Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pure As Pond Ice group features ex-Jets at the helm

There are instructional hockey clinics and then there is Pure As Pond Ice.

Started in 2009 in the lakes area of Oakland County with a group of passionate hockey players from the surrounding communities, the group saw an opportunity to make a change and spread the joy of pond hockey to Detroit by bringing their passion for the game to underprivileged inner-city kids.

Everyone involved with the organization is in their early 20s and played hockey either at the high school or junior level in metro Detroit.

Earlier this spring, Pure As Pond Ice had a free clinic at the Jack Adams Arena in Detroit that was well-received by the players and parents.

“The kids loved it and the parents were thoroughly impressed with our hockey knowledge,” said Pure As Pond Ice founder and director of executive operations Timothy Hooker. “We brought a professional and fun attitude to deliver a superior product for no cost. We teach fundamentals and Individual skills to build strong team players. We hope to continue developing our programs and host a variety of camps teaching different skills building character in the youth of Detroit.”

Hooker, who played junior hockey in Waterford for the Metro Jets along with instructors David Merkle, Jonathon Elliott and Morgan James, said Pure As Pond Ice is a way to give back to the game that gave him so many opportunities.  

“We see the joy of kids learning to play hockey just like our instructors taught us,” said Hooker. “We’re basically passing down the game of hockey like our former coaches and instructors did for us.”

Looking ahead, Hooker sees a bright future for his group, especially south of 8 Mile Road.

“The future of Pure As Pond Ice is limitless in Detroit,” Hooker said. “We have developed strong partnerships with the Detroit Hockey Association and Think Detroit PAL and together, we are the Grassroots Hockey Coalition of Detroit. We plan to build a sustainable youth hockey presence in the inner city and plan on hosting several clinics throughout the summer and developing a large house hockey league at Jack Adams Ice Arena next season.”

Next February, Pure As Pond Ice will be hosting the first annual Pond of Dreams Championship, a major fundraising event to be played on Cooley Lake and hosted by the Cooley Lake Inn. 

For more information, visit

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Former Jets' forward Elliott commits to D-III St. Mary's

WATERFORD, MI – When Jonathon Elliott moved on from the Metro Jets in 2010 to play for the Cumberland Grads of the Central Canada Hockey League, an opportunity to play college hockey was what Elliott hoped he could gain from playing in the Ottawa area.

This week, Elliott officially committed to St. Mary’s University, a Division III school in Winona, Minn., that plays in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“The opportunity to play for St. Mary's came up unexpectedly, actually,” said Elliott, a 21-year-old Birmingham native who was second in Jets’ scoring in 2009-10 with 15 goals and 26 points. “I had a friend who had spoken to them last winter and he spoke very highly of the school. I did some research and realized that I liked what the school had to offer academically and athletically, so I sent the coaching staff there an email expressing my interest and immediately, they responded in a positive way.”

Not only did the coaches return an email, they traveled to Ottawa over the holidays to see Elliott play in a CCHL showcase event.

“The coaching staff said they liked how I had played and I talked briefly with them,” Elliott explained. “We continued contact until the latter part of the season when the school had granted them money to make another trip to Ottawa. I had a chance to sit down one-on-one and talk to the head coach, Bill Moore, at this time. I recently returned from my visit with a great feeling, pushing me to be comfortable with my commitment to the university.

“Although it may seem small to many people (enrollment is only 1,200), as it did to me at first, there is so much opportunity for you to succeed at this school, especially academically. The small classes give you one-on-one time with teachers who truly care about your success in the real world.”

Elliott plans to pursue double major in sports management and marketing at St. Mary’s.

The past two seasons in Cumberland, Elliott skated in 124 games and scored 29 goals and 46 assists for 75 points. More than points and stats, though, was the experience Elliott went through north of the border.

”My time in Cumberland was amazing,” said Elliott, who played high school hockey at Brother Rice, graduating in 2009. “The amount of great people I met and the opportunity they gave me I will be forever thankful for. It was a different atmosphere playing way up there, but having family around the area, I knew what to expect somewhat. Hockey is the main thing up there and if you’re playing juniors, whether in the Ontario Hockey League or the CCHL all the way down to minor hockey, you live by the rink and are supported by everyone who loves the game.”

