Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jets reflect on positive experiences during 2013-14 season

WATERFORD, Mich. – If one were to ask anyone associated with the Metro Jets back in January if the North American 3 Hockey League playoffs were a possibility, there would have been reluctance, but the answer would have been a resounding ‘yes.’”

As the days went on and games were played, the standings watch started – it appeared the final two games of the regular season for the Jets against the Toledo Cherokee would ultimately decide the team’s playoff hopes.

And with two wins in those games, the Jets, who finished 22-24-2, were in.

The first game in Toledo, Jets’ coach Justin Quenneville pulled goaltender Kam Limburg late and with the game tied (yes, the same move Gordon Bombay pulls in the first “Mighty Ducks” movie) and Brad Hepler scored to win it for the Jets.

In the days leading up to the Toledo contests, again, ask anyone with the team their thoughts on the playoffs and there was no reluctance at all to answer affirmatively.

“Really since Christmas, we were playing playoff hockey,” said Jets’ coach Justin Quenneville, who took over in early October for Jason Cirone, who stepped down to start up the Midland University ACHA Division I college programs in Fremont, Neb. “The guys all bought in and came to the rink everyday to work. I'm proud of the way they responded and they deserved all the opportunities despite the season's distractions, call-ups and adversity.”

It’s been said that adversity breeds character and the Jets had enough of that this season as tragically, both Zack MacKay and Connor McLean lost their fathers during the season.

“We went through many positives this season with a couple being winning a few games many thought we wouldn't,” Limburg said. “But really the biggest thing was making the playoffs. We were able to come together and perform down the stretch and steal some games for crucial points.

”Our team was one of the closest I have ever been a part of. Even from the first weekend together, we all seemed to get along great. And with the loss of family members a couple of my teammates suffered, we all tried to support them as much as we could and came together for them.”

Couple that in with the fact that the Jets had one of the NA3HL’s youngest teams and that their better players advanced to higher levels (not a bad situation by any means, however) and one might see how much of a successful season this actually ended up being for the Jets.

Forwards Kevin Shand (Springfield/NAHL, Cedar Rapids/USHL) and Lucas Linville (Port Huron/NAHL) spent a short time with the Jets, but it only helped to get their confidence ramped up for the upper echelons of junior hockey. Limburg and fellow goalie Trevor Kalinowski had a cup of coffee in the NAHL (Limburg with Springfield, Kalinowski with Port Huron) and defenseman Carter Reid practiced with Springfield for a stretch.

Forward Kyle Shreve, who ended the 2012-13 season with the Jets, began this year with Springfield, along with defenseman James Roznowski, one of Metro’s first-round picks in last year’s draft, but both wound up playing in Waterford.

Roll everything into a ball and MacKay said he wouldn’t trade his time with the Jets for the world.

“The past two years have been a huge learning experience for me and I feel like my game has improved a ton,” said MacKay. “Being captain has given me more responsibility and I felt it made me more mature. The group of guys this season was the best and I love each and every one of them. We were close as a team, more so than I've been with any other team. I built a bond with some of the guys and I know we'll be friends until we’re old.

“My time with the Jets was huge. I went through a lot this season and it showed me that I could overcome whatever was thrown at me.”

MacKay took over as captain when Josh Beleski left to enlist in the Navy in early February.

And MacKay had a knack for drama, too.

Just days after the death of his father, Ron, MacKay decided to play against Cincinnati in the Jets’ home opener. The game was tied in the waning moments of the third period until yep, you guessed it, MacKay scored the game-winner and pointed skyward and then to his mother in the stands at Lakeland Arena in a very touching moment.

McLean scored some emotional goals at the NA3HL Showcase in suburban Chicago back in December after learning of his father Don's death.

So yes, adversity – the Jets’ were the epitome of it this year.

In goal, Limburg seemed to take over between the pipes and played both games in the playoffs against the Flint Jr. Generals – two tight games that didn’t go Metro’s way.

“I will take a lot from this season – the long bus rides, my stint in the NAHL, the early-morning practices, but the thing that I will remember most from this season is the last game of the regular season,” Limburg said. “We clinched the final playoff spot with that game and it was my first shutout of the year. The locker room after the game was electric and everyone was elated.”

Hepler led the team in scoring with 36 points and second-year veteran Alex Holm was the top goal-scorer with 16. Both Hepler and Holm are eligible to return next season, though Quenneville is certain each will get opportunities in the NAHL.

