Friday, March 30, 2012

Jets' season over, but 'great things to come'

WATERFORD, MI – As the Metro Jets players and staff gathered for the annual team photo at Lakeland Arena recently, it seemed to bring closure to a season that put the Jets back on the junior hockey map.

With 29 wins during the regular season after a combined 32 the previous three seasons, Metro had the right mix of talented players who all accepted their roles and bought into the system head coach Jason Cirone taught.

Cirone feels that even though the Jets were knocked out of the North American 3 Hockey League playoffs in the first round, the season was still everything he expected it to be.

“You go over in your mind ways you might have done things differently, like picked up different players or made different moves, but I came to the conclusion every time that we did it the right way,” said Cirone. “There’s not one thing I would change about this season.”

Metro defenseman Will Shier, one of the team’s alternate captains, agreed with Cirone.

“This season was great and was the best season the Jets have had in many years,” said Shier. “We had an unbelievable amount of talent and probably the hardest working group of guys I’ve ever seen. All of us developed and had a positive impact on each other this year.

“This season was definitely different from last year. Last year was the start of what we created this season. We worked hard last year, surprised a lot of people, and showed everyone what the Jets were capable of in the future. This season, we only improved and doubled our wins from last year. Now everyone knows the Jets are a great hockey team and are no longer an underdog.”

All season, Cirone stressed the importance of hard work and the circumstances it brings. Again, the players were sold on what Cirone was teaching and it paid off dramatically.

“It’s easy for me to call a coach at a higher level and tell them to come look at one of our kids because he works hard and is a good player,” Cirone said. “It’s the kids that put it all on the line. Every one of our kids put in the effort and worked hard all year, right to the end.”

As a second-year coach, Cirone came in at the start of the 2010-11 season and the team was pretty much set. After last season, Cirone and the Jets’ staff set out to build a team from scratch. A handful of players from the ’10-11 season were back with the Jets, but Metro built the core of the team from the draft and from scouting free agents.

Steve Klisz was taken with one of the last picks in the 2011 NA3HL draft and wound up leading the Jets in scoring. Mike MacKinnon kept pace with Klisz all year in the scoring department and both finished in a second-place tie in the league scoring race.

Dillon Kelley emerged as a little-known goalie to one of the league’s best and picked up 18 wins this year, good for third in the league. Tommy Kilgore wore the ‘C’ for the Jets in his second season and led the team with a quiet, but confident, tone. Doug Andrews came to Waterford looking to fine-tune his offensive game and earned praise all year from Cirone as one of the Jets’ more consistent players.

On defense, where injuries depleted the back end most nights, the team held up and was able to see players like John Baker and Adam Reid play 30 minutes a game and come to rely on Kelley to make the big saves when called upon.

Without singling out certain players, even those that have plans in place for next season, Cirone instead focused on how the Jets became a team on and off the ice, which in turn made his job a little bit easier.

“With the help of a lot of dedicated people, we selected a really good team this year,” said Cirone. “This isn’t just my team. It might say it’s my team on paper, but we have some unbelievable people here that helped put this team together. When I think about, no one guy sticks out as being that superstar. These kids worked as a team and played as a team and as a unit, these kids came a long way.”

Shier sees brighter days ahead in Waterford.

“After many rough seasons, I believe the players from last year’s team and this year’s team really built a great foundation for this organization,” said Shier. “We showed everyone there are many great things to come. I believe the team will only move forward from here.

“We have a lot of young guys that can take this team to the top and achieve great things.”

Photo/Matt Mackinder

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ex-Jets' defender Brown named D-III All-American

St. Scholastica senior defenseman Austin Brown, who played for the Metro Jets during the 2005-06 season, was named Second Team West Region CCM Hockey All-American by the American Hockey Coaches Association last Thursday night.

Brown was a first team All-NCHA choice this season after being an honorable mention selection in 2009-10.

The 24-year-old from Lathrup Village, recorded five goals and 14 assists this year and his 19 points led all NCHA defensemen. All five of his goals came on the power play, which was also the most by a defenseman in the league, and tied for third overall.

St. Scholastica is a Division III school located in Duluth, Minn.

Former Metro coach Cooper sets milestone mark in AHL

The Norfolk Admirals, led by former two-time NAHL Coach of the Year Jon Cooper, established the longest winning streak in the 76-year history of the American Hockey League Sunday afternoon, posting their 18th consecutive victory with a 5-0 decision over the Charlotte Checkers at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.

