By Mason Lyttle
JANESVILLE, WI – The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that forward Nils Rygaard has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves of the National Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
Rygaard, one of the Jets’ two captains, refused to answer any questions before giving praise to those around him for this achievement.
“I would never be able to do this without the whole Janesville Jets organization,” said Rygaard. “The owners, the coaches, my teammates, the staff, my billets, even the fans, they’ve all made this possible. I’m very happy.”
Rygaard, whose 11 points this season place him third on the team in scoring, will join the Seawolves for the second semester of the 2015-16 season. Asked about this curious timing, Rygaard explained how great of an opportunity he had in front of him, both in his athletic and academic interests.
“They’re a great school with great academic programs,” said the 1995-born Swede, who plans on studying business management. “I know the coach pretty well. He’s a good guy. They have very nice facilities and the hockey is great. The WCHA is a tough competition.”
Jets head coach and general manager Joe Dibble has overseen the development of a culture of advancement in Janesville. Over his four years with the Jets, the Jets are among the top of the league in Division I commitments. Even Dibble, last season’s General Manager of the Year, hasn’t seen a midseason transfer to the college ranks.
“I personally haven’t sent a kid D-I midseason, but when you look at the opportunity Nils has in front of him, it’s easy to understand why he’s eager to get going up there,” Dibble said, echoing Rygaard’s enthusiasm.
“And if you look at it from the other angle,” Dibble continued, “they’re getting a great hockey player halfway through their year, too. Nils is among the best teammates I’ve witnessed in my hockey career. He commits himself to working for his brothers and is probably one of the most positive people alive.”
It’s not just Dibble who appreciate’s Rygaard’s work ethic. Last season, his teammates on what became a record-setting hockey club voted him the team’s “Iron Man,” an award given to the most persistent and determined player. While Rygaard is possibly the most modest person in the Janesville Jets organization, he won’t deny his grinding tendencies.
“I work 100%, all of the time,” Rygaard said, in his improving English, on what he can bring to Anchorage. “I like being a pain in the butt for the other team. I try to work hard on special teams, especially on the penalty kill unit.”
Matt Thomas is beginning his third season as the head coach of the program. The Seawolves play at the George M. Sullivan Arena, where close to 6,500 fans will watch Rygaard and his current Jets teammate, Kip Hoffmann, compete. Hoffmann committed to Thomas’ Seawolves in September.
“It’s going to be very fun to play with Kip,” said Rygaard with his trademark optimism. “He’s a great guy on and off the ice, and I’m excited to spend the next few years of my life with Kip by my side.”
Rygaard becomes the fourth player of the 2015-2016 Jets to commit to a Division I program, joining Kip Hoffmann (Alaska Anchorage), Michael Maloney (Brown) and Jack Gates (Colorado College).
— JANESVILLE JETS —