During his one season in Waterford, Elliott said he learned about what it took to be a junior hockey player and how to prepare to play the game at a high level.

“My season with the Jets helped me in maturing more than anything,” said Elliott. “It made me realize that you have to come to work at the rink everyday. There are no days off in juniors and especially not at the college level with the shortened schedule.”

Before he steps on the ice at the SMU Ice Arena next fall, Elliott knows there a few aspects to his game that need to be rounded-out this offseason.

“I need to continue to get bigger and stronger,” Elliott said. “The main thing from a hockey standpoint, though, would be my first three strides from standing still. My whole life I’ve had a little trouble with that, but then again, in the game of hockey you can always find something to improve on.

”Next season, I want to be a go-to guy. I don’t want to be seen as just a freshman on the team. I want to be seen as someone everyone can count on to get the job done.”

Quartet of Jets picked for NA3HL prospects event

WATERFORD, MI – Four Metro Jets’ players have been selected to play in the North American 3 Hockey League’s Top Prospects Tournament scheduled for May 3-8 in Frisco, Tex.

Goaltender Dillon Kelley, defenseman Will Shier and forwards Doug Andrews and Mike MacKinnon will play for Team East at the event and will skate against teams made up of players from the other three divisions.

Kelley, who played for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints last weekend, went 18-8-1 this past season with a 3.62 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. The 17-year-old Petoskey native also posted three shutouts.

Already signed to a playing tender by the NAHL’s Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings for next season, Shier was an alternate captain for the Jets in 2011-12 and had a goal and 20 points to his credit. A 19-year-old from Sterling Heights, Shier also saw time this past year in the NAHL with the Port Huron Fighting Falcons.

Andrews, a 19-year-old Macomb native, was perhaps Metro’s most consistent player last season and scored 17 goals and 50 points while being one of just two players (Steve Klisz) to play in all 48 games.

MacKinnon finished tied for the team lead in scoring (Klisz) with 67 points on 24 goals and 43 assists. At the NA3HL showcase event in his hometown of Troy in February, the 19-year-old recorded a six-point game against the Michigan Mountain Cats. MacKinnon was later named the NA3HL player of the month for February.

Next up for the Jets is a pre-NA3HL draft prospect camp slated for June 1-3 at Lakeland Arena. See for details. The NA3HL draft is scheduled for June 5.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jets' goalie Kelley gets call to USHL's Fighting Saints

WATERFORD, MI - Metro Jets’ goalie Dillon Kelley traveled to Iowa last weekend to be an emergency backup with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, but wound up being the third Jets’ player all-time to see action in a USHL game.

Kelley played the third period of Dubuque’s game against the Chicago Steel on Friday night and though he was shackled with the loss, the experience of playing for the country’s top Junior A league was immeasurable.

“Playing in the USHL has always been a dream of mine,” said Kelley, a 17-year-old Petoskey native. “After coming into the season and working with and talking with (Metro coach) Jason Cirone throughout the course of the year, it became more of a goal than just a dream.”

Aaron McCloy (Danville Wings) and Eric Ehn (Green Bay Gamblers) are the other ex-Jets to climb the ladder to the USHL. Ehn went on to a four-year career at the U.S. Air Force Academy and was a Hobey Baker Award finalist in 2008.

This past season with the Jets, Kelley went 18-8-1 with three shutouts, a 3.62 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage.

Coming into the game against Chicago was when it hit Kelley that all the hard work during the course of the season in Waterford had paid off.

“The biggest thing I noticed was the atmosphere; it was a lot different than a Metro Jets hockey game,” Kelley said. “There were around 2,000 or so people there and when I came onto the ice for the third period, the place erupted. It was just great to be playing in front of so many people.”

One of Kelley’s Dubuque teammates, Zemgus Girgensons, is touted as a potential first-round NHL draft pick this June. Being around him had Kelley a smidge awe-struck.

”'Z' was a very nice guy,” said Kelley. “He is the captain of the team and I understood why after the very first practice. He is the hardest worker on the team and everyone in the room looks up to him. When I found out about him possibly going in the first round of the NHL draft this summer, I was not surprised. He thinks the game very well and definitely sticks out when out there on the ice.”

