Monday, September 30, 2013

Captain's Corner - Cleveland split, Mantovani, this weekend

Each week during the 2013-14 season, Metro Jets’ captain Josh Beleski will give his thoughts on topics surrounding the team as it makes its way through the North American 3 Hockey League season, the 25th for the Jets as a junior franchise. 

-- On positives from last weekend.

I thought we played a lot better than last weekend. We were better in our zone and a lot more physical as a team, but I still don’t think we have reached our full potential.

-- On winning Sunday in a shootout.

The boys showed tons of character in Sunday’s game. We never gave up and we kept playing until the final whistle – that’s what we need to do every weekend. In the end, that win was for (head coach) Jason (Cirone) after all he has done for us. That was the least we could have done for him.

-- On goalie Davide Mantovani getting the win Sunday.

Davide played amazing on Sunday. It was a big win for him and he deserved it. He played on his head all night and bailed us out whenever we got in trouble. He came up huge in the shootout and I think he surprised a lot of us in that game.

-- On hosting Toledo this Friday night, at Michigan Saturday night.

This weekend is going to be tough, but I think if we just come out like we did this past weekend that we will be fine. We just have to make sure we eliminate our mistakes in our own zone and create more scoring chances in the offensive zone. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jets gain split at home with Jr. Lumberjacks

WATERFORD, Mich. – The Metro Jets split their two-game series this past weekend with the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks at Lakeland Arena.

Saturday night, the Jets allowed three unanswered goals and fell by a 3-1 count.

Matt Dempsey staked Metro to an early 1-0 lead 12:24 into the first period, but couldn’t solve Cleveland goalie Joe Moza (32 saves) the rest of the way.

Jets’ goalie Trevor Kalinowski made 28 saves in suffering the loss.

Sunday afternoon, Cody Jones’ goal at 16:51 of the third period put the Jets up 2-1, but an extra-attacker goal by Cleveland’s Tyler Pritt at 19:40 sent the game to overtime.

The game wound up going to a shootout and Metro netminder Davide Mantovani turned aside all four Jr. Lumberjacks’ shooters and Dempsey and Luke Thom scored to give the Jets a 3-2 victory.

Alex Holm scored the Jets’ first goal 9:32 into the second period.

Mantovani stopped 30 shots to earn his first NA3HL win. Tyler Jansen kicked out 34 shots for the Jr. Lumberjacks.

The Jets (4-3-1), now in a second-place tie in the East Division, host the Toledo Cherokee Friday night at 7:50 p.m. before going on the road to play the Michigan Mountain Cats at the Great Lakes Sports City in Fraser at 5:15 p.m. Saturday night.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Former Jets' goalies Nedeljkovic, Williams named NHL prospects


Two former North American 3 Hockey League players were recognized on the National Hockey League’s ‘Prospects to Watch’ list for 2014 draft-eligible players with the release of NHL Central Scouting's preliminary list of players to watch in North America and Europe.

Both of the players, Alex Nedeljkovic and Devin Williams, are goaltending alumni of the Metro Jets.

The selections continue to provide further proof why the NA3HL is the best training ground in the country by providing the best exposure and developmental vehicles available for student-athletes at the Tier III junior level.

The lists, comprised of "A," "B" and "C" players for the upcoming season in each of the main junior hockey leagues, are sent to NHL team scouts for the purpose of tracking the top draft-eligible players entering the 2013-14 season. All "A" skaters have been identified as potential first-round picks, while "B" players are considered second- or third-round candidates. The players on the "C" list are thought to be fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round possibilities.

One of the two ‘A’ list goaltenders on the NHL Central Scouting list is Nedeljkovic. The netminder from Parma, Ohio, appeared in nine games in the NA3HL with the Jets during the 2012-13 regular season. He made an immediate impact as he was named as the NA3HL Goaltender of the Month in November. Nedeljkovic, 17, also was chosen for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that competed at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. It capped off quite a year for Nedeljkovic, who spent the majority of the season playing in the major junior Ontario Hockey League for the Plymouth Whalers. Not only did Nedelkjovic make the first-team OHL Rookie Team, but he was also named as the Whalers Rookie of the Year.

The other NA3HL alum was Williams, who was listed as a ‘C’ list prospect. Prior to his stint in the NA3HL, Williams played the 2010-11 season in the NAPHL as the goalie for the Motor City Metal Jackets 16U team. Williams continued his development during the 2011-12 season with the Jets. While playing with the Jets, Williams went 9-9-0 with a 3.88 GAA and a 89.6% save percentage playing in 19 games. This past season, Williams played the entire year for the Erie Otters in the OHL, where he appeared in 33 games.

NHL Central Scouting will release its midseason rankings of 2014 draft-eligibles in January, followed by its final rankings in April. The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will be at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 27-28.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New defender Thom finding role, getting used to Michigan

WATERFORD, Mich. – Luke Thom has had a whirlwind first few weeks with the Metro Jets.

First, he was traded to the Jets before even playing a game for the North Iowa Bulls, but in getting set to leave home in Faribault, Minn., to arrive in Waterford, Thom missed his bus.

He then hopped a plane and arrived in the early-morning hours on Sept. 15 and made his Metro debut later that afternoon as the Jets lost in a shootout to the Cincinnati Swords.

“Yeah, those first 24 hours were pretty stressful, but thanks to the greatest people, it worked out,” said Thom. “Plus, it was my first time flying, so it was cool.”

Now three games into his stint with the Jets, Thom, 18, is quickly learning the team’s systems and getting acclimated to living in Macomb with fellow defenseman T.J. Krajewski and his family, along with blueliners Kenny Forton and Carter Reid.

“I haven't been around Waterford a whole lot, but Macomb is sort of similar to Faribault, but there is more driving between places here,” Thom said. “On the ice, I want to be a leader and do anything else I can do to get our team the ‘W.’ The first game went alright, but the second and third weren't pretty.”

“I think Luke is going to be a great fit this year,” said Jets’ captain Josh Beleski. “He's a great guy on and off the ice. I think he did pretty good his first three games, but I know he can do better and I think he knows that, too. In the end, I think he will be one of our top defensemen.”

And as if Thom’s time in the North American 3 Hockey League hasn’t been crazy enough, perhaps the reason he’s adjusted so well is due to what he went through at Faribault High School the past three seasons.

”Well, I had a rough couple years in high school hockey,” Thom said. “My sophomore year, I got mononucleosis and was out most of the season. Then my junior year, I broke my ankle a few practices in and was out most of the season again. Senior year, we got a new coach and I had a lot of work to do to make up two seasons. It taught me to always make the best of any situation, like getting traded.”

After his senior year, Thom earned Big 9 All-Conference honorable mention honors and also said beating Providence Academy last season was a big highlight of his high school career.

”One way to compare hockey in Minnesota to hockey here is that at the high school level, hockey is more popular and important in Minnesota,” noted Thom.

As for his future, Thom’s goals are simple.

“In the short term, I want to see our team make the playoffs,” said Thom. “Long term, I want to play in the NAHL and then in college. My dream would obviously be play in ‘the show.’”


Reid, who made his Jets’ debut in the Flint series, is the younger brother of former Metro defenseman Adam Reid, who skated in Waterford during the 2011-12 season … Goaltender Davide Mantovani had to wait until the fifth game of the season to play due to his transfer papers from the Italian Ice Hockey Federation being approved by USA Hockey. He suffered the loss last Saturday night to Flint.


Brian Skulley, who played for the Jets during the 1991-92 season, was at Lakeland Arena last weekend for a youth hockey tournament.

Skulley is now a head coach with the Kensington Valley Hockey Association, guiding the Bantam AA Rebels’ team this season.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Captain's Corner - Flint home-and-home, goal No. 1, Cleveland

Each week during the 2013-14 season, Metro Jets’ captain Josh Beleski will give his thoughts on topics surrounding the team as it makes its way through the North American 3 Hockey League season, the 25th for the Jets as a junior franchise. 

