Kelley, an 18-year-old Petoskey native, played one period in goal for Dubuque on April 13 against the Chicago Steel after being signed as an emergency backup the day before. He played well, but suffered the defeat in that game.
“I am looking forward to the move to the USHL and to Dubuque,” said Kelley, who lived in Clarkston last season with his mother after moving from northern Michigan to play in the North American 3 Hockey League. “It is a great town and I feel I am going to enjoy my stay there. I plan to continue working hard day in and day out to keep improving.”
Kelley came to the Jets last year penciled-in as the No. 2 goalie behind Devin Williams, but once Williams signed with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters, Kelley stepped up to assume the starter’s role and never looked back.
“When Dillon came to us last year, it was a big step for him,” said Jets’ coach Jason Cirone. “To his credit, though, he worked to get himself in shape and took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. (Kelley’s goalie coach) Randy Wilson did a lot for Dillon and I think by him going straight to the USHL, it shows just how good he is and how far he’s come.
“That being said, can Dillon use this opportunity to possibly earn a Division I scholarship? I would hope so, but it’s hard to know how kids react when they get to higher levels. I’m happy that he’s going to Dubuque, but he’s only got one foot in the door right now. It’s up to Dillon to continue to prepare for any role Dubuque may want him to play. He could be their No. 1 or he could be a No. 3. That’s the nature of the business. Only time will tell.”
“I wouldn't be here without Randy,” added Kelley. “He's helped me get here from the beginning to end. From talking to the coaches at Dubuque to making me the goalie I am today, I owe him a lot of credit.”
Last year with the Jets, Kelley posted an 18-8-1 record with three shutouts, a 3.62 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. He became just the third Metro player in team history to suit up for a USHL game, following Aaron McCloy (Danville) and Eric Ehn (Green Bay).
Knowing all he has right now is a roster spot with the Fighting Saints, Kelley realizes this is only the beginning.
“The work doesn't stop here,” said Kelley. “I feel ready for the USHL and am excited to see what the future holds.”