22 in 22: Janesville Jets
August 29, 2015
The 22 Teams in 22 Days series features a look at all 22 teams in the NAHL for the 2015-16 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Friday, September 11th. 22 in 22 will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interviews with all 22 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2015-16 season, including taking a look at their roster and their strengths as a team. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 22 in 22 is done to provide the fans of the NAHL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Head Coach: Joe Dibble (4th year)
2014-15 record: 49-9-2, 100 pts. (1st in the North Division, 1st in the NAHL)
2014-15 leading scorer: Zach LaValle (61 points)
2015 Playoffs: Lost in the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals to the Minnesota Wilderness, 2 games to 0
2015-16 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Friday, September 18th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears
Home opener: Friday, September 18th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears
It was a season to remember and one for the record books for the Janesville Jets last season. The Jets had one of the best years in the 39-year history of the league as they posted 49 wins and 100 points during the regular season, which both set new league records for a single season. They also won the North Division regular season and playoff titles, doing so in dominating fashion, which included winning the regular season by a whopping 33 points.
On top of that, the Jets were among the NAHL’s elite when it came to commitments. During the 2014-15 season, a total of 13 players, 10 of them who played with the Jets in 2014-15, signed an NCAA Division I commitment. In the three years that head coach Joe Dibble has been at the helm, the Jets have a total of 35 NCAA commitments. “I think our group knew since Day 1 that they needed one another to get that number of commitments. Competitive as we all are and as much as we want to win, our top priority remains developing players to they can earn an NCAA commitment while playing for us and move onto the next level. That is a philosophy that will never change for us,” said head coach Joe Dibble.
The Jets cruised through the North Division playoffs, losing just one game on their way to the North title. In the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals, they hosted the Minnesota Wilderness in what ended up being two very close, one-goal games. In the end, the Jets high-powered offense could not get going and the Wilderness pulled out back-to-back 2-1 wins and went on to win the Robertson Cup. “Either team could have won either game and it was almost surreal. When they scored in overtime, it was hard to believe the season was over. Everything went right all year long and it was a tough pill to swallow, but give credit to the Wilderness and our former goalie Brock Kautz because they did what they had to do to beat us in our building. I think when we look back on it there we still feel like we accomplished a lot despite the loss,” said Dibble.
Although it put a damper on the end of the Jets season, it was hard to overlook some of the incredible accomplishments that the team had during the season. Dibble was named the NAHL General Manager of the Year and the North Division Coach of the Year, and the team was honored as the NAHL Organization of the Year. The team had four of the six players on the All-North Division Team, which included goalie Matt Jurusik who was the North Division Goalie of the Year and Most Valuable Player. Jurusik would later end up with an NCAA Division I commitment to the University of Wisconsin.
“When you look at the season as a whole, it was one of those years where a lot of things went right and the chemistry was incredible in the lockerroom. Every guy was a great teammate and everything they accomplished was for one another,” said Dibble. “They put their individual goals aside and everything was about the team. The records we set belong to them and they refused to give up on one another. It was fun to be along for the ride.”
Assistant Coach Erik Largen will be moving on as he has accepted the Head Coaching position at NCAA Division III college Marian University."He was instrumental in the success we had the past two season here in Janesville and we are very excited about Erik's new opportunity and are looking forward to watching his success at Marian," said Dibble. The Jets new assistant coach is Cody Campbell, who has spent the past two seasons in the South Division with the Odessa Jackalopes. HE played his NCAA Division I college hockey at Niagara University. "Getting a guys like Cody with his experience as a player, coach and recruiter was very important. Cody has a reputation of a relentless workethic on the recruiting trail and developing Defenseman and Goalies," said Dibble.
The Jets will have several returners from last year’s record-setting team including forwards Adam Winborg (52 points), Nils Rygaard (27 points), Cullen Munson (28 points), Roberts Smits (14 points), Kip Hoffman (13 points) and Zach Solow (13 points). On defense, the returners include Adam Roeder, Zak Galambos, Jeff Alderfer and Alex Smith. Smith was the top scoring defenseman on the club last season with 36 points and was also the winner of the North Division Community Service Award, something that is near and dear to the Jets organization’s heart.
The Jets lost both goalies from last year, so Dibble said that one of the main priorities was finding some new netminders. Jack LaFontaine will be one of the new netminders and at just 17-years-old and standing 6’3, Dibble is excited about the fact that he may have the potential to fall in the long line of successful Jets goalies.
There will be plenty of new faces on the Jets this season and one of those that Dibble pointed out was forward Jack Gates, who played in the NAPHL last season with Anaheim. Gates was named to the All-NAPHL 16U 1st Team and ranked 2nd in scoring with 34 points. “Jack is a kid who just works his tail off and can make things happen on the ice. He is going to be a player for us who is going to being a lot of excitement to the table because of his skill set and the way he gets up and down the ice,” said Dibble. Another player Dibble is high on is John Peterson out of Holy Family Catholic High School in Minnesota and Michael Maloney and Blake Wareham, who are both out of Chicago.
The Jets will have some other new faces on the team, although not new faces in NAHL circles. Forward Taylor Fernandez comes to the Jets after playing the past two seasons in the NAHL including last season with the Keystone Ice Miners, where was 2nd on the team in scoring. Another player joining the mix is forward Joey Sofo who like Fernandez, played in Keystone last year. “I think we like the mix of veterans and rookies we have on the team and I think there is enough leadership in the lockerroom for us to have another great season of success and commitments,” said Dibble.
Next up in the 22 in 22 series: Johnstown Tomahawks