By Emily Polglaze
JANESVILLE, WI – The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that forward TJ Polglaze has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Michigan Tech Huskies of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
“It’s a dream come true,” Polglaze said. “I’ve always had the goal to play Division I hockey and to see it all come to realization is surreal. I’m truly blessed.”
Polglaze’s commitment is Janesville’s first of the season, and the first under head coach Gary Shuchuk, who joined the program in August. It is Janesville’s 80th overall NCAA commitment in the team’s eight-year history.
“I’ve seen Tanner play through youth, I’ve seen him play in Janesville and with Team Wisconsin, so I’ve known him for years, and his success around the state says a lot for him,” Shuchuk said. “It also says a lot to the guys in the locker room, to see someone have success through hard work, I was happy for him.”
The forward (5’11/175) has made significant strides since his rookie NAHL season, in which he played just 35 games and recorded four goals and eight assists.
Now in his second season with the Jets, Polglaze has tallied nine assists through 14 games.
Former Jets head coach Joe Dibble said during a time when some players could get discouraged about lack of playing time or points on a deep team, T.J. didn’t look for another place to play … he just kept pushing.
“Everything we recruited in a player for Janesville, T.J. was leaps and bounds above everybody else … He didn’t let anybody cheat the team, he held everyone accountable,” Dibble said. “At the end of the day, he didn’t have as big of a role on Friday and Saturday nights, but in order for us to have some of those outcomes and those wins, a lot of it came from what T.J. brought Monday through Thursday.”
Polglaze is a local product for the Jets as a native of Beloit, Wis. He began his hockey career playing with the Beloit Youth Hockey Association at age 2. He went on to play with the Madison Capitols and Team Wisconsin in his youth days.
T.J. attended Beloit Memorial High School for his freshman and sophomore years, and played golf and hockey for the Purple Knights. He led the team in points with 27 (11 goals, 16 assists) in his second year on the varsity hockey team and was named MVP.
Polglaze headed west to Omaha, Neb. to join the Omaha AAA Lancers program of the NAPHL as a junior in high school, and skated in Omaha for three seasons.
As a member of the 16U team, T.J. tallied 11 goals and 19 assists in regular-season NAPHL play and had one assist in the playoffs. He played 43 games in the 18U division over two seasons and recorded 31 points.
He served as captain in the 2014-2015 season and participated in the NAPHL All-Star Game and Top Prospects Tournament. Polglaze played under Dave Wilkie while in Omaha, who is now head coach of the Lancers in the USHL.
T.J. returned to his roots when he was tendered by the Jets in November 2015, and he’s worked his way up to an alternate captain role in his second season.
Shuchuk said that though he may not put up the biggest numbers on the scoresheet, Polglaze’s presence is vital to the Jets program.
“Good things happen to good people, and that’s what happened to Tanner,” Shuchuk said. “It’s not always about scoring goals and all of that, it comes down to the hard work and playing the right way, and that’s what he does.”
Shuchuk also has ties in Houghton. He served as an assistant coach at Michigan Tech for two years prior to joining the Jets. He helped lead the Huskies to a 2016 WCHA regular season championship and a 2017 WCHA playoff championship.
Michigan Tech is a consistent competitor in the NCAA each season, and has resurged as a postseason threat in the past two years. The Huskies have won three national titles, seven WCHA titles, and 10 WCHA playoff titles in their 98-year tenure.
The WCHA dates back to 1951 and has the most men’s championships of any conference at 36. Shuchuk said that T.J. should have no trouble fitting in with the tempo and culture of the conference.
“It’s an older league, and with him going up to Tech, besides being a great school, it fits the role that Tanner serves: a hard-working, blue-collar hockey player,” Shuchuk said. “There’s no real flashy players, they all buy into the system, they play hard, and they know their role, and that’s what I think they saw in Tanner.”
Tony Esposito, a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and three-time Vezina Trophy winner, played for the Huskies in the 1960s, and 2016 All-Star Game MVP and NHL veteran John Scott suited up for Michigan Tech from 2002-2006. St. Louis Blues goaltender Pheonix Copley, who played for Corpus Christi in the 2010-11 season, also played in Houghton.
The Huskies’ brand of play interested Polglaze from the start.
“Our team got the opportunity to watch Tech play against Wisconsin this year and I saw that they played my style of hockey: a gritty, hard-nosed team to play against,” he said. “Also their fan base and support is some of the best in college hockey.”
T.J. also cited Michigan Tech’s academics as a selling point. He plans to pursue a major in either business or engineering, a program Shuchuk praised highly.
While the excitement surrounding the years ahead is fresh for Polglaze, there’s still work he has left to do in Janesville in its early season. He said what he’s learned during his time with the Jets so far though, has been irreplaceable.
“Coach Dibble and Coach Shuchuk really focus on the little things every day that help prepare you for college hockey,” he said. “And the brotherhood we’ve built in Janesville is special. You learn how to be a good teammate and always play for the guy sitting next to you, which is the most important part at the end of the day.”