The 2021 NCAA Tournament is set to begin this weekend and the Jets will be well-represented with a strong contingent of alumni.
Ten former Jets across seven teams will participate in the tournament: Luke LaMaster, Colin Felix, Chris Dodero, Zak Galambos, Sean Driscoll, Christophe Fillion, Jack LaFontaine, Cullen Munson, Joey Abate and Martin Sundberg. Janesville will have alumni players in each of the four regional brackets, with the most in the Loveland Regional at five players.
The NAHL announced earlier this week that a record 143 league alumni players across all 16 teams will be on tournament rosters.
Luke LaMaster was a 2018 tender for the Jets and had a brief run with the team during the 2017-18 season, which included seven regular season games and six playoff games, in which he scored three points. LaMaster then went on to play in the USHL before he arrived to the Badgers this season. Thus far he has played in 14 games.
LaMaster joined the Badgers in celebrating their recent Big Ten Regular Season title, the first in program history. This NCAA appearance is Wisconsin’s 26th, and the 20-9-1 Badgers will face off against the 15-9-3 Bemidji State Beavers in the early game at Bridgeport 12:00 p.m. CDT on ESPN2.
Friday’s late game in the Bridgeport, Conn. regional will feature a member of the 2016-17 Jets squad in defenseman Colin Felix, who is a junior at UMass. Felix saw action in 45 Janesville games, scored two goals and added 10 assists. He has been in the lineup in each of the 100 games UMass has played since he arrived and has scored 32 points in that timeframe.
Felix’s most recent game with the Minutemen, his 100th, was one for the history books: the team won its first-ever Hockey East Tournament championship, which earned an automatic NCAA bid. It’s the second consecutive NCAA for the Minutemen and their third in history. UMass is currently 16-5-4 on the season and will play 19-6-3 Lake Superior State in the regional semifinal at 5:30 p.m. CDT on Friday. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
American International College
The American International College Yellowjackets (15-3-0) face off against the No. 1 seed North Dakota Fighting Hawks (21-5-1) in Friday’s second game of the Fargo Regional, and two Jets will be there. Chris Dodero is currently a senior and alternate captain at AIC and has 18 points in 18 games this season. He played 50 games for the Jets in the 2016-17 season and was one of the team’s top scorers.
Defenseman Zak Galambos is in his first season at AIC after transferring from Minnesota State Mankato and has posted 10 points in 15 games. Galambos had a short stint in Janesville during the 2014-15 season and played in 14 games, including one playoff.
AIC and North Dakota will take the ice Friday at 8:30 p.m. CDT, with the game televised on ESPN3. This will be AIC’s second NCAA tournament appearance, and the Yellowjackets recently won their third consecutive Atlantic Hockey regular season title and second Atlantic Hockey Tournament title.
Defenseman Sean Driscoll played for Janesville in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. While he only registered five points in 56 games his first year, he took a huge step up in his second. He had four goals and 25 assists during the regular season, fourth-best on the team and the most of any defenseman. He’s played 19 games in his two seasons with the Terriers and has one goal.
BU enters NCAA play with a 10-4-1 record and is making its 37th tournament appearance of all time. Due to COVID-19 protocol issues with Notre Dame, the other Albany semifinal match-up between Notre Dame and Boston College was deemed a no-contest, with No. 2 seed BC automatically advancing to the regional final. The Terriers will now face the St. Cloud State Huskies (17-10-0) at 12 p.m. CDT Saturday, with the game live on ESPNews.
Loveland’s regional match-ups will begin on Saturday with semifinals of Minnesota State vs. Quinnipiac and Minnesota vs. Nebraska-Omaha, and there will be Jets on three of those four rosters, starting with Quinnipiac. Christophe Fillion saw action in 18 games with Janesville during the 2017-18 slate and tallied six points before stops in the BCHL and USHL, and then on to the Bobcats. Through 24 games in his first season, he has six goals and four assists.
The QU/MSU showdown is set for 4 p.m. CDT Saturday and will be televised on ESPN3. Quinnipiac is 17-7-4 on the season and Minnesota State has a 20-4-1 record. The Bobcats are coming off of their second ECAC regular season title in three years and are making their second consecutive NCAA appearance, seventh overall.
The No. 3-seeded Gophers (23-6-0) take on the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (14-10-1) in Saturday’s evening tilt in Loveland. Two former Janesville players will suit up for Minnesota, including one of the best goaltenders in the country, Jack LaFontaine. Senior LaFontaine is a Hobey Baker Award finalist, a Mike Richter Award finalist, and was recently named the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year with a national-best 21-6-0 record and .936 save percentage. LaFontaine’s success at Minnesota comes as no surprise after his stellar junior career, a third of which was spent in Janesville. In that time, LaFontaine was a critical piece to the Jets’ 2015-16 season. He posted a 24-8-7 record with a .921 save percentage and was named the 2016 NAHL Midwest Division Goalie of the Year. LaFontaine was selected in the third round, 75th overall, by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the first in Jets history.
Senior forward Cullen Munson played for the Jets for three seasons from 2014 to 2017 before landing at his home state’s school. Munson was a top-five scorer for the Jets in his second and third seasons and accumulated 113 total points in 175 regular season games. He also saw action in 22 postseason outings during his time in Janesville and tallied 18 points in those. Munson only played in three games in his underclassman years as a Gopher, but has made great strides in the past two. He saw action in 16 of 37 games as a junior with two goals, and has now played in each of Minnesota’s 29 in his senior slate with two goals and six assists. He was also recently named Minnesota’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award recipient.
Minnesota recently won its second-ever Big Ten Tournament title and is appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 38th time in 2021, which ties Michigan for the most of any college hockey program.
Minnesota’s opponent roster will also host two familiar faces: Joey Abate and Martin Sundberg. Forward Joey Abate spent the 2016-17 season in Janesville and was fifth on the team in scoring with 13 goals and 29 assists. He also tallied nine points in the Jets’ playoff run, which ended at the Robertson Cup semifinals. Abate is currently a sophomore at UNO and has scored 27 points in 52 games.
Sundberg, a native of Linkoping, Sweden, is currently a senior at UNO and has 10 points through 23 games. Sundberg was seventh on the Jets in scoring during his 2015-16 tenure, in which he had 26 points in 43 games.
Nebraska-Omaha is making its fourth-ever NCAA appearance on Saturday, and its game with Minnesota will be televised live on ESPNU at 9 p.m. CDT.