Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baker enjoying time with hometown Jets

WATERFORD, MI – John Baker is experiencing a homecoming of sorts this season with the Metro Jets.

As a Waterford native, Baker has come home for his last season of junior hockey and said the opportunity to play for the team he followed growing up was a chance he couldn’t turn down.

Last season, Baker played out west for the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League and then started this season with the Leamington Flyers of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League before coming to the Jets, the team that selected him in June’s NA3HL draft.

“I feel lucky to be able to play for the Jets,” said the 20-year-old defenseman. “Junior hockey is a great experience and what better place to play than in your hometown. I think the team has really turned its name around since (Jason) Cirone has been coaching. I remember seeing the Jets grow up winning nationals (in 2002) and see them go through some ups and downs. I'm glad I'm playing here and I feel like this year is the year to restore the team and have a nice winning season and make a big playoff run.

“There's no doubt in my mind that our team can't compete with every team in our league. I feel like we have played well, but nobody has seen us play our best yet. I feel like the second half is going to be really exciting to see how talented the team can be and how dangerous we can be if we’re all going.”

On and off the ice, Baker said it’s been fun to re-connect with players he played with or against in high school and has been “the time of my life.”

“Our team chemistry is different than any other team I've ever been on,” Baker said. “I think it helps us a lot playing with local guys. I've played with a majority of the team growing up and honestly our team chemistry is unreal. Playing with guys like (Chris) Hellebuyck, who I played high school hockey with, I feel like we just connect. Playing a year of juniors last season with (Will) Shier, (Branden) Morganroth and (Mike) MacKinnon (with Yellowstone) has made us more than just teammates. We’re all pretty much best friends on the team and there's nobody we don't not get along with. We can all have fun and joke around.”

As for his role with Metro, Baker plays the vast majority back on the blue line, but can play forward if need be.

“I try my best to do whatever I can to keep us in a game and battle in the corners and get under the other team’s skin,” explained Baker. “I think as a defenseman, I am our most offensive defenseman of the group and can contribute, but it’s all coach’s call if he wants me to play a few shifts on forward and bring some energy with a couple big hits; I like to do that, too.”

Baker isn’t sure if this will be his last season of competitive hockey, but if it is, he’ll have no hard feelings and will also have his hockey apparel company to fall back on.

When looking ahead, Baker is as realistic as he can be.

“If I can play more hockey next year, I will for sure be playing, but if not, then I'm just planning on working,” Baker said. “I’m hoping the rest of the season goes well and I keep progressing. I still think we can play better and I think I can still improve even though it’s my last year. I'm not going to have any regrets at the end of this year and with the amount of 91s and 92s, I know we can make it far this season with the talent and heart our team has.”


Forward Matt Stemkoski saw time on defense against Flint and fared well.

“Stemmer is a very versatile player for us,” said Cirone. “He played defense the first period, then forward the second and back on D in the third. There were no complaints from him and that shows the type of leader he is. He just wants to do what it takes to help this team win.”


Goaltender Colin Greeley was in net for four of the Jets’ seven wins in 2008-09 and for the past two seasons, the 19-year-old Howell native has played for Leamington.

Greeley was drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit in 2008.

Thus far this season for the Flyers, Greeley is 10-5-1-0 with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

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