-- On last weekend's home-and-home with Flint.

Everything that could have possibly went wrong in the two games last weekend did go wrong. We did too much running around in our zone, the PK and PP were horrible and if I remember correctly, we only had one shot in the first period of the first game – that can’t happen again. I think the boys and I learned from our mistakes and we will be better this coming up weekend

-- On any positives last weekend.

To be completely honest, I don’t think anything went right in the two games. We were bad all around and embarrassed ourselves last weekend, but like I said before, we will be better this weekend against Cleveland.

-- On getting his first goal of the season last Saturday night.

It felt good to get my first goal under my belt, but it would have felt a lot better if we could have came out on top with a win.

-- On hosting Cleveland at home this coming weekend.

This week, we are going to be working very hard and making sure that we fix any mistakes that need fixing because we will not be embarrassed like we were against Flint. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jr. Generals sweep Jets with Sunday afternoon victory

FLINT, Mich. - Nick Gnagni and Justin Fisher each scored two goals to pace the Flint Jr. Generals past the Metro Jets by a 7-1 count Sunday afternoon at Iceland Arenas, sweeping the home-and-home set between the two teams.

Alex Holm netted the lone goal for the Jets and goaltender Kameron Limburg made 34 saves.

Conor Durgan added a goal and three assists for Flint, while Nathan Klebe stopped 21 shots between the pipes.

Metro (3-2-1) now gets set to host the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks Saturday night at 7:50 p.m. and Sunday at 11:50 a.m. at Lakeland Arena.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Metro downed Saturday night by Flint for first regulation loss

WATERFORD, Mich. - The Metro Jets trailed 2-0 early Saturday night to the Flint Jr. Generals and never quite got untracked, falling 6-2 at Lakeland Arena for their first regulation loss of the young 2013-14 season.

"No positives (tonight)," said Metro coach Jason Cirone. "We got beat all over the ice and (Flint) took it to us. They were the better team tonight, plain and simple."

Jets' captain Josh Beleski and newcomer Nick Schultz scored in the loss, while Davide Mantovani finished with 23 saves between the pipes.

The two teams rematch Sunday at Iceland Arenas in Flint. Puck drop is slated for 2:30 p.m.

 "Well, we shouldn't be tired because we didn't skate tonight, so the recovery should be real easy," said Cirone. "I feel like it was a wasted week of practice. Everything we worked on this week in practice we didn't even attempt to do in the game. We should be well-rested and hopefully tomorrow, we can execute."

Nick Gnagni scored three goals with an assist, Conor Durgan added a pair of goals and goaltender Nathan Klebe needed to make just 11 saves for the win.

After Sunday's contest, the Jets (3-1-1) host the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks for a pair next weekend at Lakeland Arena.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Metro forward MacKay devoting career to memory of father

WATERFORD, Mich. – Sometimes, hockey can be used as therapy to get away from the sad and dreary faces of reality.

And in rare instances, a simple goal can mean the world to the one that scored.

Metro Jets’ 20-year-old forward Zack MacKay found himself on the ice in the waning seconds of the Jets’ home opener last Saturday night against the Cincinnati Swords at Lakeland Arena.

The score was tied and MacKay was playing just three days after finding his father in his Howell home dead, the result of myelofibrosis (a disorder of the bone marrow in which the marrow is replaced by scar tissue, a form of cancer) taking hold of Ronald MacKay’s 61-year-old body.

Cue the Hollywood music.

MacKay took control on the ice and scored the go-ahead goal with just 28 seconds remaining and the Jets held on the rest of the way for the 4-3 win.

Prior to the game, Jets’ coach Jason Cirone made the prediction that MacKay would score. He just didn’t know what the magnitude of the goal would be.

