BLAINE, MN — Assistant coach Lennie Childs followed his 26 players off the bus Tuesday afternoon in the Twin Cities with high expectations for his club on the busiest week of the NAHL season.
“The biggest thing for us to do this week is get players noticed,” said the second-year coach and former Jets player. “Obviously we want to win our games, every team wants to do that, but we’re trying to take our development one day at a time. We’ll have our players show these scouts what they’re made of and hopefully they’ll be able to start those relationships with those schools and take that first big step to earning a Division I college commitment.”
The action at the 17th annual NAHL Showcase Tournament, held again at the eight-sheet Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota, begins at 10:00am CT tomorrow, when the Topeka Pilots play the Minnesota Wilderness. All 26 NAHL member clubs will play four games in the four-day event in front of 300+ professional, college, and junior scouts.
For scouting purposes, the NAHL Showcase is the premier event of its kind, and is a yearling gathering for every NCAA program and NHL team as they get their first look at some of the best and brightest hockey talent North America has to offer.
Janesville’s first game is a Wednesday matinee versus the Northeast Generals.
Part of coming into town 24 hours early is about maximizing the experience.
Jets GM Joe Dibble arranged for the team to take a tour of the University of Minnesota campus, culminating in a practice at the Ridder Arena, home to the Golden Gophers’ women’s team. The Ridder Arena, built in 2002, was the first facility in the United States to be constructed specifically for college women’s hockey, and has hosted the Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference championships 10 times since 2004.
“It’s really fun for the guys to see a Division I program up close, to see where they may be, where they can be, and where they’re supposed to be,” said Childs. “Going into a place like Minnesota and seeing that professionalism up close, seeing how things are run at an elite level of college hockey, that’s really good for the guys but also for us as a program to take in.”
Coming off of a tough pair of losses to the in-state rival Chippewa Steel, Childs and head coach Corey Leivermann understandably want to pick up some useful points in the standings this week, in addition to showing NCAA and NHL teams what kind of talent this Jets roster holds. The NAHL Showcase offers each member club a chance to compete against unfamiliar faces.
Janesville’s Showcase schedule is entirely out-of-division opponents, but includes two relatively familiar foes in the Bruins and Blizzard. Janesville played a four-game series with Austin in three of the last five seasons, and a four-game series versus the Blizzard in three consecutive years (2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18). Janesville is 10-4 all-time versus Austin, and 8-5 in its history with the Blizzard, formerly of Brookings, South Dakota.
“It’s definitely fun to be able to see some of the other talent in this league,” Childs said. “Obviously we’ll see a bit of the East [Division], see what they have to offer. It’s fun for us coaches because it’s a new test for us. It’s something we haven’t seen. Our preparation is a little different,a little more extensive, and having to figure out who does what, especially so early on in the year…it’s all an exciting chance to flex our muscles and represent the Midwest Division in a strong way.”
|DAY/DATE||TIME||VISITING TEAM||HOME TEAM|
|Wed Sept 18||2:00pm CT||Northeast Generals||Janesville Jets|
|Thur Sept 19||8:00pm CT||Austin Bruins||Janesville Jets|
|Fri Sept 20||7:00pm CT||Janesville Jets||Maryland Black Bears|
|Sat Sept 21||4:00pm CT||Janesville Jets||St. Cloud Blizzard|
Since their inception in 2009, the Jets hold a 23-15-1 record in NAHL Showcase games. Janesville went 2-2 in last year’s event, defeating the Lone Star Brahmas and the defending Robertson Cup Champion Shreveport Mudbugs, and losing to the eventual Robertson Cup Champion Aberdeen Wings and the Bismarck Bobcats.
This year, Childs is as curious about the qualitative as the quantitative.
“This week is a good chance for us to learn the identity of this team,” he said. “Right now we’re super young, with some really good pieces in the mix, but don’t quite have that secret sauce yet. I want to see some details to know what we could be soon, and learn what these players are destined for so we can start putting pieces in place for a successful year.”