WATERFORD, MI– Matt Braun picked a pretty good time to get his first win of the season last Sunday for the Metro Jets.
Playing both ends of a two-game series in Chicago against the North American 3 Hockey League’s top team, the Chicago Hitmen, Braun rebounded from a loss Saturday night to make 31 saves in regulation and overtime and then stop all five shooters in the shootout as the Jets won the game, 3-2.
Braun’s efforts may not have been the material for a Hollywood motion picture, but it was still a great moment for the 18-year-old New Jersey native, Eric Trunick’s backup much of the season.
“It was great finally getting my first win and getting it against the first place team made it even better,” said Braun. “Before the shootout, I was pretty nervous. This was my first shootout in juniors. During the shootout, I calmed down a bit and just did what I had to do and focus on the puck and not fall for any dekes. After the shootout, it felt great knowing that we just beat the first place team.”
The only non-Michigander on the Metro roster, Braun said being away from home for the first time has been “a wonderful experience” and that he hopes the Jets can help him attain higher levels of hockey.
“(Goaltending) coach (Randy) Wilson and (head) coach (Jason) Cirone have been great helping me get my game where it needs to be to move on,” noted Braun. “I don’t feel that I pattern myself after any goalie. I just play how I have to play.”
And play he does. Just look at the 2009-2010 season.
Last year, Braun won an NJSIAA/Devils Public B state championship with Ramsey High School (just outside New York City), making 40 saves and posting a shutout in the title game. He had hoped to stay local to play junior hockey, but when that option fell through, he had another opportunity just around the corner.
“I came in contact with the Jets through Randy,” explained Braun. “He has helped me out a lot this past summer with finding a team to play for and when things weren’t going so well for me back in New Jersey, I decided to give him a call and he said he would call coach Cirone. As soon as I know it, I’m packing up my stuff to come and play out here.”
Now with a boatload of confidence, Braun is hoping that rubs off on his teammates going into the final three games of the calendar year.
”I feel that our team is on the upswing now and we’re going to do a lot better in the second half of the season,” Braun said. As for myself, I just hope to be the best I can and help my team out as much as possible.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets ended their losing streak Sunday afternoon in the shootout win over the Chicago Hitmen.
After Mike Moroso (Macomb, Mich.) and Tommy Burns (Pinckney, Mich.) scored in the second period, Matt Stirling (Dexter, Mich.) tallied the only goal in the shootout
Saturday night, the Hitmen topped the Jets, 6-2.
Moroso and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney, Mich.) each had a goal and an assist and Stirling assisted on both goals.
Braun made 43 stops between the pipes.
The Jets (8-15-1-0) host the Peoria Mustangs this weekend at Lakeland Arena for two games. Game time Saturday night is 7:40 p.m. with a 1:20 p.m. Sunday matinee. Metro then plays Tuesday night in Flint before breaking for the holidays.
“Beating Chicago let us know that we can put it to any team out there,” Metro captain Morgan James said. “We are a good team and we are going to let it be known. Sunday’s game was very exciting, but that’s over now. We've got other games ahead. Peoria is solid team and it will take the same effort to beat them.”
Forward Matt Stemkoski (Novi, Mich.) has two goals and two assists in six games since being acquired from Toledo on Nov. 12 … Moroso, Metro’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 25 points, has six of those points (two goals, four assists) over his last five games … Stirling is also on a mini-streak with six points (goal, five assists) in his last three games.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Karl Merkle, a forward on the 1995-1996 Jets team, still lives in Waterford is now an area manager for Honeybaked Ham.
Merkle’s younger brother, David, played for the Jets last season.
Photo by Andy Grossman