Norfolk’s winning streak surpasses the previous mark held by the Philadelphia Phantoms, who won 17 straight games during the 2004-05 season. The Syracuse Crunch also won 18 consecutive regular-season games, but they spanned the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

The Admirals’ current 18-game win streak is also one better than the National Hockey League record, held by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Rookie Cory Conacher scored twice in Sunday’s win for Norfolk, his AHL-leading 33rd and 34th goals of the season, and Jaroslav Janus made 20 saves for his first shutout of the year. The Admirals, who have not lost since Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5), have been dominating both offensively and defensively during the 18-game streak, outscoring their opponents by a 76-29 margin.

Under Cooper, the Admirals, top affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, have pulled away from the pack atop the overall AHL standings, leading the way with a record of 45-18-1-2 and 93 points. On Friday, Norfolk became the first of 16 teams to clinch a berth in the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, and they are closing in on their first division title since 2003.

Cooper, who led the Metro Jets to the 2002 Silver Cup Junior B national championship, was a head coach in the NAHL from 2003-2008 for the Texarkana/St. Louis Bandits franchise and then from 2008-2010 with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. While in St. Louis, Cooper led the Bandits to back-to-back Robertson Cup championships in 2007 and 2008. Cooper was named NAHL Coach of the Year during the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons while compiling a 223-93-17 regular and postseason record in five seasons with the Bandits organization.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cleveland tops Jets in deciding Game 3

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - The Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks defeated the Metro Jets 5-2 Sunday afternoon in the deciding Game 3 of their NA3HL playoff series at IceLand USA.

Cleveland advances to play the Flint Jr. Generals in the East Division finals.

Steve Klisz and Cameron Bazin scored power-play goals for the Jets and Dillon Kelley made 27 saves in goal.

Five different skaters scored for Cleveland, while L.J. Dvorak turned aside 43 shots between the pipes.

The Jets will gather this week at Lakeland Arena in Waterford for season-ending exit interviews with the coaching staff.

After that, several Jets have the opportunity to be drafted at the NAHL Entry Draft on May 31. Players may still sign NAHL tenders as well.

Stay tuned to during the offseason for all the latest Jets news.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Klisz, Hellebuyck help Jets even series Saturday night

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - The Metro Jets jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back in evening their first-round NA3HL playoff series at one game apiece with a 5-2 win over the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks Saturday night at IceLand USA.

The deciding Game 3 is Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and the winner will face the Flint Jr. Generals, who swept their opening-round series with the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins.

Steve Klisz and Chris Hellebuyck (pictured) each had a goal and two assists to back Dillon Kelley's 30-save outing between the pipes for Metro.

Mike MacKinnon added a goal and a helper for the Jets, while John Baker and captain Tommy Kilgore rounded out the scoring.

For Cleveland, David Fassbender and Pat Smith scored and Alex Larson kicked aside 30 shots.

The Jets finished 3-for-7 on the power play and held Cleveland to an impressive 0-for-7 with the man-advantage.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cleveland edges Jets Friday night in Game 1

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Steve Klisz scored a late power-play goal, but it wasn't enough as the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks edged the Metro Jets 2-1 Friday night in Game 1 of their opening-round NA3HL playoff series at IceLand USA.

After a scoreless first period, Cleveland tallied twice in 36 seconds to take a 2-0 lead into the third period.

David Fassbender scored first at 4:52 on a Cleveland man-advantage and then Andrew Mitch scored shorthanded at 5:28.

Klisz (pictured) made it 2-1 at 19:20, but Metro could not find the equalizer.

Dillon Kelley finished with 31 saves, while Alex Larson stopped 39 at the other end.

Game 2 is Saturday night at IceLand at 8 p.m.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Metro ready to play Cleveland in first round of NA3HL playoffs

WATERFORD, MI – After going 3-5 against the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks over the course of the regular season, the Metro Jets are hoping for better results this weekend as they open the North American 3 Hockey League’s Hurster Cup playoffs in Cleveland in a best-of-three series.

The winner of the series will advance to play the Flint-Pittsburgh winner for the right to go to the NA3HL championship series in suburban Chicago at the end of the month.

Due to the NA3HL re-structuring the playoff format, all teams in all four divisions qualify. The last time the Jets made the playoffs was in 2007 when they were swept in two straight games by the Dubuque Thunderbirds.

Metro captain Tommy Kilgore knows that regular season stats go out the window this time of year and that Friday night starts a new season.

“I just try to remind the guys what we are playing for, and they already know, and they’ve come focused everyday,” said Kilgore. “We expect (Cleveland) to come out hard right out of the gate and we plan to match or exceed their effort so we can keep our season going.”

The Jets beat Cleveland on Jan. 28 and March 11 in shootouts and then 6-5 on Feb. 4 in a back-and-forth affair.

Cleveland outscored Metro, 44-26, in their eight games during the season.