“I believe in building a successful model that finds balance in developing and winning,” said Quenneville. “None of this would be possible without a coaching staff and owner willing to provide that platform. We have that here with Metro. Given the success we had this season moving players, several of our guys will be looked at closely this offseason at NAHL camps. They deserve those looks and it wouldn’t surprise me if a few guys made it. This organization has been around 25 years and has moved on a great deal of players. I see that happening again this summer. With that said, the eligible returners have expressed interest in coming back, which allows us to build off this past year’s success. As a staff, we’ll address our biggest needs at the draft (Tuesday, June 11) and look at some free agents and get our tenders on board.

“I’d like to think this season was one that saw the guys leave everything they had on the ice and that’s how it should be. I’m proud of the way we came together and of the way they never quit. This will help us build for the future.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Captain's Corner - putting the '13-14 season into perspective

Each week for the 2013-14 season, Metro Jets’ captain Zack MacKay 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 the playoff series last weekend against Flint.

The Flint games were probably the best hockey we've played this season. Both games were close until the end. I couldn't have asked more from the guys.

-- On his emotions after the Game 2 loss.

After the game, I just tried to hold composure. Knowing my junior hockey career was over was tough, but at the same time, I was excited to move forward. I'll miss that group of guys a lot, though. My time with the Jets was huge. I went through a lot this season and it showed me that I could overcome whatever was thrown at me. The past two years have been a huge learning experience with me and I feel like my game has improved a ton. Being captain gave me more responsibility and I felt it made me more mature.

-- On what he'll remember most about this season.

The group of guys this season was the best. I love each and every one of them. We were close as a team, more so than I've been with any other team. I built a bond with some guys and I know we'll be friends until we’re old.
-- On his plans for the 2014-15 season.

I've been talking to a couple NCAA D-III schools and keeping some other options in mind. I definitely want to continue playing in college.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jets eliminated with 4-1 loss to Flint Saturday afternoon

WATERFORD, Mich. - The Flint Jr. Generals defeated the Metro Jets 4-1 Saturday afternoon at Lakeland Arena, winning their NA3HL playoff series in two straight games.

Brad Hepler scored the lone Jets' goal and goaltender Kam Limburg made 25 saves in suffering the defeat.

Flint had four different goal-scorers and went 2-for-4 on the power play, while Anders Franke finished with 17 saves in goal.

Next up for the Jets is the annual NA3HL draft on Tuesday, June 10.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jr. Generals edge Jets in Game 1 Thursday night in Flint

FLINT, Mich. - The Metro Jets stayed with the Flint Jr. Generals for 60 minutes Thursday night, but ultimately fell to Flint 4-3 in Game 1 of their NA3HL first-round playoff matchup at Iceland Arenas.

Jets' captain Zack MacKay scored twice and Adam Lockner added the other goal for Metro.

Alex Holm and Kyle Shreve each had two assists and Kam Limburg made 27 saves in goal.

Flint's Josh Koepplinger netted the game-winner 6:19 into the third period after MacKay and Lockner had tied the game earlier in the period.

The two teams meet in Game 2 of the best-of-three series Saturday at 3 p.m. at Lakeland Arena.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jets draw Flint to open NA3HL playoffs Thursday night

WATERFORD, Mich. – The North American 3 Hockey League playoffs begin this week for the Metro Jets, but there was a time just a few short weeks ago that playing in the post-season seemed like a pipe dream.

Battling the Toledo Cherokee for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division, the Jets had to sit and watch two weekends ago as the Cherokee lost three straight to Cleveland and Flint, setting up a two-game showdown last weekend.

With wins both nights, the Jets advance to play Flint, one of the top teams in all of the NA3HL, in the first round of the playoffs.

Friday night in Toledo, the two teams were tied late in the third period. With a loss or a tie, the Jets would have been eliminated.

Metro coach Justin Quenneville elected to pull goaltender Kam Limburg in the final minute and the move paid off as Brad Hepler scored to lift the Jets to a 3-2 win.

“It’s been our mentality here from Christmas on that this isn’t a regular season for us down the stretch – these are our playoffs,” Quenneville said. “We have had to play playoff hockey, so everyday we took that approach coming to the rink and how we prepared and it kept building as the season went on and realistically, took the same approach each day about how this was do or die for us each game. The players all bought in and I’m proud of them. They deserve this.”

