The Dallas Ice Jets close out the regular season with a sweep over the Tulsa Jr. Oilers.
The final series of the season recorded 21 goals total for the team with a shutout in the final game to give goaltender Tyler Hough his third shutout of the season, and bringing forward Chris Schutz's season goal total to 42.
As the regular season comes to an end and the team prepares for playoffs, defensemen Matthew Heim reflects on the time he has spent with his fellow teammates on and off the ice. His favorite thing about playing for the Ice Jets this season has been the brotherhood in the lock room.
"I've never been on such a close-knit team," says Heim. He goes on to credit the closeness of the team as being one of the main reasons for the groups overall success.
"We all have so much trust in each other and we all know each others' habits," says Heim. "It has really just been a bond from the first time we all met."
A bond and a brotherhood Captain Yannick Aubé hopes will take the team all the way to the Thorne Cup Finals. Aubé says he has no worries about his mostly green junior playoff team.
"I don't really have any worries just hope the guys will all be ready and bring their A-game. I hope they know playoffs are not like the regular season and overtime will be hard."
The veteran captain has tasted playoff junior hockey before and - with his last year of juniors coming to an end - he is ready to go all the way. Aubé finishes up the season with 18 goals, and 29 assist.
It seems the captain's voice isn't the only voice of leadership in the locker room. Forward Chris Schutz, who has the most point on the team, 76 and is third in WSHL goal scoring, hopes to continue to be a difference-maker going forward into the playoffs.
"I'm providing leadership with motivation on and off the ice," says Schutz who has been setting an example for his fellow teammates. Schutz says he is a hard worker and expects his teammates will follow in his lead.
"I'm working hard to produce as well as maintain consistency," says Schutz.
The Ice Jets enter the playoffs with 59 points giving them home ice advantage, for the third straight season, over Texas who has 55 points. The Ice Jets are 12-9-0-2 at home and Texas is 11-11-1-0 on the road. The last series between the two teams favored the Ice Jets by one goal in the first two games. However in game three of the series Texas goaltender Oliver Eklund, was able to shut the door getting his third shutout of the season.
Head coach Paul Taylor has not decided on his starting lineup for Friday's game at the Polar Ice House in Grapevine, Texas, but knows their opponent will be challenging. His main focus is playing solid defense and finishing scoring chances.
Defensemen and Alternate Captain Spencer Roth is a key factor in Taylor's 'solid defense'.
"Playing a full game, sticking with the game-plan, and contributions from everyone," Roth says are the team's key factors going forward.
The Ice Jets will likely have Tyler Hough back between the pipes after his knee surgery last month.
"I feel great, maybe the best I've felt all year," says Hough. It has been a while since Hough has faced Texas and he will be another key factor as the team heads into playoffs.
"It is going to be a tough series; they are a different team since I played them last. We split the season series so definitely, it will be hard fought," says Hough.
The vibe in the locker room can best be described as hopeful as the team continues to do what they love, practice, for their favorite time of years, the playoffs.
Story and photo by Njeri Sims
Njeri Sims is a video editor, writer, and photographer living in Dallas.
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