The USHL entry draft is slated for May 22, while the NAHL draft goes May 31. Kelley could get drafted in one or both drafts, but after sniffing the USHL, that league is tops on his “want” list.

”After the experience last weekend, it has not only given me more confidence, but has opened my eyes to the notion that I can play in the USHL next year with hard work and if given the opportunity,” said Kelley. “Jason has taught me a lot about preparation and taking care of my body.

“Without experiencing the junior hockey life with the Jets, I don't think this opportunity would have been possible.”


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Metro alum Oleksy takes the road less traveled

by Jamie Palatini || AHL On The Beat Archive

The path to professional hockey is never the same for any two players.

In October, defenseman Steve Oleksy found himself with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads. Just six months later, the rookie defenseman found himself with an American Hockey League contract and wearing the "A" for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with a chance to clinch their first division title in a decade.

"It's definitely the road less taken ... lots of detours, pretty bumpy," Oleksy said. "I'd say all of those terms apply to how I've gotten to where I am today."

Oleksy wasn't drafted and didn't play major junior hockey in Canada. However, the Chesterfield, Mich., native has worked his way through the ranks of U.S. roller hockey, the junior North American Hockey League, college and the lower minors to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where earned a professional tryout contract early in the season.

Oleksy's father and brother had played ice hockey, and the kids in his neighborhood were big street hockey players. It was on the hard top -- not the ice -- where Oleksy actually had his first big hockey experience.

"I actually played for the USA Roller Hockey Team for a couple of years. I played in the World Championships for two years, first in Bratislava, Slovakia, and the second time in Germany. There are quite a few that started out playing roller hockey and converted to ice hockey. Obviously, the further you get the more you focus on ice hockey. It definitely helps develop the skills. In the World Championships, we played against (Karel) Rachunek, (Ales) Hemsky, some big-name guys."


Photo/Chris Rutsch

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ex-Jets' bench boss Cooper named AHL's top coach

AHL Press Release

The American Hockey League announced today that Jon Cooper of the Norfolk Admirals has been named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2011-12 season, as voted by coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

In his second season in the professional ranks, Cooper has kept his Admirals at the top of the league for much of the year, finally pulling away from the rest of the pack on the strength of a record 25-game winning streak that remains intact heading into the final week of the season. At 52-18-1-2 (107 points), the Admirals have won their first division title since 2003 and have captured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the overall points champion for the first time ever.

Norfolk, whose top five scorers this season include three rookies and one second-year pro, leads the AHL in offense (3.58 goals per game) and ranks third in defense (2.40 goals against per game), and under Cooper’s development watch nine Admirals were called up to play a total of 142 games with the parent Tampa Bay Lightning in the National Hockey League this season.

A 44-year-old native of Prince George, B.C., Cooper joined the Tampa Bay Lightning organization in August 2010 as head coach of their top development affiliate in Norfolk following a prolific career in the U.S. junior ranks. He won a USHL championship and was that league’s coach of the year with Green Bay in 2010, and was twice coach of the year in the NAHL with St. Louis, winning back-to-back titles there in 2007 and 2008. Cooper has also spent time behind the bench internationally for Team USA’s U-17 and U-18 teams.

A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Cooper played hockey and lacrosse at Hofstra University and later obtained a law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Cooper led the Metro Jets to the 2002 Silver Cup Junior B national championship.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rookie forward Klisz named to NA3HL First Team

WATERFORD, MI - The North American 3 Hockey League announced its annual award winners recently and Metro Jets' forward Steve Klisz was named to the All-3HL First Team.

Klisz, a 20th-round draft pick of the Jets in 2011 out of Livonia Churchill High School, tied for the team lead in scoring with Mike MacKinnon as each tallied 67 points. Klisz posted 30 goals and 37 assists while playing in all 48 regular-season games. He also recorded 21 multi-point games, including four four-point performances.

The season started out on the right foot for Klisz as he scored the overtime game winner in Metro's season-opening 8-7 win over Flint on Sept. 9. He then added a team-best three goals and five points in three playoff games against Cleveland.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images