Then Saturday night at Lakeland Arena, the Jets (22-24-2) were on a mission and dominated Toledo in a 5-0 win that officially clinched the final playoff berth.

Both Metro and Toledo finished the season with 46 points, but the Jets held the tiebreaker with more wins (22) than Toledo (20).

Limburg earned the win Saturday night with 16 saves for the shutout and looks to start Game 1 versus Flint.

“Yeah, not a bad time to get his first shutout of the season,” quipped Quenneville. “My policy all season has been if you win, you’re in. It’s made us more competitive in that area of our depth chart, so Kam deserves that opportunity and you talk about the right time for the first shutout of the year in the most important game, so I’m proud of him, but obviously, we need him to keep playing the same way and bring us the same effort.”

The first round against Flint is a best-of-three series starting Thursday night in Flint at Iceland Arenas (pictured) at 8 p.m., continuing Saturday afternoon at Lakeland at 3 p.m. and, if necessary, Sunday afternoon in Flint at 2 p.m.

Jets’ captain Zack MacKay said his team has confidence going into Flint.

“We’re ready for Flint – we’ve been playing playoff hockey the past six games or so,” MacKay said. “We’re going to be prepared. We’ve had good games there (Iceland) and the last game there, it was 1-1 until the third period and we’ve played some close games there.”

Flint, which won the East outright and posted a 42-4-2 record (second in all of the NA3HL to North Iowa), won all eight meetings this season against the Jets.

"Everyone starts at zeroes in the playoffs," Quenneville said. "We're excited about the opportunity to play them. We know it is going to be difficult, but that's how it should be. We are no longer playing for points or standings, just wins, plain and simple.

“Flint is a skilled and experienced team. They are well-coached and have had a lot of success during the season for a reason. We are excited about the matchup, but the key for us will be to stay focused and disciplined more than anything.”

All playoff games will be on

Monday, March 10, 2014

Captain's Corner - Toledo, NA3HL playoffs, Kam Limburg

Each week for the rest of the 2013-14 season, Metro Jets’ captain Zack MacKay 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 what Saturday's win over Toledo to make the playoffs meant to him.

It meant a lot – could have meant the end to my junior career. Stuff like that really makes you motivated to play and everybody brought it. If we play like this against Flint, there’s no way we’re not going to win.

-- On vibes he had before and during the game.

I actually thought we had a really bad warmup, but (for the game), we brought it and that’s all that really matters. As long as we’re playing the game we’re supposed to, it doesn’t really matter how we warmed up.

-- On his thoughts after the Jets scored first and Kam Limburg's shutout.

I got a little worried, actually. We’re usually not too good with first-goal leads, but we brought it. Limburg has been playing great lately. I drove with him (Friday night) and (Saturday’s game) was nothing out of the ordinary for him. He usually brings it.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jets blank Toledo Saturday, clinch NA3HL playoff berth

WATERFORD, Mich. - The Metro Jets have been in playoff mode the better part of the last two weeks and it paid off Saturday night as the Jets clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division with a 5-0 shutout of the Toledo Cherokee at Lakeland Arena.

The Jets and Cherokee tied with 46 points, but Metro gains the playoff spot by virtue of more wins (22) than Toledo (20).

"Top to bottom, I feel like that was our best 60-minute effort of the year," said Jets' coach Justin Quenneville. "Like I tell the guys everyday, we have to look at this season as a progressive chart moving upward and not only did they work hard, but they bought in, kept it simple and were rewarded for their decisions."

Cooper McLean scored twice with an assist for the Jets, while Brad Hepler, Kyle Shreve and Cody Jones all tallied a goal and an assist in the win.

Jets' goaltender Kam Limburg stopped all 16 shots between the pipes.

"Not a bad time to get his first shutout of the season," quipped Quenneville.

Aaron Callan made 26 saves for the Cherokee.

The Jets (22-24-2) move on to play the Flint Jr. Generals in the first round of the playoffs. A schedule will be released early next week.

 "Everyone starts at zeroes in the playoffs," Quenneville said. "We're excited about the opportunity to play them - you want to play against the best and you want to beat the best."

Flint won all eight meetings this season against the Jets.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Jets beat Toledo in dramatic fashion, maintain hope for playoffs

TOLEDO, Ohio - Brad Hepler scored in the final with the goalie pulled and the score tied to lift the Metro Jets to a thrilling 3-2 win over the Toledo Cherokee Friday night at the Team Toledo Ice House.

