. He went on to finish his junior career with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, and was named the 2017 Junior Player of the Year, Forward of the Year, and a First Team All-Star after his 2016-17 season, in which he had 18 goals and 51 assists in 56 games. Solow is currently fifth in points for Northeastern with five goals and 21 assists through 37 games, which leads all rookies. The Worcester regional will be his first NCAA appearance, along with Schultz.
#29, Senior defenseman Garrett Cecere:
Garrett Cecere started his junior career in Janesville during the 2011-12 season. The blue-liner played in 52 games with the Jets and tallied six goals and 24 assists, which led all defensemen. He also played in five Janesville playoff games, and registered one goal and three assists. After spending time in the USHL with Dubuque, Tri-City and Sioux Falls, Cecere began his college career at Colorado College and played one full season, but went back to Sioux Falls for a stint in the 2015-16 season. He transferred to Northeastern as a junior, and played in 34 games with two assists. In his senior season, he’s been named an assistant captain and has played in every game for the Huskies. He’s tallied nine assists, most recently on a game-winning goal in Hockey East quarterfinal play. Since Cecere only came to Northeastern two years ago, this marks his first NCAA appearance with the Huskies.
The Michigan Wolverines (20-14-3) and Northeastern Huskies (23-9-5) play each other at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 24. The game will be televised on ESPNews.
DIVISION III FROZEN FOUR
Division III has already been playing in its postseason, and it all boils down to this weekend. The DIII Frozen Four will kick off Friday, March 23 in Lake Placid, New York, and two recent Jets alums are part of the last four teams standing en route to a national championship.
St. Norbert College Green Knights
#10, Freshman forward Peter Bates:
Bates played part of the 2015-16 season with the Jets and spent all of last season in Janesville. During his time with the Jets, Bates played in 83 regular season games and racked up 27 goals and 39 assists. Bates led Janesville last season with 56 points, and was second on the team in goals and assists, with 24 and 32, respectively. Bates has played in 30 games with the Green Knights as a rookie, and is fourth on the team in points with 11 goals and 14 assists. He’s tied for first for most power play goals on the season with five: his most recent came in the national quarterfinal that helped the Green Knights advance to the Frozen Four. It is St. Norbert’s 12th NCAA Division III Frozen Four appearance, which matches a DIII record with Norwich University, but it’ll be Bates’s first time.
The St. Norbert Green Knights (25-4-1) face off against Colby College (17-10-2) March 23 at 5:30 p.m. The game is available to stream via NCAA Live.
Salve Regina University Seahawks
#74, Freshman defenseman Frankie Sullivan:
While St. Norbert’s is a seasoned Frozen Four veteran, Salve Regina is making its first appearance in program history, and Frankie Sullivan is along for the ride. Sullivan, Janesville’s only blue-liner represented in NCAA postseason play, was with the Jets for the 2016-17 season and played in 50 games. He tallied seven goals and 10 assists, and was part of the Jets’ playoff push that ended just short of the Robertson Cup last spring, where he scored four points in nine games. In his first season with the Seahawks, Sullivan has skated in 20 games and has six goals and four assists. He was a huge piece in the Seahawks’ national quarterfinal game, a 4-3 victory over Nichols College, in which Sullivan scored two goals, including the game-winner with 4:21 left in the game that would send Salve Regina to its first-ever Frozen Four.
The Salve-Regina Seahawks (21-5-2) will play the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point Pointers (21-5-3) on March 23 at 2 p.m. The game is available to stream via NCAA Live.