The Janesville Jets are in the midst of their busiest six-week stretch of the long North American Hockey League season.
Between Feb. 9 and March 17, the Jets will have played 14 games, with 12 of them coming away from home.
This week, they’ll sneak in a home-and-home rivalry series with the Coulee Region Chill. The teams play at 7 p.m. Friday at the Janesville Ice Arena.
The busy slate has not stopped the Jets from starting to pile up Division I college commitments. Two players made their college choices in recent weeks.
Defenseman Carter Ekberg announced he’ll play for Air Force on Feb. 8. Less than a week later, forward Brendan MacLaren announced his commitment to Ferris State.
Ekberg has spent parts of the past four seasons in Janesville, including playing 64 games between this year and last. He has four goals and 15 assists in 33 games player this year.
“This year has been huge for me, becoming a leader on the team and having more chances to play and make big impacts on every game,” Ekberg said in a Jets release.
Former Jets Jordan Himley and Evan Feno are on the Air Force roster. Himley ranks fourth on the team in points with 18 (eight goals, 10 assists) in 30 games.
Jets assistant coach Corey Leivermann said in the team release that the Falcons will be a good fit for Ekberg.
“When he’s healthy, I lean on him heavily, because I know he consistently gives us what we need in all situations,” Leivermann said. “Whether it’s the power play, penalty kill, five-on-five, the first minute of a period, the last minute of a period, overtime, it doesn’t matter. Carter Ekberg is our guy.”
MacLaren will play for Ferris State, which is located in Big Rapids, Michigan.
He has spent parts of the past three seasons in Janesville, including 59 games over the last two years. MacLaren 10 goals and 10 assists in 27 games played this year.
“I’ve wanted to go to Ferris State since I was little,” said MacLaren, a Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, native, in a team release. “Obviously it’s great to go back to Michigan to play at the next level, and it’ll be great to play against T.J. (Polglaze) and a couple buddies of mine at Lake State, so that’ll be fun.”
Jets head coach Gary Shuchuck is happy to see longtime Jets players get rewarded with college scholarships.
“It shows our younger players that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Shuchuk said. “If you take care of your school and grades off the ice, and let your play dictate on the ice, then things will work out.”
Jets goalies among 7 Prospects selections
Both of Janesville’s goalies will compete at the NAHL’s Tom Prospects Touranment next week in Plymouth, Michigan.
Garrett Nieto and Daniel Lebedeff were among seven Jets players chosen to play at the event, which is designed to give NHL and NCAA scouts a look at some of the league’s top talent and begins Tuesday at the USA Hockey Arena.
Nieto is part of the Midwest Division/Blue team. Teammates joining him on that roster include: defenseman Alec Semandel, forward Erik Palmquist and MacLaren.
Lebedeff, a Wisconsin commit, is part of the NAHL Selects/White team. Other teammates on that squad are forwards Jakov Novak and Sam Renlund.