Friday, September 14, 2012

Jets anxious to start NA3HL season

The Metro Jets went with an older, seasoned roster in 2011-12 and had their best season in several years.

This year, the roster looks a bit younger and while wins and losses may not mirror last season, the expectations for Metro coach Jason Cirone have not changed.

“We’re a development league and our goal is to develop these kids and move them to the North American Hockey League and the United States Hockey League,” said Cirone, entering his third year behind the bench in Waterford. “I’m excited that we have a younger team, to be honest with you, but I know the returning guys will help to bring along the younger guys.”

Third-year forward Matt Stirling (pictured above) will serve as the Jets’ captain this year after having been an alternate his first two seasons with the Jets. According to Cirone, Stirling was the obvious choice.

“I don’t know how much more I can expect from Matt,” said Cirone. “He has been outstanding for us the past two years. He’s played forward, he’s played ‘D,’ he’s done everything I’ve asked of him and done it well.”

Stirling said that while he’ll be the one donning the ‘C,’ he won’t be alone in leading Metro.

“As captain this year, I don’t feel much outside pressure because I have been here and know what to expect,” said Stirling, a 20-year-old from Dexter. “I put more pressure on myself this year than the past few just because I need to be a role model for a lot of these younger guys to look up to. I learned a lot about the role between (2010-11 captains Mike) Corder and Morgan (James) and (2011-12 captain Tommy) Kilgore as I have seen how they have handled certain situations and have learned from them along the way. I also plan to rely on older guys like (Jeff) Monfils, (Doug) Andrews and (Derek) Britton to help assist me.”

The Jets open the 2012-13 North American 3 Hockey League campaign this weekend with games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena against the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution.

“My expectations for the season are for the guys to keep improving as a team and individually,” Stirling said. “With the guys we have this year, I think we can be one of the premier teams in the league and I expect us to make a good playoff run this year. I think after the first week of the season, the older guys might have to carry some of the load, but as the younger guys get used to the system and the pace of play, the team will come together and gel pretty well.

“We have a lot of young talent that is different from past seasons. The younger guys may be a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the season, but should settle down and be a huge part of what the Metro Jets need to be successful. I think with this younger talent and a mixture of the older guys we can be very successful this year. All of the rookies have done well so far and they are all catching on to the system and what we are trying to do.”

Back from last season are forwards Travis Hargett (Clarkston) and Andrews (Macomb), along with defenseman Chad Frost (Clarkston). Monfils (Cleveland, Washington native) and Britton (Toledo, Sterling Heights native) played in the NA3HL last year as well.

In goal, gone is Petoskey’s Dillon Kelley (NAHL’s Corpus Christi Ice Rays), but the three newcomers – Trevor Kalinowski (Commerce Township), Luke DuBois (New Boston) and Austin Julvezan (Dexter) – will rotate for the first few weeks until one takes the reins as the No. 1 goaltender.

Randy Wilson has done a great job with all of our goalies and I’m not a goalie coach, so whatever Randy tells me about our goalies, I listen,” Cirone said. “Last year when Devin Williams got called up to Erie (Otters of the Ontario Hockey League), we only had one other goalie in Dillon and to his credit, he stepped up and played well for us. We learned our lesson, though, and this year, we’ll carry three goalies and will see if anyone jumps up for us.”

Other first-year Jets include forwards Ryan Chapie (Midland), James Tuljus (West Bloomfield), Zach MacKay (Brighton), 2012 first-round pick Mike Gambino (Livonia) and Chris Mayer (West Bloomfield) and defensemen Steve Shariak (New Boston), Myles Burrough (Metamora), T.J. Krajewski (Macomb), Thomas Evans (Waterford) and the recently-turned 16-year-old Ian Springfield (Sterling Heights).

Chapie’s cousin, Adam Chapie, played in the NA3HL for Cleveland and then in the NAHL for New Mexico before heading to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where he is now a freshman on the Riverhawks’ Division I hockey team.

How will the mix of young and old shake out for the Jets? This weekend will prove to be a test, no doubt.

“We open the season against a Battle Creek team that was much improved last year from their first year and I only expect them to get better,” said Stirling. “This will be a competitive series and I expect that they will come ready to play.”

Game time Saturday night is 7:50 p.m.with a 12:10 p.m.puck drop scheduled for Sunday.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

No comments: