JANESVILLE, WI — Less than two weeks after the end of the Jets’ playoff run, the offseason is already in full swing.
This weekend, the Jets will host their annual U18 Tournament at the Sun Prairie Ice Arena in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Past events have drawn up to 20 participating teams, and last season the showcase featured three USHL teams, five NAHL teams, and multiple NA3HL and USPHL teams. The tournament also drew visits from Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Tony Granato, and associate coaches Don Granato and Mark Osiecki.
Jets assistant coach Kyle Forte is running the tournament. A little more than a year ago, he joined the Jets and stepped right in to run last year’s tournament. Forte is excited to see this year’s talent.
“We definitely recruit out of this showcase,” Forte said. “Every year there’s a kid or two who wind up playing for us that winter. Mostly we’re looking for players to be who they are. That’s the best way to make a hockey team, is to be who you are as a player, because that’s the expectation you’ll set as far as what you can do for a team throughout the year.”
The tournament will feature two teams from the Wisconsin Jr. Jets, who serve as hosts. The Wisconsin Jr. Jets are the first fully-integrated player development program in Wisconsin from mites through Junior A.
“Talking to other coaches and scouts, this is definitely one of the highest level U18 showcases on everyone’s calendar,” said Forte, who has himself seen his fair share of U18 tournaments. “We’re fortunate to host such a popular tournament that attracts such great talent from across the nation.”
The Sun Prairie Ice Arena, opened in 2014, is a state-of-the-art, 91,000 sq. ft. facility featuring two NHL-sized rinks. Cardinal Rink, home ice of Sun Prairie High School’s Cardinals, seats 1,100 spectators, and Tubbs Rink seats 600. The arena features mezzanine seating, unique standing room viewing platforms, and ice-level viewing in both rinks. It holds 12 locker rooms and even hosts an on-site restaurant, Willie Ty’s Eatery, which features patio seating and a full bar.
“Sun Prairie has an awesome facility,” Forte said. “It’s set up perfectly for our showcase. The double sheets, the locker rooms, the big, all-glass lobby…it’s a fantastic tournament venue.”
The event begins Friday morning at 8:00am. The action will continue all day, with 16 games on the two rinks. Saturday will see 13 more games, and playoff matches continue into Sunday, when a 2:00pm final match will determine this year’s winner. Team Fastenal Tool won last year’s event.
The tournament is open to the public. Passes may be purchased at the door. Daily passes are $5, and weekend passes are $10.