The stakes get even bigger as the winner of Saturday night's regular-season finale at Lakeland Arena in Waterford between Metro and Toledo gets the final playoff berth in the East Division.

Cooper McLean scored in the first period and Cam Bruff tallied his first of the season in the second for the Jets, while Kam Limburg stopped 29 shots between the pipes.

Both teams have played 47 games and Toledo has 46 points to Metro's 44, but if the Jets win, they would get the tie-breaker based on more overall wins during the regular season. Toledo is 20-21-6 and the Jets are 21-24-2.

 Game time Saturday night is set for 7:50 p.m.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Captain's Corner - Toledo this weekend, NA3HL playoffs, pressure

Each week for the rest of the 2013-14 season, Metro Jets’ captain Zack MacKay 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 checking Toledo's three games last weekend and seeing the Cherokee lose all three.

Last weekend was very stressful, but we were all thankful the cards fell into place and allowed us a chance to really put everything out on the ice this weekend and make our playoff push.

-- On what the message has been this week around the team.

The message of the week was just that we all know what's at stake and we know what needs to be done. We can't let them (Toledo) even take us to overtime or else it's all over. If we can come out with a regulation win on Friday, there's no doubt we won't make playoffs.

-- On the pressure of this weekend.

These two games are huge and I don't think I've ever played games that had more at stake than Friday. My last season of my junior career is at the hands of two games, whether it continues or not is up to me and the rest of the Jets and I think it will.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dempsey enjoying rookie season with Jets, exposure from NA3HL

WATERFORD, Mich. – Matt Dempsey is the perfect example of what the North American Hockey League’s advancement model is all about.

Playing last season in the North American Prospects Hockey League for the Detroit Falcons, the Chesterfield, Mich., native joined the Metro Jets of the North American 3 Hockey League this year and hopes to complete the trifecta next year in the NAHL.

For now, though, the 18-year-old forward is focused on fine-tuning his skill set with the Jets.

“Last year in the NAPHL, the thing that prepared me most for juniors was the pace and the physicality of that league,” Dempsey said. “I knew the NA3 was good. I had watched the games at some of the showcases and was impressed by the level of play.

“I feel that I have become faster overall this season and I’ve also become smarter and more patient with the puck. I’ve had opportunities this year to play on a line with good players (Josh Beleski and Alex Holm mostly) that I have learned a lot from.”

This season, Dempsey has potted six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 45 games and praised the Metro coaching staff of head coach Justin Quenneville and assistants Tom Krajewski and Randy Wilson.

“The coaching staff has been great,” said Dempsey. “Overall, they have provided me a lot of direction and tweaked my game so that I continue to improve personally and so that we grow as a team.”

Going into this weekend’s home-and-home series with the Toledo Cherokee with the fourth and final East Division playoff spot on the line, Dempsey’s outlook is succinct.

”The team is very focused,” Dempsey said. “We all know what we need to do in order to get the big wins this weekend.”


After sitting idle last weekend, the Jets saw Toledo lose all three games (one to Cleveland, two to Flint) to set up the two-game showdown this weekend.

If the Jets win both games against Toledo in regulation time, they get fourth place in the NA3HL East and the last playoff berth by virtue of more victories than the Cherokee.

Game time is 7 p.m. Friday night in Toledo and then 7:50 p.m. Saturday night at Lakeland Arena.


Four players – defensemen Brad Hepler and Adam Lockner and forwards Holm and Kyle Downey – have played in all 46 games this season for the Jets.

Every Jets’ player has recorded at least one point this season, save for forward Cam Bruff, defenseman Anthony Catalina and goaltenders Kam Limburg and Davide Mantovani. Goalie Trevor Kalinowski has two assists this year.


Wylie Rogers, a goaltender on the Jets’ 2002 Silver Cup-winning Junior B national championship team, has hung up the skates and is now in his second season as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Rogers, a 28-year-old Fairbanks native, played four years at the school from 2004-08 before playing three years with the Central Hockey League’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees and one year in the Netherlands.

In addition to the Jets, where he went 22-5-0 with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage, Rogers also played junior hockey with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (then with the America West Hockey League), Victoria Salsa of the British Columbia Hockey League and seven games with the U.S. National Team Development Program.