“Getting the game-winner was more than just scoring a goal – it was for the team,” MacKay said. “Coach had made a statement that (goalie) Kam (Limburg) was playing on his head for us all game and to go win it for him. Most importantly, it was for my dad and family. After I scored, I looked over to see my mom and brother standing up and cheering, yelling, pointing. I looked at my mom and pointed to her. It was the best feeling in the world. It was as if my dad had scored himself.

“I had to play Saturday. I know my dad would've been upset had I not. It was for him whether I was really ready to play or not. His life expectancy after (myelofibrosis) came about was five years and he hadn’t even told me he had it until three years had passed. He was in a test study for new drugs, but none seemed to work. I truly thought he would've beaten the disease – he was always a tough man. Finding him dead was extremely unexpected.”

While MacKay’s parents divorced when he was younger, he lives with his mother, but never lost the father-son bond over the years.

“Me and my father had an odd relationship with the separation of my parents, but he was the main reason I even played hockey,” said MacKay, an alternate captain this season with the Jets. “If he could make it to a game, he would and we'd always do something after. The rest of my hockey career is devoted to him, to make him proud. I know that's what he would want. This season, I just want to put everything I've got into hockey, devote all my time to it and make sure I'm the best I can be. I've got to do it for my dad because he's my inspiration.

“Hockey is most likely going to get me through this, along with support from my family. It's hard to focus on anything, but with hockey, you can really leave any problems at the doorstep and know your team and coaches are there for you.”

Now with a 3-0-1 record through the first four games of the North American 3 Hockey League season, the Jets are playing with a sense of confidence – and feeding off emotional players such as MacKay.

“The team is a lot better than I had expected,” MacKay said. “Right from the start, I thought we would need a lot of work breaking in all the new guys, but as Jason says, a win is a win no matter how you get it, and we've been getting them thus far. To be honest, I didn't think I was going to play any more after last season (with the Jets). I didn't go to any camps nor did I even skate regularly. I maybe skated three times after last season. My dad said he would find a way to make it so I could play if I wanted and he made it happen.”

And on the ice, away from the somberness of losing his father, MacKay is making things happen for the Jets.


The Jets and Swords observed a moment of silence in Ronald MacKay’s honor before Saturday’s game … Jones, drafted by Metro in both the 2012 and 2013 NA3HL drafts, leads the team in scoring with two goals and three assists for five points … Metro captain Josh Beleski left Saturday’s game after getting elbowed by Cincinnati’s Nick Haase and did not play Sunday. Haase earned a five-minute major on the play. Beleski has been experiencing concussion-like symptoms.


Jon Cooper, who led the Jets to the 2002 Silver Cup Junior B national championship, is starting his first full season at the helm of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning after stepping into the role midway through the shortened 2013 season.

Cooper also won junior championships in the North American Hockey League with the St. Louis Bandits and in the United States Hockey League with the Green Bay Gamblers before going to the pro ranks and winning an American Hockey League title in 2012 with the Norfolk Admirals.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Captain's Corner - First four games, captaincy, Flint weekend

Each week during the 2013-14 season, Metro Jets’ captain Josh Beleski will give his thoughts on topics surrounding the team as it makes its way through the North American 3 Hockey League season, the 25th for the Jets as a junior franchise. 

-- On where he sees the team after a 3-0-1 mark through the first four games.

I feel we are heading in the right direction. Do I think we can be better? Yes. We had way too many turnovers and we were sloppy in our own zone, but those are easy mistakes that will be corrected for the future, but in the end, we came out on top and that's what counts.

-- On being named captain for the 2013-14 season.

I didn't find out I would be captain until I had been there for a couple days. I was very surprised because I thought I was just there to help out, but I'm honored to be leading these boys this season. I couldn't do it without the help of my assistant, Zack MacKay. He inspires me to be the best I can be everyday and always stay positive. He has tons of heart and I think the team feeds off that.

-- On getting elbowed in the head Saturday and sitting out Sunday with concussion symptoms.

