The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that second-year forward Cade Destefani has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Lindenwood University Lions of the ACHA.
“To get my commitment in the final week of the season was very special,” said Destefani. “It just shows that if you trust in the process and go about every day trying to win each day, the results will come, and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches.”
On the backend of his third and final year in the NAHL and second with the Janesville Jets, Destefani made his commitment with just two games left in the regular season. It was a long, winding journey for “Dez,” who made his commitment to Western Michigan University last season in Janesville.
Destefani’s first year in the NAHL began in 2019 with the Northeast Generals. In 12 games, Dez earned two points and notched 20 penalty minutes. After his brief stint with the Generals, Destefani joined the Northern Cyclones in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC). Dez had prior time in the NCDC before leaving the Generals; in 2017, he played in two games, also with the Cyclones.
The following year, Destefani again started in the NCDC, this time with the Boston Jr. Bruins, where he recorded eight points in 17 games. Having already developed a strong relationship with the Northern Cyclones, Destefani was added to their roster later in the season, playing 29 games and scoring 14 points.
A native of Bedford, New Hampshire, Dez’s connection with the Cyclones dates back to 2014, when he played with the 14U Northern Cyclones in the Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League. Destefani played up through 15U and played 16U and 18U in the USPHL.
After a successful year with the Cyclones in 2019 (40GP-14G-29A-43P), Destefani broke ground in Janesville. Even after a long battle to get back to the NAHL, Dez put up an incredible first year as a Jet. His 45 points were tied for the most on the team with Charlie Schoen, and 22 assists led the team. The captain Carter Hottmann was the only player that suited up for more games that season (48), as Dez played in 44 in a challenging season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, Destefani ground his way through the campaign and brought home several league awards en route to a division-winning season. The young forward earned Midwest Division Star of the Week twice in November and was eventually named the NAHL Forward of the Month in November. In six games in November, Destefani had six goals and six assists for 12 total points. He brought home one more weekly award with Midwest Star of the Week at the end of April, which saw him record four goals and two assists in three games against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Destefani’s strong 2020-21 campaign got him drafted 98th overall by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL Entry Draft. Dez started this season with the Buccaneers, playing in 33 games and scoring 12 points. The Jets managed to bring Dez back to their roster in February to assist in hopefully adding the finishing touch to a dangerous squad as the playoffs drew near. The reunion between Destefani and the Jets was a good one.
The second-year Jet continued to play at the pace he did that got him drafted to the USHL and was either finding twine or helping on a goal almost nightly. In his opening game against the Chippewa Steel on February 12, Dez had an assist that set the tone right off the draw for the next two and a half months. Fast-forward to the final two weeks of the regular season, and Destefani was white-hot, a crucial asset in keeping the Jets’ playoff hopes in play. Two assists, a goal against the Wilderness on home ice, and a heroic outing in the second-last game of the season that also featured his college commitment.
Destefani scored in overtime against Springfield, which brought the season down to game 60, but more significant for Dez was his commitment to Lindenwood University earlier that day. While the OT GWG had the extra-frame hero deeply emotional, the hard work to get his second DI commitment made the moment just as special. “After my visit at Lindenwood and seeing the campus and high-class facility and meeting the coaching staff, it was a pretty easy decision. Add in the fact that we play a rigorous schedule against some of the top teams in the nation. I’ve always dreamed about the opportunity to play Division I hockey at the collegiate level, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Earlier this year in March, the Lindenwood Lions announced they’d be promoting their men’s hockey program to Division I for the start of their 2022-23 season. Their hockey program was founded as a club team in 2003. Since its inception, the Lions have won four club National Championships and will begin their quest for an NCAA Division I title later this year.
In two seasons with the Jets, Destefani played in 65 games and recorded 34 goals and 37 assists for 71 total points. In his three playoff games last year against the Kenai River Brown Bears, he had a goal and three assists. While it’s a shame that this year was cut short just as things were getting good, Destefani has a lot to look back at and be thankful for. “I can’t say enough good things about my time in Janesville,” said Destefani. “I’ve made so many lifelong friendships and memories throughout my two years playing here that I would not give up for anything. Coach Parker and the whole staff have been a huge part of the success I’ve had here, and all the credit goes to them and my teammates for all the support along the way. I couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
Destefani marks the sixth commitment made for the Jets this season.
2021-22 College Commitments
Keaton Peters (F) – Western Michigan University, DI
AJ Casperson (D) – Long Island University, DI
Cal Mell (D) – Union College, DI
Spencer Kring (D) – Bethel University, DIII
Will Troutwine (D) – College of the Holy Cross, DI
Cade Destefani (F) – Lindenwood University, DI