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.”


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