DE PERE, Wis. — It will go down in state hockey lore as The Battle for Wisconsin.
Two teams that know each other very well had a showdown with everything on the line: a national championship.
The Janesville Jets had the Green Bay Bobcats’ number in four regular-season games, going 3-1, but this game was different. The stakes were higher and it was being played at Green Bay’s home rink.
Janesville jumped out to a 3-0 second-period lead and had to hold off a late flurry by Green Bay to win the 3A title game, 3-2, in the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championships on Monday in De Pere, Wisconsin.
Earning the win was quite a feeling for the Jets players.
“It’s awesome,” forward Isaac Frenette said. “Best feeling ever, it really is.”
“It’s unbelievable,” added forward Mason Manglitz. “I’m at a loss for words, I guess. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
The Jets (23-10) had the ideal start to the game with their offense creating opportunities and their goalie, Ian Hedican, playing lights out.
It was the first game all tournament that the Jets scored the opening goal of a game.
“We had to come from behind a number of times this tournament,” Jets general manager Tim Ebner said. “It was a little bit different with us playing with the lead. We just tried to make good, smart decisions with the puck and get it deep and if they were going to score, they needed to go 200 feet to do it.”
Manglitz opened the scoring 3:47 into the game with Boone Mathison and Luke Lindsay earning assists.
The Jets exploded for two second-period goals with Frenette tallying the first and Jordan Degaetano putting one in the back of the net less than three minutes later.
Getting up 3-0 was big for the confidence of the Jets players.
“It just kind of let us breathe a little bit,” Frenette said. “It was a high stage with a lot of fans.”
For how well the Jets’ offense played in the opening two periods, the defense was spectacular. Hedican stopped all 20 shots he faced and was able to clear rebounds away from the Bobcats snipers.
“He played unreal,” Manglitz said. “Can’t ask for much more from him. We probably could have helped him out a little more, but in the end, he did amazing.”
Bobcats head coach Nick Glander said his guys were nervous to start the game and getting down three goals didn’t help. But as the game wore on, the Bobcats players got stronger.
The Bobcats (19-12-1) got some life when Kole Altergott scored 5:44 into the third period. The Green Bay players continued their onslaught of Hedican. With 2:30 remaining, the Bobcats pulled their goalie Lincoln Simons for an extra skater. Alexander Freund found the back of the net with 51.2 seconds on the clock to make it 3-2.
Green Bay got some quality scoring chances as the clock ticked down, but Janesville’s defense held on.
“The grit and determination this team has is unbelievable,” said Glander. “They work hard. It’s a great group of guys, and they just kept battling. A few minutes more on the clock and it could have been a different story.”
After medals and trophies were handed out following the game, both teams came together for a photo. It was the ultimate sign of mutual respect. According to Glander, the photo will be sent to the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame.
Ebner is hoping that winning a national championship will help propel the Jets program to prominence at the Tier II level.
“This is really only our second time trying to go to Nationals as a National-bound team, so it worked out really well,” Ebner said. “We were able to get here and get the win this year.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.