By Emily Polglaze (@enpolglaze) | April 12, 2018
JANESVILLE, WI – The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that goaltender Garrett Nieto has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Union College Dutchmen of ECAC Hockey.
“I’m excited for this opportunity to play for Union,” Nieto said. “I can’t thank the guys in front of me enough, and the coaches for helping me a lot, too.”
Nieto has been one half of Janesville’s dynamic goaltending duo, along with Daniel Lebedeff, all season. He has commanded the Janesville net for 31 games and has compiled a 21-5-2-2 record with a 2.00 goals against average, which is good for fifth in the league.
“He’s proven himself as one of the best goalies in the league by his game and numbers, so I think it was only a matter of time,” Jets head coach Gary Shuchuk said. “He never let anything bother him. He just went out and proved what kind of goalie he was. I’m really happy for him and he’s going to a great program.”
The Yorba Linda, Calif. native is having his best junior season yet in Janesville and has been gradually improving his game every year, with stops in the British Columbia Hockey League, the Eastern Hockey League and the NAHL.
“I’ve matured a lot from my first two years [in juniors] to this year,” Nieto said. “I just want to take that maturity to the college level both on the ice and in the classroom. This year I’ve made a huge step in that department and it’s really helped me out.”
Nieto spent the bulk of his junior years before Janesville in Wenatchee, Wash. with the Wild of the BCHL. He played in 32 games over two seasons with and was named to the BCHL All-Rookie Team in the 2015-16 season, in which he registered a 2.09 goals against average. He also made two playoff appearances for Wenatchee that year.
Prior to his commitment, Nieto made an appearance at the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament and played in one game for Team Midwest. He made 20 saves and allowed one goal.
Despite his commanding size and presence in the net, Nieto has established himself as a calm and collected goaltender, something that is invaluable to a college squad.
“He doesn’t let a lot of things bother him, he’s very poised back there in the net,” Shuchuk said. “He doesn’t get flustered. He lets a goal in, he gets right back at it. He’s a very steady goaltender that will make the first save, and that’s what most teams need.”
Nieto joins Alec Semandel, Brendan MacLaren (Ferris State), Carter Ekberg (Air Force), Kip Hoffmann (Robert Morris) and TJ Polglaze (Michigan Tech) in Jets to make Division I commitments this season, while Jakov Novak (Bentley University), Luke LaMaster (Wisconsin), Sam Renlund (Colorado College) and Ian Malcolmson (Northern Michigan) round out the NCAA group with previous commitments. Also, both he and his goaltending partner Daniel Lebedeff (Wisconsin) are set to have future careers in NCAA hockey. Nieto’s marks one of six Division I commitments during Shuchuk’s first season as head coach.
“All these guys put their time in. They knew it was a process to get a DI commitment, so they’re showing our younger guys that you can’t be in a rush,” Shuchuk said. “These guys put their time in, they put in effort, they did it the right way and they got rewarded.”
Nieto joins a long and thriving hockey tradition at Union. Located in Schenectady, New York, the Dutchmen have been playing since 1907, which makes them the seventh-longest running program in college hockey.
Despite the team’s long history, the Dutchmen have only been playing as a Division I program since 1991. Since then, Union has been a consistent force.
The Dutchmen won back-to-back-to-back ECAC Tournament titles in 2012, 2013 and 2014, have claimed the regular season title four times since 2010-11 and went to the Frozen Four in 2012 and 2014.
Union has one NCAA National Championship title to its name, when it defeated the University of Minnesota in 2014.
Nieto will likely get to play against his brother, Gavin, who is also a goaltender at Brown University, during ECAC play, and Garrett credited the atmosphere and hockey culture at Union as key factors in his decision to play there.
“Hockey-wise, it’s one of the top places to play. The pack the house every weekend and it’s a very loud and noisy environment,” Nieto said. “From what my brother told me, you don’t want to be the opposing goaltender there for how loud it gets.”
The ECAC is also strong in its academics and tradition, as it has six Ivy League schools in its contingent, and Union is regarded as a “Little Ivy.”
Nieto will suit up for his NAHL playoff debut beginning this Friday, April 13 with Janesville’s divisional semifinal against Springfield. The Jets get home ice advantage Friday and Saturday with games at 7 p.m. both nights at Janesville Ice Arena.
Tickets for the road to the Robertson Cup can be found via Eventbrite here, and the Jets will host their 4th annual Tailgate Party before Game 2 of the series from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. The event is free and food and drinks will be provided. More information can be found on the Jets website.