My head is still hurting a little bit, but I’m trying to take it slow because that way, I can get back into things as soon as possible. I’m hoping to get back on the ice sometime next week to see how I feel.

-- On expectations for this weekend's home-and-home series with Flint.

I think this weekend against Flint is going to be our first true test. They are a strong and fast team and they never stop working. This weekend is going to come down to who makes the most mistakes, but how I see it is that if we just play within (head coach Jason Cirone’s) system and work hard and minimize our mistakes, then we will be moving on to the following weekend with four more points. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kopinski's pair not enough, Jets fall to Swords in shootout

WATERFORD, Mich. - Brad Hepler scored at 18:05 of the third period to pull the Metro Jets into a 3-3 tie with the Cincinnati Swords Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena, but the Swords took the game 4-3 in a shootout.

Zach Kopinski scored two goals for the Jets, while Trevor Kalinowski made 32 saves between the pipes.

For the Swords, goaltender Joe Sheppard stopped 25 shots and then all four Metro players in the shootout.

The Jets (3-0-1) host the Flint Jr. Generals next Saturday night at 7:50 p.m. before travelling to Flint next Sunday afternoon for a 2:30 p.m. puck drop.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

MacKay's late, clutch goal pushes Jets past Swords

WATERFORD, Mich. - Zack MacKay's goal with 28 sconds left in the third period capped a furious final few minutes and the Metro Jets held on to defeat the Cincinnati Swords 4-3 Saturday night at Lakeland Arena in the Jets' home opener.

Alex Holm had made it 3-2 in favor of the Jets at 16:05 of the third period before Cincinnati's Nikita Korotkov tied the game at the 18-minute mark.

That set the stage for MacKay, playing with a heavy heart after his father passed away Wednesday.

"Our guys never quit and they work extremely hard - every one of them," said Jets' coach Jason Cirone. "Our four 'D' were outstanding and Kam (Limburg) made some great saves for us. Did I think this was a team that would be 3-0 at this point? Yeah, I did. I think we can be 48-0. Your goal is always to win as many hockey games as you can and right now, the kids are believing in themselves."

Brad Hepler and Cody Jones also scored for the Jets and Limburg stopped 28 shots in goal.

Thomas Clayton scored the other two goals for the Swords and goaltender Alec Rounds finished with 22 saves.

The two teams rematch Sunday with an 11:50 a.m. puck drop.

"I expect Cincinnati will come out harder tomorrow and we'll have to be ready," said Cirone.

Trevor Kalinowski gets the nod in net Sunday for the Jets.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jets' goaltender Kalinowski earns weekly NA3HL honors

The North American 3 Hockey League today announced the Divisional Stars of the Week, presented by Easton, for the week ending September 8, 2013.

The divisional stars of the week is an award given each week of the regular season to the top performing players in each of the four divisions of the NA3HL as nominated by their head coaches.

East Division Star of the Week: Trevor Kalinowski, goaltender, Metro Jets 

Kalinowski helped the Jets to a weekend road sweep of the Pittsburgh Vengeance during the opening weekend of the NA3HL regular season this past weekend.

Although he only played in Sunday’s 3-2 win, the native of Commerce Township, Mich., was spectacular in goal. The 17-year-old Kalinowski (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) stopped 46 of 48 shots that came his way to help the Jets complete the weekend sweep.

“Trevor was great on Sunday. We won the game because of him. He is a returning player that we are going to rely heavily on,” said Jets' head coach Jason Cirone. “I think to go into Pittsburgh and sweep them was a little bit surprising, but we gave a really good effort and I think everyone worked really hard.”

2nd Star: Cooper McLean, forward, Metro Jets

Photo/Matt Mackinder

Monday, September 9, 2013

Metro's sweep of Pittsburgh has team brimming with confidence

WATERFORD, Mich. – Metro Jets’ coach Jason Cirone knew heading into last weekend’s season-opening series on the road in Pittsburgh would be a challenge, but hoped to come away with four points.

