By Mason Lyttle
After opening the season with a 5-3 win in Springfield, the Jets took a brief couple of days’ rest in Janesville before packing up the bus for Blaine, Minnesota, site of the 15th annual NAHL Showcase Tournament. In four low-scoring, tightly-contested matches, the Jets leaned on veteran leadership and outstanding goaltending to take home three victories.
Four skaters, all returning Jets, notched three or more points at the tournament. With Brenden MacLaren (3G-1A—4PTS), Jakov Novak (1G-3A—4PTS), Kip Hoffmann (0G-4A—4PTS), and Alec Semandel (1G-2A—4PTS) leading the scoring, two NAHL rookies, Garrett Nieto and Daniel Lebedeff, carried the water in net. Lebedeff took the only loss for Janesville, a 2-1 penalty-fest versus Odessa, but saw the most traffic. Lebedeff turned away 59 of 62 shots in Blaine (.952 save percentage), and Nieto stole his first NAHL shutout in the tournament closer to finish 42/43 (.977 SV%) on the week.
Home, rested, and ready to hit familiar ice, Gary Shuchuk’s Jets host a tough pair this weekend against the division rival Minnesota Magicians. The Magicians are looking for some early footing in the division standings, and with only two games from their Showcase slate counting against their record (US National Team games were exhibition contests), Minnesota would love nothing more than to steal a pair of wins in Janesville. Get ready for a showdown.
Road Record: 0-0-0-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 3GF/6GA
Power Play: 0.0% (23rd in the NAHL)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (1st in the NAHL)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Brendan Skarda: The Magicians saw all four of their top scorers from last season age out and advance to the NCAA, leaving plenty of room in the top six for returning forwards like Skarda. The Minnetonka High School product scored 12 goals and added 22 assists in 58 games last year as a rookie.
Bram Scheerer: The 6’3″ former Edina Hornet joined the Magicians this month and adds size and skill to the Minnesota forward group. Scheerer is committed to Colorado College for the 2018-19 season.
WHO’S ON D:
Matt Denman: Another Minnesota high school product, Denman is entering his third season with the Magicians on the heels of a 20-point campaign last year.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Isaiah Saville: The 2000-born Alaskan netminder already has quite the resume. After turning in a .935 save percentage across 24 games at West Anchorage high as a 15-year-old, Saville played last year with the Colorado Thunderbirds U16 program and won the T1EHL championship. The Magicians’ first round pick in June’s NAHL Entry Draft is committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and played for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in August.
Home Record: 0-0-0-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 12GF/7GA
Power Play: 18.2% (9th in the NAHL)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (6th in the NAHL)
Top Scorer: Kip Hoffmann (5GP – 1G – 6A – 7PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Brenden MacLaren: “Mac” was Midas for a brief stretch in Blaine, scoring three goals in the middle two games for Janesville, including a pair in the 3-1 win over the Johnstown Tomahawks. As MacLaren continues to round out the offensive side of his game, his commitment to winning faceoffs, blocking shots, and laying the body has solidified him as this team’s first line center.
Jakov Novak: The Bentley commit showed off his hands last week, picking up three assists on top of his tip-in goal from Wednesday morning’s opener against the Kenai River Brown Bears. Novak is one of four Jets forwards (Hoffmann, MacLaren, Matt Hanewall) currently scoring at a point-per-game pace.
WHO’S ON D:
Alec Semandel: The Waunakee native played hero in Saturday’s goaltender showdown, notching the tournament-closing, overtime game-winner over the Minot Minotauros with a fluttering, seeing-eye shot from the point. With fellow veteran Carter Ekberg, Semandel is coming into his own as a reliable workhorse for Janesville.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Garrett Nieto: It won’t be much longer before Jets fans start referring to Gavin as Garrett’s brother, if they aren’t already. The former Springfield Jr. Blue turned in a blank sheet Saturday against Minot and, alongside Daniel Lebedeff, is giving Jets fans something more they’re already very familiar with: high-end goaltending talent.