JANESVILLE, WI — In a hockey world that so often considers “years” the same as “seasons,” the end of the Gregorian calendar means relatively little. But reflecting on the Jets’ 2019 leaves little doubt: this has been one of the most noteworthy years in franchise history, to put it lightly.
On January 2nd, the team announced immediate changes to the hockey operations department. The winningest head coach in team history, Joe Dibble, was brought back into the organization as general manager, and former assistant coach Corey Leivermann was tabbed to replace Gary Shuchuk. It was the first time the club had ever changed a head coach in-season, and Jets fans got a taste of what Philadelphia 76ers fans have learned this decade: there’s a big difference between process and results.
On paper, the Jets traded their captain Brenden MacLaren to the division rival Fairbanks Ice Dogs, and the team closed out the year as the Midwest Division’s fourth and final playoff seed. Certainly far from what fans had been used to seeing from the perennial division contenders. But the new, young, energetic coaching duo of Leivermann and assistant Lennie Childs preached process, process, process. A quick 3-0 playoff loss to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs punctuated the team’s 10th anniversary season, and then Leivermann and Childs got to work. With a refilled inventory of tenders and draft picks, they began assembling the very young, high-potential group that takes the ice tonight.
More than halfway through the 2019-20 season, this year’s Jets have seen streaks both good and bad. Through all of it, a young team has grown physically, grown mentally, grown closer together, and fans can feel just how close this group is to “clicking.”
An early commitment from ’02 defenseman Grant Hindman (Lake Superior State), the naming of goaltender Grant Riley and Casey Roepke to NHL Central Scouting lists, and a November six-game win streak all reminded fans of the high-level talent on this team, and gave tastes of what could come. No question that injuries and USHL call-ups, two drastically different ways talent comes off a gameday lineup, have set the Jets back. But the flashes of brilliance, the 60-minute efforts displayed in some of their more impressive wins, the energy playing at home can inject…it still feels safe to assume that the sum of these parts is something incredible.
What better way to close out 2019 than by turning that corner and knocking down the top-seeded Kenai River Brown Bears?
These Jets get two cracks this weekend before their holiday break.
Fri Dec 20 | 7:00pm CT
Sat Dec 21 | 7:00pm CT
Record: 12-18-1-0 (4th, Midwest)
Home Record: 3-6-1-0
Last Ten Games: 2-8-0-0
Goals For/Game: 2.58 (20th)
Goals Against/Game: 3.71 (24th)
Shots For/Game: 27.42 (24th)
Shots Against/Game: 33.13 (18th)
Power Play: 23.7% (7th)
Penalty Kill: 76.9% (19th)
Top Scorers: F Nick Nardella (31GP—11G-18A—29PTS); F Isaac Novak (26GP—10G-10A—20PTS); Multiple Players (12PTS)
Goaltenders: Grant Riley (9-13-1-0, 3.45 GAA, .898 SV%); Riley Sims (0-1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .933 SV%)
Rostered Commitments: F Jake Dunlap (UMass Amherst); D Grant Hindman (Lake Superior State); F Max Itagaki (RPI); F Parker Lindauer (Northern Michigan); F Nick Nardella (Michigan Tech); F Isaac Novak (Wisconsin); D Casey Roepke (Wisconsin); F Charlie Schoen (Arizona State)
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS
Record: 21-8-1-2 (1st, Midwest)
Road Record: 6-5-0-0
Last Ten Games: 7-3-0-0
Goals For/Game: 4.00 (2nd)
Goals Against/Game: 3.03 (13th)
Shots For/Game: 34.94 (3rd)
Shots Against/Game: 36.06 (24th)
Power Play: 26.6% (5th)
Penalty Kill: 76.0% (20th)
Top Scorers: F Zach Krajnik (31GP—11G-27A—38PTS); F Theo Thrun (32GP—16G-20A—36PTS); F Porter Schachle (32GP—12G-17A—29PTS)
Goaltenders: Landon Pavlisin (19-5-0-2, 2.64 GAA, .924 SV%); Danny Fraga (2-3-0-0, 4.14 GAA, .891 SV%)
Rostered Commitments: F Skylar Gutierrez (Alaska-Anchorage); D Bryan Huggins (Lake Superior State); F Zach Krajnik (Alaska-Anchorage); F Porter Schachle (Alaska-Anchorage)