Those hopes wound up as reality as the Jets swept the Vengeance with identical 3-2 wins Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Blade Runners USA, leaving Cirone in a satisfied state at the start of the North American 3 Hockey League season.

“Our goaltending and defense did an outstanding job all weekend, and we only had four defensemen,” Cirone said. “Before Sunday’s game, I told the kids not to be satisfied with just winning the first game because to get to the next level, you need consistency. Then we came out Sunday and took advantage of our opportunities and limited their chances and we got the win.”

Saturday night, Metro blew a two-goal lead in the third period, but came back to win in a shootout.

T.J. Krajewski and Alex Holm staked the Jets to a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. Krajewski also assisted on Holm's goal for a two-point night.

In the third period, Pittsburgh's Nick Santiago scored on a penalty shot and Oskar Thorsen scored at 18:17 to force the overtime and eventual shootout.

Cody Jones and Zack MacKay, who served as captain last weekend, scored in the shootout for the Jets, while goaltender Kameron Limburg stopped four of the five Vengeance shooters to gain the win for Metro.

 “Saturday night, we played great, competed for the full 60 minutes and our goalie was outstanding,” said Cirone. “We got what we deserved.”

Then in the rematch Sunday, Kyle Downey's goal at 6:49 of the third period proved to be the game-winner and the Jets held on to defeat Pittsburgh and open the season 2-0.

 Jones and Cooper McLean also tallied for the Jets, while Trevor Kalinowski finished with 46 saves in net.

“All of our returning guys – Holm, MacKay, Brad Hepler, T.J. and Kalinowski – are all guys I am going to lean on heavily this season because they know how I work and how I like things done,” Cirone said. “Every one of them played like a returning player last weekend and played very well for us.”

The Jets now gear up for their home opener this Saturday night against the Cincinnati Swords (formerly the Queen City Steam) at 7:50 p.m. at Lakeland Arena. The two teams finish up Sunday at 11:50 a.m.

Last weekend, the Swords swept the perennial powerhouse St. Louis Jr. Blues in a pair of one-goal games in Cincinnati.

“We’ll watch some tape on Cincinnati this week to see what they are all about,” said Cirone. “Sweeping St. Louis, though – that’s no joke. We’re going to have to work hard and get our noses dirty if we want to be successful. Cincinnati is a team that takes advantage of their leads and we have to do all we can to not let them get those leads.”


Cirone said that while MacKay (pictured) was last weekend’s captain, no permanent captains have been named as of yet.


Three former Jets’ players will begin the 2013-14 season in the North American Hockey League.

Goaltender Dillon Kelley, who played in Waterford during the 2011-12 season, has made the roster of the Flint, Mich.-based Michigan Warriors and forwards Mike Gambino and Kyle Shreve, both of whom played last year with the Jets, are with the Springfield Jr. Blues.

Shreve signed a tender agreement with the Jr. Blues last season, while Gambino was a training camp invite by Springfield and impressed to earn a roster spot.


Two Jets who played for the team in 2012-13 and two more that played the year prior were recently announced as new skaters for the Oakland University ACHA Division I team down the road in Rochester, Mich.

Forwards Matt Stirling and Doug Andrews played last season for Metro, with Stirling serving as captain and Andrews an alternate, while defenseman Will Shier and forward Mike MacKinnon skated for the Jets in 2011-12.

Together, the quartet joins other former Jets in sophomore forward Tommy Kilgore (2010-12), sophomore defenseman John Baker (2011-12) and senior forward David Merkle (2009-10) on the Grizzlies’ 2013-14 roster.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kalinowski stops 46, leads Jets over Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon

PITTSBURGH - Kyle Downey's goal at 6:49 of the third period proved to be the game-winner and the Metro Jets held on to defeat the Pittsburgh Vengeance 3-2 Sunday afternoon at Blade Runners USA to start the 2013-14 NA3HL season 2-0.

Cooper McLean and Cody Jones also tallied for the Jets, while Trevor Kalinowski (pictured) finished with 46 saves in net.

