NA Now: Janesville Jets
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2020-21 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team and will include video segments with all the 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: Parker Burgess (1st Year)
2019-20 record: 52 GP, 24-26-2, 50 pts. (5th in the Midwest Division)
2019-20 leading scorer: Nick Nardella (51 points)
2020-21 Division: Midwest
It was a roller coaster of the season in 2019-20 on the ice for the Janesville Jets, but in keeping with team tradition, the Jets had another great season of NCAA commitments and player advancement and development. When the season was halted in early March, the Jets were right in the thick of the playoff race, one point behind the Minnesota Magicians for the fourth and final playoff spot.
All indications were that the stretch run would have been an exciting one thanks to the parity in the Midwest Division and also because of a young Jets team that was starting to play their best hockey at the right time.
Despite the six-month layoff, the off-season was an active one for Janesville. Head coach Corey Leivermann accepted the role of associate head coach with the Madison Capitols of the USHL, so the Jets went out and hired Parker Burgess as their new head coach and promoted former assistant coach Lennie Childs to a new role of associate head coach.
Burgess joins the Jets from Nichols College of the NCAA’s Commonwealth Coast Conference, where he served as head coach of the Bison since 2015. He guided the Bison to a 74-48-13 record in his five seasons, won the 2017-18 CCC Championship, and helped the program reach a national ranking as high as #7 in March of 2018. “It is my intention to bring passion, positivity, and a relentless work ethic as head coach of the Jets. Our focus will be to develop players, advance players, and build a strong culture while pursuing our goal of bringing a Robertson Cup to Janesville,” said Burgess.
Burgess will have the task of helping the Jets build off another impressive year of NCAA commitments, 15 to be exact. That included goaltender Grant Riley, who not only committed to Boston College during the 2019-20 season, but also was named to the All-NAHL Rookie 2nd Team and the All-Midwest Division Rookie team. Riley is one of several NAHL players that is also ranked by NHL Central Scouting for the 2020 NHL Draft taking place on October 6th and 7th.
“The great thing about the Jets is their commitment to development and advancement. Having been in the NCAA the past 10 years, that aligns with my philosophies and values. We want to make sure our players have every opportunity to advance,” said Burgess. “We also want to be competitive and take things to the next level, but we want to take things day to day. We want to win each day, whether it’s in practice, in the gym, in games, or in the community. It is all about setting small goals to accomplish something bigger.”
The Jets roster will look different in the 2020-21 season as the team prepares to open training camp, and while there will be some returning veteran players to the line-up, Burgess said that everyone is going to beginning the season with a clean slate. “Having some returners back in the mix will help with our transition. However, because we have a new staff, the message we have given is that whether it is a returning player, a tender, and draft pick, or a free agent, they all will have an equal opportunity to make the final roster and fill out their role and amount of playing time on the team. I will lean on our returners for leadership, but everyone begins the year with a clean slate and opportunity,’ said Burgess.
“Our biggest challenge right now is making sure we have things ready to go for our first training camp as a staff and making a good first impression on our players. That includes the new protocols that we and every team in the NAHL has put forward because of the pandemic, so for us we will have to make sure we have all our bases covered,” said Burgess. “We are very optimistic about the season and thrilled to get back on the ice, but we are very aware of the world we are living in and know there will be situations that arise where we need to adapt.”
“Our main goal this season is to make it through an entire season. We want to be able to stay healthy and vigilant to make sure we are doing everything we can do keep playing and stay on the ice. From there, I want to have an enthusiastic group of guys who want to get better every day and if we do that enough times, we should be satisfied of where we are at and hopefully that means playoffs and a shot at the Robertson Cup.”
Next Up: Johnstown Tomahawks