Lifelong buddies Mikol Sartor and Mitchell Joss, two of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s very best players from the 2019-20 season, have found themselves on the playing rosters of two different North American Hockey League teams. It might not be an ideal situation for either one, especially in a COVID-19 world, but when you’re in hot pursuit of NCAA hockey scholarships, you do what you must.
Playing in the North American Hockey League might not have been the first option
for Winnipeggers Mikol Sartor and Mitchell Joss.
However, they’ve both been in the United States since October, risking the many perils that stem from the American way of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to play the game they love at the highest possible level – and hopefully turn those opportunities into NCAA Division 1 scholarships.
The two 19-year-olds have been friends since childhood, skating together with the Winnipeg Twins AA program before joining the AAA ranks and ultimately the MJHL with the Winnipeg Blues in 2019-20. Alongside Brady Foreman, Sartor and Joss made up the hottest line in the league last season. Sartor led the MJHL with 35 goals and 93 points, and Joss finished fourth in league scoring with 30 goals and 71 points.
That highly productive 2019-20 campaign certainly turned a few heads. Sartor ultimately decided to sign with the Johnstown Tomahawks and Joss joined the Minnesota Wilderness.
“At first, I was actually looking at playing in Alberta, but that didn’t really pan out,” Sartor told Game On. “I looked in B.C. as well, because originally, I wanted to stay in Canada this year just to be safe with everything going on, but I didn’t end up getting traded there, either. My agent – Jason Nicholetts of Norton Sports Management – had a connection with the head coach of Johnstown and he thought it would be a really good idea for me to come here. He told me that it’s a really good organization and that the coach is awesome. So far he’s been right about both. It’s a really good fit here.”
Joss, on the other hand, actually travelled down to Waterloo, Iowa, where he joined the United States Hockey League’s Black Hawks for training camp, before being released to the NAHL’s Wilderness.
“I definitely have a bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Joss reflected. “I obviously want to prove them wrong with how I am playing, but I just want to be my best. Obviously, it sucks because the USHL is known for being a top-tier league, but the NAHL is just as good. I got here at the
start of November and had to do some quarantining and get tested. But I’ve been practicing with the team this week and it’s going good. I’m on the first line and the power play right now, but I just can’t wait to get the season going.”
Not only will Sartor and Joss once again be playing within the same league, but also playing with the same future goal in mind – that of earning a shot at university hockey within the NCAA.
“I am hoping that I can get a scholarship and go play somewhere in the States
for schooling,” Sartor said. “That way, I can get a good education and I still get to play the sport that I love. I am planning on studying business and have actually had some conversations with a few schools so far, so I know that there are some options out there. There are a lot of commitments out of here, so I had to do what was going to be best for my hockey and the best way that I could get a scholarship was to be coming down to this league and play in an area where I would have lots of time and space and see how I adapt to that.”
“Waterloo is still an option for me next year,” Joss said. “I could possibly get called up too, but for now I’m just playing it by ear. I know the NAHL is a great league with lots of college commitments, which is obviously what I am looking for. You get a good opportunity in this league as well as lots of exposure, which is just what I need if I want to land a scholarship.”
Although Minnesota plays out of the NAHL’s Central Division, while Johnstown is in the East, a matchup between the childhood buddies would most definitely be chalked up as can’t-miss hockey.
“I’ve had a lot of fun getting to play with Mitchell over the years,” Sartor said. “He was my best friend growing up, so it was really great to not only skate with him, but really click with him again last year. It just felt really good to get to play top minutes on the Blues with him – we’ve had some great times together.”
Sartor has nothing but good words for his former teammate, while Joss is just waiting to take it all out on the ice if the opportunity presents itself.
“If there is a chance that we get to play against Mikol that would be super fun,” Joss said. “I’d love to stick it to him and get a win, that’s for sure. Maybe I’d even score a couple goals against him for good measure, so I could have those bragging rights over him come summer time.”
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