JANESVILLE, WI — The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League, are pleased to announce that forward Matt Hanewall has committed to play NCAA Division III hockey for the Milwaukee School of Engineering Raiders of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA).
Hanewall (6-1/170) finished his NAHL career with 170 total games played between the Brookings Blizzard, the Wichita Falls Wildcats, and the Jets. His 128 games played as a Jet rank eighth in franchise history. Hanewall hit the 20-goal mark last year with a late-season push, scoring six goals in the final four regular season contests and helping Janesville sew up its sixth consecutive Robertson Cup Playoffs appearance.
“I had the ability to coach Matt for three years in this league, including our time together in Wichita Falls,” said Jets head coach Corey Leivermann, a former assistant coach for the Wildcats. “He took a lot of strides from year one to year two, and again to year three. MSOE is obviously a very good program and they’re only getting better by adding a hell of a hockey player. Matt’s been a leader for us on and off the ice, helping groom our young kids this year and teaching them how to play hockey the right way.”
A kid from the Chicago suburbs, Hanewall saw his junior hockey career blossom in Janesville, where he could play in front of friends and family. He scored 10 points in 45 total games as a rookie, and 59 in two seasons as a Jet.
“Playing in Janesville was an awesome experience,” Hanewall said. “The fans are unbelievable, and the rink is one of the loudest in the league. I wouldn’t have become the player I am today without Janesville as a city and the Jets as a hockey club. The coaching staff pushed you every single day to become better on and off the ice. Everybody on the team held everybody accountable, whether it was during practice or in a game.”
Winner of the Jets’ 2018-19 Offensive Player of the Year Award, Hanewall consistently gave the Janesville attack a game-breaking threat with his skating.
“He’ll be one of the most talented skaters in all of Division III from day one,” said Leivermann. “He finished his career as maybe the most gifted north-south skater in the entire North American Hockey League. That speed helps him play in all situations, from first line to third, power play to penalty kill.”
As the game of hockey continues trending towards faster, more mobile players, Hanewall said he sees the biggest opportunity for players who can think as fast as they can move.
“I’m continuing to work on my skating and trying to become a faster player,” he said. “That’s a huge element for playing hockey at any level. You have to be able to move your feet and skate fast, but you also have to match your hands to your speed. So another thing I’m working on is my stick-handling and puck protection. I really want to focus on making the right plays, and not just getting rid of the puck to make a play that won’t work out.”
The Raiders compete in the NCHA, a conference they joined in 2013, and play their home games at the Kern Center. Head coach Graham Johnson, whose experience includes Division I stops at UMass Amherst, American International College, and Quinnipiac, was hired in July 2018. Raider student-athletes are privileged to receive an elite education, a major factor for Hanewall as he narrowed down his NCAA choices.
“They’re a top-eight engineering school in the country, and I really think that says it all,” he said. “If you want to major in engineering of any kind, MSOE is one of the best schools for you.”
“We hammer home to our high school kids all the time that the better grades they get, the more and better opportunities they’ll have not just for college athletics but for academics, too,” said the Jets’ bench boss. “Smarts and study habits impact the kinds of education you’ll get out of your NCAA opportunity, and that’s what you need after your hockey career is over with. At the end of the day, hockey only lasts so long for players, and you want the best opportunity to succeed in life after hockey. Matt’s getting a great education. He wants to be an engineer and can help the Raiders on the ice the minute he gets there. This is a really good fit for both the player and the school.”
Hanewall becomes the 11th player from the 2018-19 Jets roster to earn his NCAA commitment, joining forward Jack Vincent (St. Thomas; D-III), forward Parker Lindauer (Northern Michigan; D-I), defenseman Sean Driscoll (Boston University; D-I) forward Brenden Olson (Minnesota State; D-I), defenseman John Prokop (Miami; D-I), forward Nicholas Nardella (Michigan Tech; D-I), forward Justin Engelkes (Miami; D-I), forward Erik Bargholtz (Michigan State; D-I), goaltender Cole Brady (Arizona State; D-I), and goaltender Garrett Nieto (Union; D-I).