Friday, March 13, 2009

Jets' season forgettable, positive all in one

The Metro Jets finished the 2008-2009 season with just seven wins in 45 games, down from their nine wins of a year ago, but still found plenty of reasons to walk away from their 20th anniversary season with their collective heads held high.

Individually, several players achieved success on the ice with third-year defenseman Brett Grech notching 40 points to finish second on the team and second among all Central States Hockey League blueliners.

““He’s our best player and it’s going to be hard to replace him next year when he moves on,” Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop said. “But there isn’t anyone more deserving of advancement than Grechy.”

Finishing first in scoring was captain Adam Novack, whose 57 points were good enough for 13th overall in the CSHL. He finished the year with 19 points in his last seven games, including a four-goal, one-assist game Feb. 14 against Queen City. This all happened, remarkably enough, with an injury to start the season.

“At the beginning of the year, maybe three or four weeks in, Novy broke his foot in practice, but didn’t miss a single game or practice,” said Skop. “He’d walk into the rink with his walking cast on, take it off, jam his skate on and go out and score a couple goals. I think he answered any and all questions right there and just continued to lead by example.”

Novack and rookie Will Saley, one of two 2008 draft picks to make the team, were also the only two players to suit up for all 45 games. Tough defenseman Steve Lockwood emerged as a team leader, led the CSHL in penalty minutes with 216 despite having his season cut short by a shoulder injury.

“Woody’s biggest asset is his size and strength,” said Skop. “At the beginning of the season, he seemed very tentative to use it. He got into a good scrap in Dubuque (against Seth Burrow three seconds into the game Nov. 22), won that fight, and played very confident ever since. Not only did he start winning his fights, but his entire game improved.”

Off the ice, the Jets introduced their new website in September and also brought aboard two new staff members in strength and conditioning coach Stephanie Dunn and communications director Matt Mackinder. Both will return for the 2009-2010 season along with Skop and head coach Jamie Hayden, scout Tim Ross and trainer Dave Ross.

Skop, also new this season, played on Metro’s 2002 Silver Cup-winning Junior B national championship team and has been actively recruiting players for next year.

Jets owner and general manager Butch Wolfe already has ideas on how to put the past behind him and focus on next fall.

“In my opinion, a major contributing factor to our lack of success this year was our misjudging of the character of those players who failed to finish the season with us,” said Wolfe. “Needless to say, we were way off base in our assessments of those players. Without question, next season we need to rethink how we evaluate that trait in prospective players.”

Next up for the Jets will be a tryout camp next month and then the CSHL Priority Selection in late May. More information will be posted on the Metro Jets website when it becomes available.

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