Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jets' draft pick Tilford has tools to succeed in between the pipes

WATERFORD, MI – Mike Tilford was the lone goaltender drafted by the Metro Jets in last month’s North American 3 Hockey League draft and while the Traverse City native still has no idea where he’ll play next season, the door is wide open for him to hone his skills in Waterford.

Tilford was a Second Team All-State player in 2011-12 at Traverse City West High School and was selected by the Jets in the 11th round (182nd overall).

“From a personal standpoint, I had a very good season and earned a couple awards,” said Tilford. “From a team standpoint, it was not real successful. We were an extremely young team and lost in the first round of the playoffs.”

Randy Wilson and Sean Clark recommended Tilford to us and one thing that Randy said is that the kid blocks pucks,” said Metro coach Jason Cirone. “That’s a good thing for a goalie, right? He’ll have a shot to play in the NAHL, but if you look at our track record in moving goalies on, I think he’d be a good fit as a Metro Jet.”

On NA3HL draft day, Tilford was shocked to see his name come up on the screen during the online draft process.

”I have worked with Randy (Wilson) in the past, but I was unaware the Jets were looking at drafting me,” Tilford said. “I do not know very much about the Jets at all and to be honest, all I really know about the NA3HL is that it is a good stepping stone for the NAHL.”

Traverse City West is the home of former Jets’ first-round pick Vinnie Pietrangelo, who played on the back end in Waterford during the 2009-10 season and will be a junior at Finlandia University this fall.

 “I know Vinnie a little, mostly just from playing with him at drop-in and such,” added Tilford.

This fall, Tilford has an option to play Midget AAA hockey with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, but knows that where he skates for the 2012-13 season is still up in the air at this point of the summer.

“My expectations for next year, wherever I may end up, are that I have a successful season,” said Tilford. “I also want to gain exposure from NAHL and USHL teams.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Defenseman Hillman looking to expand role with Jets

WATERFORD, MI – Trevor Hillman only played four games for the Metro Jets last year, but should have a bigger role this upcoming season.

Hillman, the Jets’ top draft pick (third overall) in the 2011 North American 3 Hockey League draft, signed a tender to return to Waterford next season. He also has the option of playing midget hockey for Compuware, but junior hockey with Metro is where Hillman feels he can most improve his overall game.

“I didn’t have to really put much thought into signing the tender,” said Hillman, an 18-year-old from Beverly Hills. “I played games with the team last year, so I knew they had a winning mindset. Having some of the defense from last year leaving the team means I could step up this year and be the shutdown defenseman they look to in all situations.”

Even after making the jump from AAA hockey with the Detroit Falcons (pictured) to the Jets a year ago, Hillman realized it can take some time to adjust to the new style of game.

 “I learned there is a big difference,” said Hillman, who tallied two assists in his time with the Jets in 2011-12. “The size of the guys and their skill and speed is all a big step up. I just have to continue training and working on my game for the upcoming season. Last year was a good experience for me. (Jets’ head coach) Jason (Cirone) taught me a lot and so did a lot of the older guys.”

Recently, the NA3HL has sent numerous players on to higher levels of hockey, including the United States Hockey League, North American Hockey League and even college hockey.

Hillman wants his name on that list a year from now.

”My expectations for me are what all kids want, to just keep moving up the junior ranks into the USHL,” said Hillman. “Personally, it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the Ontario Hockey League someday.”

As for what he has listed as goals for next season, Hillman is succinct.

“From a team standpoint, I’m hoping to win a lot of games,” said Hillman, “And win a championship.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Alum Oleksy signs with AHL's Hershey Bears

Hershey Bears Press Release

The Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League announced recently that the club has signed four players, including former Metro Jets' defenseman Steve Oleksy, for the 2012-13 season.

Oleksy, 26, comes to Chocolatetown following a successful season in 2011-12 with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL). Following a recall from the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, Oleksy contributed 15 points (one goal, 14 assists) in 50 regular-season games, finishing tied for third on the Sound Tigers with a plus-16 rating.

Olesky made his AHL debut in 2010-11 with the Lake Erie Monsters, where he recorded four assists in 17 games. He has played in a total of 107 games in the ECHL with Las Vegas, Toledo and Idaho, where he has recorded 38 points (nine goals, 29 assists).

The 6-foot, 196-pound native of Chesterfield played three years at Lake Superior State University (CCHA) prior to turning pro in the 2008-2009 season. Oleksy skated for the Jets in the 2004-05 campaign.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ex-Jets goalie Williams to represent United States

WATERFORD, MI - Former Metro Jets' goaltender Devin Williams, who played for the Jets during the 2011-12 season, was named today to the United States Under-18 Select Team that will participate in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament next month in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Team USA Roster [.pdf] 

Williams, a Saginaw native who was a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Under-17 Select Team at the 2011 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament, began last season with the Jets before finishing the year with the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters, the team that drafted Williams in the fifth round of the 2011 OHL draft.

In Waterford, Williams went 9-9-0 with a 3.88 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage in 19 games.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Jets' top pick Gambino has winning pedigree

WATERFORD, MI – The Metro Jets had the 11th overall pick in the North American 3 Hockey League draft back on June 5, but couldn’t wait 10 picks to make their first selection.

Instead, the Jets made a draft day trade with the Quad City Jr. Flames to move up to No. 5 and with that pick, Metro grabbed Livonia Churchill High School forward Mike Gambino.

 “We didn’t think Gambino would be there when we picked at No. 11 and he was the player we wanted,” said Jets’ coach Jason Cirone. “He’s highly-skilled and came from the same high school program (Metro top scorer from 2011-12) Steve Klisz came from a year ago. I saw him play a couple times and I think he could play in the North American Hockey League next season, but if not, he’ll have options with us and we’ll certainly do all we can to move him, as well as the rest of our players, to the next level.”

“It is a great honor to be drafted fifth by the Metro Jets,” said a humble Gambino, a Second Team All-State pick in 2011-12. “I was really surprised when I saw I went that early. To be honest, I don’t know much about the league itself, but I have heard that the Metro Jets is a great organization and has an awesome coach in Jason Cirone. Before the draft, my dad and I talked to Steve Klisz’s dad about the league and he helped us out in giving us some information.”

 In minor hockey, Gambino twice went to the state tournament (Livonia Knights Pee Wee and Livonia Flyers Bantam) and won back-to-back regional titles at Churchill in 2011 and 2012. He also played in the prestigious State Games in 2011, winning gold. This past spring, Gambino skated with Team Michigan where he was part of the championship-winning team at the CCM NIT in Minnesota.

Admittedly, Gambino has his sights on playing in the NAHL this fall and as Cirone said, the talent level is certainly there.

"I would describe myself as a two-way forward,” Gambino said. “I know how to put up points, but I love to hit and play a very physical game. My main goal is to play in the NAHL, so that’s what I am focusing on right now. I haven’t really thought about what I would do if I didn’t make an NAHL team, so we’ll see how everything works out.

“Wherever I wind up, I would like to be a first- or second-line player with some special teams’ opportunities.”