Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Metal Jackets making noise in NAHL

NAHL Press Release

Hanging tough in the NAHL's tightly contested North Division, the Motor City Metal Jackets took another step in the right direction last weekend with two victories over the Marquette Rangers.

For the first-year Metal Jackets, it marked the first-ever weekend sweep in the program's history.

"That was an important weekend for our organization," said Metal Jackets head coach David Cole, whose team improved to 13-13-6 on the season. "Getting those divisional points in the standings is obviously huge this time of year, but to get that sweep meant a lot for our morale."

RJ Kleiman struck for two goals and an assist as the Metal Jackets skated to a 5-3 win on Friday. John Scorcia notched the game-winning marker and goaltender Randy Willis turned back 26 shots between the pipes.

The next night, Eric Millisor connected for a pair of goals, including the game-winner, in the Metal Jackets' 3-2 victory over the Rangers. Petrus Sipila notched the other Motor City goal and netminder Jason Torf made 33 saves.

"I think we've been playing better than our record indicates, so we figured it was just a matter of time for us to put some back-to-back wins together," said Cole, whose team has suffered five shootout losses this season. "We're competitive every night; perhaps we just needed a break here and there."

Kleiman, the Metal Jackets' leading scorer, has been a steady offensive force the entire season. The 19-year-old from Dewitt, who will skate in the upcoming Sherwood/NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor, now has 14 goals for 31 points through 32 games this season.

"RJ is a very important part of what we're doing here," said Cole. "He's consistently one of our best players, with and without the puck."

Another Top Prospects selection, defenseman Mike Monfredo (pictured), has also impressed. The 19-year-old from Shirley, N.Y., has 16 points (two goals) to his credit after 32 games and his plus-18 rating ranks sixth in the entire NAHL.

"Mike is one of the top defensemen in the league, no question," said Cole. "He's such a versatile player with so much potential."

The Jackets' goaltending tandem of Torf, an 18-year-old from Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Willis, a 20-year-old from Fond du Lac, Wis., is meeting expectations as well. Both hold save percentages of over .900.

"These two guys are playing well and the rest of the team has a lot of confidence playing in front of them," Cole said of his netminders. "They make all the saves they need to and some they shouldn't, and that's the sign of a good goaltender."

Forwards Steve Brancheau, a 19-year-old Top Prospects-bound player from River Rouge, and Cody Wydo, an 18-year-old from Allen Park, are also making timely contributions at both ends of the ice.

"This is a very tight-knit team that's been one of the most enjoyable groups I've ever been involved with," said Cole. "We've been fortunate to recruit and acquire athletes who are good people from good families."

In short time, the Metal Jackets, through the enthusiasm and support of team owner Kenji Yamada, have also been able to build a sound following off the ice.

"It's great to see the local community get behind us and everything we're doing, and we're certainly committed to their efforts as well," said Cole. "We've been able to establish a lot of positive relationships since we arrived, and that's only going to continue."

The Metal Jackets have two players committed to Division I schools to date in Brice Geoffrion (University of Alabama-Huntsville) and Patrick Sullivan (Canisius College). Cole expects more players to follow suit, especially with three players heading to Top Prospects.

"There's no question we have a number of student-athletes who have the capabilities of playing Division I hockey, and, if we continue to succeed as a team, those opportunities will come and the guys know that."

And Cole sees no reason why the wins can't keep coming.

"We're in a very competitive division, but I'm optimistic this group will continue to grow together, improve and compete every night," said the coach.

Photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL

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