“Cleveland is a good hockey team and they were the top team in the league the first half of the season,” said Jets’ coach Jason Cirone. “We just have to go in there and be ready to play. If we’re not ready to play, it’ll be a very short series.”

Jets’ forward Cameron Bazin is excited to head to Cleveland and get the series underway.

“I think as a team, we all know what to expect and how we have to play to beat them,” Bazin said. “It will be a hard-fought series and even harder since we play in their building. I think we want to win a lot more than any other team and we won't let anything stop us from that. Cleveland is a real solid team, but I think when we are on our game we can beat anyone.

“If you take the last three games we played against Cleveland, we are 2-1, which is what we need to go at worst to win this series. I know the atmosphere in these games will be a lot different from the regular season, but we know we can beat them and we know how to beat them. A major key to winning the series is using our team motto "Do What We Do," which means just always playing our game and everyone playing the way that excels them the most. Another key would be always going all out on every shift, whether it's for 30 seconds or a minute, and just never toning it down.”

Metro goalie Dillon Kelley, who said goalies are always under the microscope, isn’t about to cave into pressure.

“You always feel that pressure, but it’s how you handle it,” said Kelley. “As for feeling uncomfortable or nervous, I don’t feel that way at all. I have confidence in my game as well as my teammates. I’ll be there for my team and vice versa.”

Game 1 is at 8 p.m. Friday night and 8 p.m. Saturday night at Ice Land U.S.A. in Strongsville with a 1:30 p.m. start time if a Game 3 is needed on Sunday.

“We have been fine-tuning our game and know what we need to do to win,” added Metro defenseman Will Shier. “This preparation has lead to confidence and we are ready for this weekend.

”The key is to play our game and do what we do. That’s what will win the series for us.”

Photo/Matt Mackinder

Monday, March 12, 2012

Captain's Corner - Cleveland, Cleveland and more Cleveland

Each week during the season, Metro Jets' captain Tommy Kilgore will chime in with his thoughts on what's going on with the team.

-- On splitting with Cleveland at home last weekend.
We realized that we can't sit back and wait against Cleveland. They are a good team and we realized we need to play our game and the way (Metro coach) Jason (Cirone) showed us to play.

-- On what was said by Cirone after Saturday night's 6-1 loss.
He said that we have to forget about it and that tomorrow is a new day, but next weekend, we may not have that chance, so there is no room for mistakes.

-- On winning Sunday and knowing the Jets can beat Cleveland, their first-round playoff opponent this weekend.
It feels good and we just need to keep playing how we did in the third period Sunday.

-- On what to expect this weekend.
We expect them to come out hard right out of the gate and we plan to match or exceed their effort so we can keep our season going.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jets end regular season with shootout win over Cleveland

WATERFORD, MI - The Metro Jets ended the North American 3 Hockey League regular season with a thrilling 6-5 shootout win over the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

Trevor Bardallis scored the winner in the shootout after Metro rallied with three unanswered goals in the third period to tie the game at 5-all.

Doug Andrews and Matt Stirling opened the scoring for the Jets in the first 20 minutes, only to have Cleveland roar back with five in the second period.

Bardallis (pictured) started the comeback at 9:16 of the third period, followed by Stirling at 13:30 and Chris Hellebuyck at 15:44.

The five-minute overtime solved nothing and then in the shootout, Jets' goalie Andrew Brownlee (30 saves), signed just last week, stopped three of the five Cleveland shooters before Bardallis won it for Metro.

Cleveland took a 6-1 win Saturday night.

The Jets finish the regular season 29-17-1-1, good for third place in the East Division.

Metro opens Hurster Cup playoff action next Friday in Cleveland for the start of the best-of-three series between the two teams. The winner of that series will play the winner of the Flint-Pittsburgh series.

Photo/Matt Mackinder

Thursday, March 8, 2012

MacKinnon brimming with confidence as playoffs near

WATERFORD, MI – In the month of February, there was no one better in the North American 3 Hockey League than Metro Jets’ forward Mike MacKinnon.

His 19 points led all players and the league rewarded him by naming him its Player of the Month.

That said, MacKinnon has been consistent all season long and is playing his best hockey at the right time.

Ask MacKinnon, though, and he puts all the credit on his teammates.

“Everyone on the team has been playing well as of late and we have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” said MacKinnon, a 19-year-old Troy native drafted by the Jets in the second round (20th overall) last June. “It's really showed as our offense has put up big numbers. Personally, I thought I was going to have a good season, but to be in the hunt for the league scoring title has just been a bonus for me.”

“Mike and his entire line (with Steve Klisz and Trevor Bardallis) were great all month long,” said Jets coach Jason Cirone. “He produces, puts up big numbers and scores the big goals. I think he definitely has the ability to play at the next level. Mike is smart and understands the game. He has goals and is focused on accomplishing them.”

