by Andrew Hoyle
In recent years, the River City Lancers have enjoyed enormous success with their allocation of foreign national players. Goalie Ray Fraser and forward Riley Riddell, both products of Canada, were instrumental in leading the Lancers to the national championship two years ago. Last year, defenseman Davor Durakovic, a native of Slovenia, and forward Miikka Jaske, from Finland, provided veteran leadership to a young Lancer team that captured the regular season title. This year looks to be no exception as head coach Mike Hastings once again reaches across the Atlantic Ocean for another Finnish-born player, this time in the person of one Janne Jokila (pronounced YAN-NEE YO-KIL-AH).
A 5-10, 174 pound native of Turku, Finland, Jokila is a typical European hockey player, having exceptional speed and puck handling ability. These qualities, combined with a knack for finding the back of the net, have made Jokila the Lancer’s leading scorer early on (6 games, 4G, 2A, 6PTS, 0PIM, 1PPG, shooting percentage .231), and is currently among the USHL’s top 10 scorers. Should Jokila continue on his current scoring pace, he will easily surpass his season-best total of 17 points in 35 games for TPS Turku of the Finnish Junior League during the 1999-2000 season. The only thing that might hold Jokila back from this chance may be Jokila himself…….
Sometimes dubbed the “Madman from Finland,” Jokila has a very physical and aggressive style of play that is uncommon in the European junior leagues. Reportedly, a scout once sent to Finland to watch Jokila play got to see him in action a total of seven minutes; Jokila “nearly took a guy’s head off,” and was summarily ejected from the game. It’s an inner fire like this, however, that may have attracted the likes of both coach Hastings and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who drafted Jokila in the 7th round (200th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Jokila has kept himself well in check so far this season, drawing no penalty minutes as of yet, and appears to be taking any frustrations out on opposing goalies.
Lancer notes: Defenseman Grant Clafton is still expected to miss four more weeks with a broken jaw…………..city officials and arena managers say the Mid-America Center will be ready for the Lancers’ home opener this Friday…………….River City went 3-2-1 during its season-beginning road swing, including both a win against the Sioux Falls Stampede and a loss to the Des Moines Buccaneers in shoot-outs.