JANESVILLE, WI — The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that defenseman Nick Gonrowski has committed to play NCAA Division III hockey for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC).
Happy to earn an opportunity to play NCAA hockey, but wishing he could be preparing for a Robertson Cup Playoff series with his now former teammates, Gonrowski described this moment as “bittersweet.”
“We had a great group of guys this year, and it certainly wasn’t the way we wanted it to end,” said the 21-year-old blueliner from New Hope, Minnesota. “I’m gonna miss everyone from Janesville, for sure, but I’m really happy to see that I have a new chapter of hockey to look forward to.”
Gonrowski (6-1/185) arrived in Janesville in January 2019 with 14 games’ NAHL experience between two Jets rivals in the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and the Minnesota Wilderness. Known affectionately as “Gronk” by his teammates, his smooth skating immediately boosted the Jets’ mobility on the back end.
“For a guy like Nick to come into a locker room like ours in the midst of kind of a turbulent season, it was important that he contribute right away and he did,” said head coach Corey Leivermann, who earned his first win as a head coach in Gonrowski’s third game as a Jet. “He came in and challenged our guys by taking somebody’s job, but he did so with positive leadership and that’s all you can ask for.”
Gonrowski finished his first year as a Jet with a goal and eight assists in 22 games. He returned last fall as one of the rare veterans on a young Jets roster, and helped lead the back end with a quiet but positive veteran influence. Gonrowski picked up two goals in a 5-0 Jets win over the Northeast Generals at the 2019 NAHL Showcase Tournament, and finished this season with three goals in 48 games.
Just last spring, the Pointers became the first-ever unbeated National Champions in Division III history when another NAHL product, former Coulee Region defenseman Steven Quagliata, became an overtime hero in front of hometown fans. It was the school’s sixth title, and second in four seasons (2015-16).
Both head coach Tyler Krueger and assistant coach Ethan Strong played for the Pointers, which Leivermann pointed to as further evidence of the program’s culture of success.
“That’s a really strong program up there, and they’re only getting better with Nick,” Leivermann said. “Coach Krueger and coach Strong are getting a great skating defenseman who can get up and down the ice with ease. Coming in as a freshman, I know Nick will want to get into as many games as he can. He’s going to be a great player there just like he was in Janesville.”
“They definitely have a legacy up there, that’s for sure,” said the future Pointer. “That’s something tied in close with the Jets organization, too. Both have a history of winning and are great programs for attracting talent. It’s a pleasure to play somewhere close to home, but of course for it to be such a prestigious organization, too, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Gonrowski said he knows Pointers forward Carter Roo from summer training sessions, and that he was looking forward to playing against former Jets teammate TJ Sagissor, who committed to UW-Eau Claire last week. But Gonrowski said he was most hopeful to meet Erik Palmqvist, current Augsburg player and former Jets billet roommate, on the collegiate ice.
“I know there’s a good amount of out-of-conference games to play,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll run into Palmqvist. I’d love to get a chance to shake him off and make him look kinda stupid out there.”
Those relationships, whether with teammates like Palmqvist, with his billets, or with the fans, are what Gonrowski said he’ll miss most about junior hockey.
“Playing in Janesville just meant so much to me,” Gonrowski said. “You can’t ever forget relationships and memories like these. To have been part of such a great organization was an honor. We were treated like nothing less than professional. The coaching staff helped me grow so much. From the day I came in to the day I left, I became ten times the hockey player and ten times the person.”