With 67 points heading into this weekend, MacKinnon is tied for second with Klisz. Cleveland’s Cameron Dimmitt has 73 points. The two teams play each other to wrap up the regular season down in Cleveland.

“Winning the scoring title would be great for me or Klisz,” said MacKinnon, who is one of three Jets (Klisz and Doug Andrews) to play in all 46 games this season. “We've been on the same line the whole year and I feel like we’re the two best players in the league and if we play our game, no one can stop us.”

MacKinnon is hoping his strong season will result in North American Hockey League teams taking notice, as some have signed tenders for next season and seen time in the NAHL already this year.

”I'm really happy for all of my teammates signing tenders for next year and of course, I'd like to add my name to that list, but I try not to focus on all that stuff,” MacKinnon said. “If I keep playing the way I can, I know something will open up for me down the line.”

After this weekend, the Jets will venture into the NA3HL Hurster Cup playoffs. Win or lose, MacKinnon feels this year has been a successful one.

”This season has been great for me and has been my most fun year of hockey in my life,” MacKinnon said. “I wouldn't change anything. This team has had a lot of success and we're an extremely confident group. We feel like were the best team in the league and there isn't anyone we can’t beat.”


The Jets were blanked in Flint last Wednesday (Feb. 29) by a 7-0 mark and then were idle over last weekend.

This coming weekend, Metro hosts Cleveland for its last two games of the regular season at Lakeland Arena. Game time is 7:50 p.m. Saturday night and then 11:50 a.m. on Sunday.


Metro will see its first playoff action in six years next weekend when the Jets play on the road for a best-of-three series against Cleveland.

Games 1 (March 16) and 2 (March 17) start at 8 p.m., and if a deciding third game is needed, it will be played March 18 at 1:30 p.m.

The NA3HL announced this week that a new expansion team will join the league next year as the Breezy Point (Minn.) North Stars were granted admission into the league.


Two former Jets (defenseman Jacob DeSano and forward Adam Novack) played in the ACHA Division I national championship game Wednesday night for Oakland University, a game the Grizzlies ultimately lost to Delaware, 5-1, in Strongsville, Ohio.

Novack was named to the ACHA D-I All-National Tournament Second Team.

Three other Metro alums in forwards David Merkle and Art Dore and defenseman Mike Corder also skated with OU this year.

Corder (2009-10) and Novack (2008-09) are both former Jets captains.

Current Jets forward Branden Morganroth will play at OU this fall.

Photo/Matt Mackinder

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Captain's Corner - End of season, playoffs, Mike MacKinnon

Each week during the season, Metro Jets' captain Tommy Kilgore will chime in with his thoughts on what's going on with the team.

-- On hosting Cleveland this weekend before going to Cleveland next weekend for the first round of the NA3HL playoffs.
It will be good and bad because then we will both know what to expect, so we are just going to play them as if they were playoff games.

-- On upping his stance as captain this time of year.
I just try to remind the guys what we are playing for, and they already know, and they come focused everyday.

-- On teammate Mike MacKinnon being named NA3HL Player of the Month for February.
Mack is unbelievable. He is a five-tool player and is talented in any given situation. He just needs to keep doing what's working for him and we'll be fine.

-- On the possibility of getting to 30 wins this year.
That is a very obtainable goal and in my eyes, it can happen. I think it would be a huge thing for us if we accomplish it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

NA3HL names MacKinnon top player for February

The North American 3 Hockey League today announced the Combat Hockey Player of the Month and the Brian’s Custom Sports Goaltender of the Month for February.

The honors were awarded to Metro Jets forward Mike MacKinnon as the Combat Hockey Player of the Month and Granite City Lumberjacks goaltender Matt Grove as the Brian’s Custom Sports Goaltender of the Month.

MacKinnon, 19, was dominant during the month of February, recording 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in 11 games played. Nine of those points came at the 3HL East Showcase in Troy, which is ironically MacKinnon’s hometown.

MacKinnon’s best game of the month came back on February 19 when he had a six-point game in a 6-3 win against the Michigan Mountain Cats. He also recorded six points during a weekend sweep of Pittsburgh during the final weekend in February. He also recorded two game-winning goals during the month. MacKinnon is tied for the team lead in points with 67 and he ranks 2nd in the 3HL in both points and assists this season.

“Mike and his entire line have been great all month long,” said Jets coach Jason Cirone. “He produces, puts up big numbers and scores the big goals. I think he definitely has the ability to play at the next level. Mike is smart and understands the game. He has goals and is focused on accomplishing them.”