23 in 23 Series: Janesville Jets
August 24, 2017
The 23 in 23 series features a look at all 23 teams in the NAHL for the 2017-18 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 23 in 23 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 23 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: Gary Shuchuk (1st Year)
2016-17 record: 42-13-5, 89 pts. (1st in the Midwest Division)
2016-17 leading scorer: Peter Bates (56 points)
2017 Playoffs: Won the Midwest Division, Lost in the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals to the Lone Star Brahmas, 2 games to 0
2017-18 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Saturday, September 16th @ Springfield Jr. Blues
Home opener: Friday, September 29th vs. Minnesota Magicians
The Janesville Jets are coming off of one of the most successful seasons in franchise history. After winning 42 games during the regular season and capturing the Midwest Division regular season crown, it was off to the playoffs, where they had a legitimate chance of winning the Robertson Cup. After dispatching of Coulee Region and Fairbanks to win the Midwest, the Jets found themselves up against the Lone Star Brahmas in the NAHL Robertson Cup National Semi-Finals. After a heart-breaking 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1, the Jets gave their all in Game 2, but fell short as the Brahmas went onto win the Robertson Cup. It was a bittersweet ending to the season for the Jets, who had come as close as ever to winning the ultimate prize.
Success has now followed the Jets for several seasons, which was inclusive of another incredible season of NCAA commitments. In total, 17 players who played on the Jets roster in 2016-17, made an NCAA commitment at some point during the season, which led all NAHL teams. However, even the most elite programs are not immune to the winds of change, which was something that swept through the Jets camp as the summer progressed.
First, Corey Leivermann, who had been coaching the Jersey Shore Wildcats in the NA3HL, was named as the new assistant coach. Then in early August, Jets head coach Joe Dibble announced his resignation in order to be closer to family in Minnesota. Dibble helped changed the culture of the Jets to what they currently are by putting a priority on player development and advancement, and trusting that wins would follow. Dibble’s Jets had one NHL draft pick, helped 51 players achieve their dream of playing NCAA Division I hockey.
“Despite the change behind the bench with a new staff, our culture and philosophy is not going to change,” said Leivermann, who attended the NAHL coaches meetings. “We are putting our player’s development first and we have a primary focus on advancing them to the next level.”
Three weeks later, the Jets found their new bench boss in Gary Shuchuk. Shuchuk joins the Jets after a storied career as a player and recently having been an NCAA Division I assistant coach for the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Tech Huskies. Shuchuk played 142 career NHL games and as a NCAA Division I hockey player Shuchuk was a co-captain and first team All-American in 1990 while leading the Badgers to the NCAA National Championship. He was also named WCHA Most Valuable Player and University of Wisconsin Male Athlete of the Year in 1990.
“We were very excited to get someone of Gary’s caliber as our new head coach. We believe Gary can build on the success we have had in recent years," said Jets president Bill McCoshen. "The Jets priority will continue to be on player development and advancement. Gary was a tremendous D1 player and played many years of pro hockey before coaching at the D1 level. He knows first-hand what it takes to get to the next level and that knowledge will be critical to our player’s development.”
Leivermann said that playing with pace and puck possession and finding the right pieces to the puzzle will be some of the early focuses of the team with a new coaching staff in place. “I know the foundation is there thanks to the work of our incredible ownership and the previous coaching staff. It is up to us now to keep that going and bring a Robertson Cup to Janesville,” said Leivermann.
Upon his hiring this past weekend, Shuchuk echoed the immediate mission of his new team. “I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to coach the Jets. I can’t wait to get the players here in training camp next weekend. I know the Jets have great community and fan support and am looking forward to bringing a Robertson Cup championship to the City of Janesville,” said Shuchuk.
Next up in the 23 in 23 series: Johnstown Tomahawks