Collin Anderson (28) celebrates his first-period goal in Cambridge-Isanti's 3-0 victory over Simley in the Simley Holiday Tournament. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.
Think back to seventh grade for a moment. What were you worried about?
Remembering your first locker combination. Navigating the school hallways while avoiding the older kids. Whose friends were talking with whom about who else. What was for lunch.
It’s highly unlikely you were concerned with starting in goal for your high school varsity hockey team. After all, not many seventh graders have ever had that opportunity.
Meet one who has. Jacob Sibell from Cambridge-Isanti.
“Our goaltender is a seventh grader,” explained Bluejackets’ coach Mark Kissner after Sibell stymied Simley on a 32-save shutout in the finale of the Simley Holiday Tournament Saturday afternoon, Dec. 29. The Bluejackets scored once in each period and Sibell made it stand up, despite a barrage of 19 third-period shots.
Kissner stopped to shake his head in disbelief after his admission.
A seventh grader? In goal?
He paused a moment longer, as if that was all that needed to be said before finally adding a final thought.
“That guy’s incredible.”
It’s been quite a year for the seventh grade sensation. Last year, Sibell was starring for the local Pee Wee A team, facing other 12-year-olds in a setting a long way from varsity. This winter he made what was a huge jump for a goaltender of his age, earning a spot on the Bluejackets’ junior varsity.
But after a month of standing on his head at that level, Kissner had a crazy idea. How about giving Sibell a shot on varsity?
“We like to liven things up in a way,” explained Kissner. “We thought he could do well, so we brought him up.”
Call his idea insanity or genius, it’s working.
In five games at the varsity level, Sibell has backstopped the Bluejackets to five victories. The precocious ‘tender has stopped 141 of 146 shots (96.6 percent) and not allowed more than two goals in any of those games. Saturday’s 32-save, 3-0 victory over Simley in the Spartans’ home holiday tournament was his first varsity shutout – but certainly won’t be the last.
“He’s the only reason (we won), he kept us in the game,” said senior defenseman Preston Simon, who has a protective “big brother” streak in regards to his young goaltender. Should any forward crash the net too hard, Simon and his fellow defenseman are there to clear them out.
“I never thought a seventh-grader could ever be our starting goaltender for varsity,” admitted Simon, who said that after seeing Sibell play he changed his mind.
“He takes it very seriously. He practices hard and always keeps a good head on his shoulders,” Simon said. “And he just keeps the puck out of the net.”
A team that had won just one of its first seven games is now .500 (6-6-0). And it has a middle-schooler at the center of that turnaround.
“It’s been fun,” said Sibell, who admitted he was surprised by the call up. “I’m just stopping the puck. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Kissner went into more detail on what makes Sibell so successful at such a young age.
“He stays focused. He doesn’t let things rattle him. He’s mentally tough,” said Kissner, attributing a good family and older brothers who toughened up Sibell. “Even though he’s a smaller goaltender, he doesn’t show a whole lot of net. There isn’t much to shoot at.
“He is a good goaltender (now)…and he’s going to be a very good goaltender in the future.”
Jacob Sibell (33) stopped all 32 shots he faced to win his fifth decision in five varsity starts -- as a seventh-grader.
Cambridge-Isanti and seventh-grade goaltender Jacob Sibell continued their winning streak with a 3-0 victory over Simley in the Simley Holiday Tournament Saturday, Dec. 29. The victory was the fifth in a row for the Bluejackets since promoting Sibell from the JV, including all three in the holiday tourney.
The Bluejackets (6-6-0) weathered the storm in the third period to earn the shutout. Simley (3-9-0) had 11 minutes of power play time it the third period, including 3:38 of 5-on-3 advantage. The Spartans poured 19 third-period shots on goal and had 32 in the game, but Sibell stopped them all for his first career shutout.
Cambridge-Isanti scored once in each period.
Collin Anderson opened the scoring midway through the first on a power play tally from the slot. Veeti Uuttera chipped an even-strength goal over goaltender Zach Boughton midway through the second to make it 2-0, and Dustin Davis notched the back-breaker, a short-handed goal seconds after the Bluejackets had killed off the first 5-on-3 with 8:51 to play.
Uuttera finished with a goal and an assist for Cambridge-Isanti. Boughton made 19 saves for Simley.
1. Jacob Sibell, Cambridge-Isanti
Five games, five victories for the Bluejackets’ seventh grade sensation in goal. Sibell wasn’t tested much through two periods, as his defense kept Simley from prime scoring territory, but the third period was a different story. Buoyed by 11 minutes of power play time, Simley dumped 19 shots on goal. But Sibell stopped every one, 32 in total for the shutout.
2. Preston Simon, Cambridge-Isanti
Simon, a senior captain, spent much of the third period on the ice as the Bluejackets were forced to kill off numerous penalties. He was stout defensively, limiting the Spartans to shots from the perimeter and cleaning up any rebounds.
3. TJ Pagel, Cambridge-Isanti
Pagel, another senior defensive captain, was also a tireless third-period penalty killer. He didn’t factor into the scoring, but like Simon was a key reason the Bluejackets posted the shutout and earned the tournament title.