Friday, January 08, 2010

Jets are 'still a playoff-caliber team'

The second half of the season is here for the Metro Jets, but with just 17 games left on the schedule, time is running out in the Jets’ quest to qualify for a playoff berth.

That being said, there is no sense of panic at Lakeland Arena these days.

“This is still a playoff-caliber team,” forward Jon Wickersham said. “We have a lot of games coming up that we should and can win. We just need to worry about those first and if we get in the playoffs, I think we can make a good run. Everybody needs to want to win every game from here on out and work hard enough to put us in a position to win those games.”

Heading into this weekend, the Jets are 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. It might seem like an uphill battle, and perhaps it is, but it’s a battle the players are yearning for.

“We have a goal to get 27 points the rest of the regular season – ‘The Road to 27 Points’ as we call it,” Metro defenseman and captain Mike Corder said. “I want to see how well the team can respond to the kind of pinch we are in to make the playoffs. We need to bear down, put some pucks in the net, and win some of the games here in the last 17.”

Metro has been off since Dec. 21, when the Jets lost to Chicago, 4-1, in the final game of the CSHL Showcase. Now that the holidays have passed and it’s a new year, it’s time to get back to work and start adding some wins.

“The second half is here and I'm looking forward to the same things I was at the beginning of the year,” Jets coach Ryan Skop said. “We set some goals as a team and I'm looking forward to the challenge of accomplishing those goals. Yeah, we're a little bit behind where I'd like, or thought we'd be right now as far as the standings go, but we have an opportunity to correct that here. If we want that to happen, we'll have to coach better, they'll play better, work harder, and we'll roll the dice. That's what I'm looking forward to.”

“Under-achievers need to and will be held accountable to raise their game to an acceptable level,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe added. “Other players need to remain on track. However, more players have to step up on a more consistent basis for this to happen. At this point in the season, there are no rookies.”

Skop and Wolfe each singled out a handful of defensive players that helped get the Jets to within striking distance of the playoffs.

“Starting in goal, (Ian) Mercer's been great,” Skop said. “He's given us a chance to win every single night he's been in net. Whether that means making 60 saves or 20 saves, he's been up to the task every single night. If we want to go anywhere, that'll have to continue. Also, on the back end, (Steve) Lockwood and Corder have been tremendous. We're talking about two guys who really take care of their own end and keep opponents honest.

“If we're going to make a run for the playoffs, it'll have to continue to be about defense and goaltending.”

Preventing goals is one thing, but scoring goals is another.

“If we're going to catch Chicago, Quad City or Flint, we're going to have to be more consistent, plain and simple,” said Skop. “We’ve struggled scoring goals thus far, but with (Tim) Hooker back and healthy and a few other guys starting to step up, I expect that to take care of itself. Bottom line is consistency.”

Corder is taking these next 17 games personally.

“I feel I need to hold my team accountable and lead by example,” said Corder. “I have to be an impact player.”

If that intensity rubs off on the rest of the players, the playoffs will become a reality. Until then, however, the Jets have to take it one game at a time.

“We just need to stop talking and start doing,” defenseman Brett Grech said. “We have the players to win hockey games we just need to do it already. I haven’t played to my potential yet and neither have a lot of the guys on our team. Hopefully, things will start to flow in the second half.”


Off last weekend, the Jets host the Chicago Force this weekend for a pair at Lakeland Arena.

Saturday night’s game starts at 7:40 p.m., while Sunday’s matinee gets underway at 1:20 p.m.

Chicago has won both meetings with the Jets this season with those wins coming at the league showcase three weeks ago.

For the Force (14-13-1), forward Louie Educate leads the CSHL with 34 goals, while four other players – Anthony Domico (10), Geno Malone (11), Matt Spica (11) and Edward Schaeffer (16) – have double-digit goals.

Robert Kennedy has eight wins in goal and Louie Ronayne (Northville) has three wins as a very capable backup.


The Jets added huge defenseman Sam Bell (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) this week from the Motor City Metal Jackets of the North American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old native of Munith played for the Jets back in the 2007-2008 season.

Bell had a goal and an assist in 19 games with Motor City this season, along with 65 penalty minutes.


The Oakland University ACHA D-I team boasts several Metro alumni, including last year’s captain and leading scorer Adam Novack, Kevin Kranker, Mike Simpson, Alex Pikunas, Jake DeSano, Jordan McDonald and Jesse Worrell.

McDonald currently leads the Golden Grizzlies in scoring with 17 goals and 32 points through 23 games.

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