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BLUE-COLLAR CREW: Jamestown boasts hard-working group

Jamestown has the makings of a true blue-collar hockey team this season. It probably won't be the most flashy club or lead the conference in scoring, but coach Matt Stockert said his boys have brought the right attitude to the ice. The Blue Jays ...

Braden Sherfy returns for the Blue Jays this season, who host Grafton-Park River tonight in the season opener. John M. Steiner / The Sun
Braden Sherfy returns for the Blue Jays this season, who host Grafton-Park River tonight in the season opener. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Jamestown has the makings of a true blue-collar hockey team this season.

It probably won't be the most flashy club or lead the conference in scoring, but coach Matt Stockert said his boys have brought the right attitude to the ice.

The Blue Jays open the season tonight at 7, hosting Grafton-Park River.

"The one thing overall that we've got going for us is we've got a bunch of kids who like to punch the clock and get to work," Stockert said. "If you've already got that in a group of 25 or 30 guys like we do-guys who know what it takes to get after it mentally-then I think we'll be able to tweak some of the things we need to in order to be successful moving forward."

It's been three seasons since Jamestown last qualified for the state tournament. The Blue Jays wrapped up last winter fifth in the West Region standings at 9-12-3 overall, falling to Bismarck Century 5-2 in a state qualifier.

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Jamestown graduated four of its top five point producers, but junior forward Leo Halko is back after a sterling sophomore campaign. Halko was second on the team with 11 goals scored, and he'll join a top line that currently includes senior forward Cole Burkle and junior forward Devin Hofmann.

Halko, Hofmann and Burkle have combined for 21 goals and 14 assists for the Blue Jays in their careers. Burkle has tallied six goals and seven assists entering his third varsity season, while Hofman lit the lamp four times as a sophomore.

Senior forwards Levi Donegan-Wahl, Braden Sherfy (5 goals, 4 assists career) and Hunter Beckman will be the next wave over the boards. The third line is currently a young one, comprised of juniors Braedan Kohn, Bryce Nelson and Parker Stockert who have nine games of combined varsity experience.

"I think when it comes to our team right now, our main focus is that neutral zone and the defensive zone," Stockert said. "Playing good, sound defensive hockey first.

"The goals will come, but we first have to take care of our own end and make sure the puck isn't staying there too long."

The defensemen include juniors Connor Fuchs, Cole Bennion and Baylee Hatlewick, seniors Sam Jenson and Colton Altringer, plus freshman Tommy Falk.

The goalies are junior Matthew Schneider and senior Donovan Ask. Jamestown's 20-man varsity roster currently includes 10 juniors and nine seniors.

"Our goal is always to be playing our best hockey in that third week of February at the West Region tournament, and we've done that for the most part year in and year out," Stockert said. "We've just come up a little short winning that last game to go to state."

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The Blue Jays are looking for Schneider to take a step forward between the pipes after splitting time in front of the net as a sophomore. Schneider collected 419 saves with an 89.5 save percentage last winter.

Jamestown played to a record of 6-6-1 with Schneider in goal.

"He knows he has one job back there and that is to stop pucks," Stockert said. "Whether that is 10 or 50 a night, his goal is to stop all of them and hopefully he can take care of that for us."

Tonight marks the seventh consecutive season the Blue Jays will have opened against East Region's Grafton-Park River. Jamestown is 0-6 in the contest, but narrowly fell 2-1 to the Spoilers the last time the two teams met at Wilson Arena to start the season two years ago.

"It's not a secret I don't like to ease into things" Stockert said. "I think it's a good first step to get on the ice with a good, fast-paced East Region hockey team.

"It should be a fun hockey game at Wilson Arena (tonight)."

Related Topics: HOCKEYJAYS
Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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