Cody Black and Joseph Randazzo scored for Pittsburgh and goaltender Chase Stanford made 22 saves.

The Jets now gear up for their home opener next Saturday night against the Cincinnati Swords at 7:50 p.m. at Lakeland Arena. Tickets are just $5 and available at the door.

Metro and Cincinnati will rematch next Sunday at 11:50 a.m.

Photo/Matt Mackinder

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Metro opens season with 3-2 shootout win in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH - The Metro Jets blew a two-goal lead in the third period, but came back to defeat the Pittsburgh Vengeance 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night at Blade Runners USA to open the 2013-14 NA3HL season.

T.J. Krajewski and Alex Holm (pictured) staked the Jets to a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. Krajewski also assisted on Holm's goal for a two-point night.

In the third period, Pittsburgh's Nick Santiago converted a penalty shot and Oskar Thorsen scored at 18:17 to force the overtime and eventual shootout.

Cody Jones and Zack MacKay scored in the shootout for the Jets, while Kameron Limburg stopped four of the five Vengeance shooters to gain the win for Metro.

Limburg finished with 31 saves, while Chase Stanford made 30 stops for Pittsburgh.

The two teams wrap up their season-opening series Sunday at noon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jets ready for 25th season of junior hockey, fourth in NA3HL

WATERFORD, Mich. – After just barely missing out on the North American 3 Hockey League playoffs last season, the Metro Jets are optimistic heading into the season-opening series this weekend in Pittsburgh.

That said, optimism doesn’t win games on the ice and Jets’ fourth-year head coach Jason Cirone is realistic when it comes to season expectations in early September for Metro, a franchise entering its 25th season of operation.

“Right now, I think we’re right where we should be,” Cirone said. “The chemistry is pretty good, but as it always is, it usually takes the first few weeks of the season for the guys to get to know each other and how each other plays.”

Back from the Metro squad that went 22-23-3-0 a year ago are forwards Zack MacKay (Brighton) and Alex Holm (West Bloomfield), defensemen Brad Hepler (Chelsea) and T.J. Krajewski (Macomb) and goaltender Trevor Kalinowski (Commerce Township). Cam Bruff (Flushing) skated with the Jets during the 2011-12 season and is back up front this season as well.

New to Lakeland Arena this year are goalies Davide Mantovani (Gallio, Italy) and Kameron Limburg (Howell), both of whom will battle with Kalinowski for time between the pipes.

“Having three goalies is always good because it makes all three push each other to do their best,” said Cirone. “(Assistant coach) Randy Wilson has done a great job recruiting these guys and getting them here.”

Other newcomers include defensemen Kenny Forton (Petoskey) and Adam Lockner (Farmington Hills) and forwards Cooper McLean (Farmington Hills), Spenser Boman (Auburn Hills), Cody Jones (Keego Harbor), Kyle Downey (Canton), Zack Kopinski (Royal Oak), Travis Baranowski (Walker) and Matt Dempsey (Chesterfield).

Forton was a second-round pick of the Jets earlier this summer, while Kopinski was a third-rounder, Downey was tabbed in the fifth round, Jones in the seventh and Baranowski in the ninth round.

The Jets head to Pittsburgh this Saturday and Sunday to play the Pittsburgh Vengeance and then open the home portion of their schedule next Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15, against the Cincinnati Swords. Game times at Lakeland are 7:50 p.m. on Saturday and 11:50 a.m. on Sunday. Tickets are just $5 and are available at the door.

“We’re going into Pittsburgh hoping to get two wins – that’s the bottom line,” said Cirone. “We know what we get when we play Pittsburgh and that’s a team that likes to score goals and a team that keeps the tempo high. We’re expecting the same thing from Cincinnati in our building. They always play us hard and it’s up to us as coaches to gauge where our guys are and how to build from that.

“Overall, this season is going to be like any other season. If these guys learn to play well in their own end and play for each other, we’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of how long it will take to get us to that point and that’s up to the players.”