Much like the Northstar Christian Academy 18U hockey team in its inaugural season, the 16U team can’t stop winning.
After a three-game sweep over CarSheild in North American Prep Hockey League play, the Knights tightened their grip at the top of the Central Division. After picking up wins on Friday and Saturday, Northstar completed the sweep with a 4-2 victory on Sunday morning.
“I think it’s been amazing to see our guys come together,” head coach Tim Jackman said. “It all stems from the leadership at the top of the program. They are pushing for a message of unity and how we are a team first. It starts at the top with our leaders telling our players, and then that transfers to the ice. I think these kids see the results of playing and competing as a team and really buying into this culture.”
On Sunday, Austin Moline scored a power-play goal early in the second to put the Knights up 1-0. Kaleb Pitman scored twice before Cooper Fredericks made it 4-0. Two goals in the final four minutes allowed CarShield to creep back into the contest, but it was too little, too late.
In game two, Alexandria native Brayden Berg found the scoresheet. He added a goal to help propel Northstar to a 4-1 win. Putman scored his first goal of the weekend before Dawson McCann, Nathan Huntington and Berg put the game away.
McCann and Huntington also had goals in the first game of the weekend. Fredericks tallied an insurance goal to send the Knights home with a 3-1 win on Friday.
The sweep has Northstar on top of the Central Division with an 11-0 record in league play (14-1 overall). What’s helped the Knights get out to a great start is the chemistry the players have with each other.
“Rick (Randazzo), the hockey director, always says we want the right players, not always the best ones,” Jackman said. “That’s part of getting our guys to trust the message that’s being sent from the top to the guys in the locker room.”
Many of the Knights took time out of their summers to skate at Northstar. Jackman has already seen how much these kids have grown in a short amount of time.
“We are fortunate to have this beautiful facility with this amazing rink where we get to be on the ice and work on our edges,” Jackman said. “We can work on our skating every day, and you can see the progress every single day. Every time we step on the ice, we want to become a better team, and I think we’re doing that this year. It’s fun to see how much stronger they’ve gotten on their skates in one month, and it’ll be great to see where they’ll be in a year.”
Jackman is in his first year as a head coach but isn’t short on hockey experience. He was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets and played for two seasons at Minnesota State University-Mankato. He then played in 483 NHL games between the Blue Jackets, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks. He spent the last two years as Olver’s assistant coach and is now taking on a new challenge.
“What a great learning environment I had over the last two years to learn under John Olver, who’s coached for over 40 years at all the levels,” Jackman said. “He’s an amazing coach, and I’ve been very fortunate to learn from great guys. I didn’t ever come here expecting to be a head coach. Just because you play in the National Hockey League or in college, it doesn’t mean you can coach. There are so many things that you don’t know as a player that you have to learn as a coach.”
It’s a learning experience for everybody on the 16U team so far, but it’s been a positive one. By the end of the season, Jackman hopes that the Knights can play their best hockey.
“I think the end goal for this season is to continue to get better,” Jackman said. “We are a developmental school. We want guys to be better men and better hockey players by the end of the year. We want to play as a team and play hard every time we step on that ice. We are going to add little bits to our game and celebrate progress.”