24 in 24 Series: Janesville Jets
August 25, 2016
The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2016-17 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 24 in 24 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Joe Dibble (5th year)
2015-16 record: 35-18-7, 77 pts. (2nd in the Midwest Division)
2015-16 leading scorer: Adam Winborg (55 points)
2016 Playoffs: Lost in the Midwest Division Semi-Finals to the Minnesota Wilderness, 3 games to 1
2016-17 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Friday, September 16th vs. Minnesota Wilderness
Home opener: Friday, September 16th vs. Minnesota Wilderness
Riding a recent wave of momentum from the past few seasons, the Janesville Jets entered the 2015-16 campaign with high hopes after making it to the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals the season prior, while also being one of the league leaders in the NCAA commitment department.
After a 35-win season and a 2nd place finish in the division, the Jets met the Minnesota Wilderness for the second straight year in the playoffs, but this time in the opening round. After three, one-goal games, including two losses that extended into overtime and double overtime, the Jets bowed out of the post-season for the second year in a row to their rivals from the North.
The Jets once again were one of the league leaders in the NCAA commitment department with 16 players with Jets ties, including 12 from last year’s team that moved onto the next level. The past two seasons have seen almost 30 Jets players make NCAA commitments. While winning is nice and a byproduct of the commitments, head coach Joe Dibble said that developing and then advancing players to the next level remains the Jets priority as a team.
“We want all of our kids to advance and put every one of our guys in college programs,” said Dibble. “The fact that the NCAA commitments number league-wide continues to climb each season is a testament to the type of commitment, dedication and priorities of the owners and the coaches have to their players,” continued Dibble. “I think the league is one of the best there is because the sheer number of commitments. It is proof that we continue to improve each season and evidence that when it comes to earning a commitment to an NCAA school while playing in a junior league, no one does it better than the NAHL.”
One of the other bright points for the Jets this past season was goaltender Jack LaFontaine. The 18-year-old was not only named the NAHL’s Midwest Division Goalie of the Year, but also made a commitment during the season to the University of Michigan to play NCAA hockey. In June, LaFontaine was one of five NAHL players selected in the 2016 NHL Draft, as the Carolina Hurricanes picked him in the 3rd round. “It was an incredible feeling,” said LaFontaine, who was the lone NAHL player attending the Draft. “A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff in Janesville, the Jets organization and the North American Hockey League for getting me to this point. It was a dream come true and I couldn’t have been more excited,”
The Jets open up the 2016-17 season with revenge on their mind, as they will host the Minnesota Wilderness for a two-game set in Janesville the weekend before the Showcase. After that, the Jets will play Aston, Shreveport, Northeast and Amarillo at the annual event. “Every coach in our league would tell you that it is remarkable how many scouts are at the Showcase each year. We know by our discussions that every single one of them are coming away from there with a better idea on which of our players might be a good fit for their program in the short and long term future. It is an event where careers and dreams are launched,” said Dibble.
“Janesville is driven by a sense of community and we take pride in that. It is a town where our players are treated like celebrities and we pride ourselves on doing as much as we can to enhance the town’s spirit and culture through our community efforts as a team. We value the close relationship we have with our fans, our partners and our billet families. It is a great experience for our players,” said Dibble.
Dibble said that opening the 2016-17 season, he is looking for improvement across the board. “We play in an outstanding division and I feel our improvement for this season over last season need to be in all areas. I think our returning players agree with me, so that will help us from a leadership and lockeroom perspective,” said Dibble. “In order to be a Robertson Cup contender, you have to go through our division first and think no matter who you single out, this season you are going to see a fast division with the winner being someone who is a favorite to contend for the Robertson Cup.” Dibble continued… “We want to be a fast-paced hockey team that pressures the puck and plays with a lot of pace. Yes, we want to score a lot of goals and really be a threat offensively, but we also want to be just as hard to play against in the defensive zone as the offensive zone.”
Next up in the 24 in 24 series: Johnstown Tomahawks