FRASER, Mich. – It’s one thing to have a successful product on the ice and the Metro Jets certainly have that this season.
It’s another aspect of a growing organization to make a difference off the ice and the Jets have done that in strides in their first year playing at Fraser Hockeyland.
Back on Dec. 5, the team held a toy drive and a teddy bear toss at their game that saw more than 60 stuffed animals and an enormous amount of other toys collected and delivered to the William Beaumont Hospital pediatric unit in Royal Oak by Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville, forward Michael Tratar and defenseman Robby Flannery.
“It means a lot to be involved in your community,” said Tratar, a native of nearby Madison Heights. “Sometimes you take for granted all the stuff you have and forget that it's not like that for everyone else, so we try to help out the community as much as we can. We love helping out and will keep at it for the rest of the season. This time of the year is huge for helping out the community. With Christmas right around the corner, families don't always get to enjoy Christmas like some families do, so it's nice to help them enjoy the holiday like everyone should.”
Flannery, from Lathrup Village, was elated to take part in delivering the stuffed animals and toys to Beaumont.
“This time of year, helping out in the local community just means that much more,” Flannery said. “The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people and being able help families out can mean a happier holiday for them. Going to Beaumont with the toys and the teddy bears was a great feeling, knowing that the kids there will have something to help pass their time with a game or a teddy bear to help get them through a treatment. That stuff makes what they're going through a little easier. It can take their mind off of it for a bit. It's a great feeling knowing they have that stuff now to help them out.”
Players have also volunteered at Fraser-area elementary schools, helped out with Jr. Jets team practices over the course of the season and walked in the Mount Clemens Santa Claus parade on Nov. 21.
Jets owner Pete Cammick said that while he’s impressed with the team’s 19-3-2 record to this point, he’s more excited with the community impact the team has made.
“Frankly, I think that’s more important than the performance on the ice,” said Cammick. “This is a developmental league and you expect the players to get better and better on the ice and prepare for their future, but in the community, that’ll be something that’s really long-lasting for the entire organization and the local community. The players have really stepped up and I think they really enjoy getting out there with the local charities and the schools and setting an example for the young kids and future hockey players.”
Quenneville added that seeing a young child with a smile on their face after interacting with one of his players is just as satisfying as getting two points after a hard-fought win on the ice.
"I've been very fortunate to play and coach in environments where the team played a big role in a variety of commitments off the ice,” said Quenneville. “The values these young men have the opportunity to acquire through these experiences and giving back to the community that supports them is very important. Everyone in the organization has played a big role in continuing our participation in local schools, the growth of youth hockey and charitable contributions. None of this would be possible without the players’ commitments and support from our owner, Pete Cammick.
“At the end of the day, these young men have been positive role models in the community and organization, and that is the biggest reward to see as a coach."
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets held a slim 3-2 lead over the Wooster Oilers after 40 minutes, but came out in the third period with a three-goal outburst to take a 6-2 win Saturday night at the Alice Noble Ice Arena.
Chas Distelrath scored a pair of goals for the Jets, while Pearce Vance added three assists and Kam Limburg turned aside 20 shots in goal.
"We executed our game plan well from start to finish,” said Quenneville. “Even when we faced adversity when they tied it up on that power-play goal, we continued to press and put pressure offensively. I'm proud of the way the guys played in the third, in particular.”
Jacob Drinkard, Chase Sereno (who was also unsuccessful on a first-period penalty shot), Tratar and Jason Newel also scored, with Drinkard’s proving to be the game-winner at 19:43 of the second period.
Dylan Naumovski also chipped in two assists from the back end.
“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” said Distelrath. “I felt my line moved the puck great. We played like a team that is in first place.”
Joe Morgan made 43 saves in the Oilers’ net.
Five different players scored and Jake Gwillim picked up his second straight shutout as the Jets defeated the Toledo Cherokee 5-0 Sunday afternoon at Fraser Hockeyland, wrapping up the home portion of the 2015 calendar year.
Graham Day, Cam Schwartz, Devin Kelly, Vance and David Chavis found the back of the net for the Jets, while Gwillim stopped all 22 shots fired his way and also added an assist in the game.
“I think our overall performance was strong and in response to what we’ve gone through here the last day or so with the tough schedule, tough travel, I’m proud of the way the guys battled and I think that shows where we are right now as a team,” Quenneville said. “We’re doing all the little things right and we’re getting rewarded for it, especially down the stretch when we need it in the third period.”
Schwartz’s goal was his first of the season and he said he was just in the right place at the right time.
“Our defense was shooting the puck pretty well today,” Schwartz said. “I was just in front of the net, got a good tip and it went right in.”
Toledo goalie Glen Bates made 29 saves in suffering the defeat.
Metro also killed off all seven Toledo power plays Sunday.
The East Division-leading Jets now head off to Blaine, Minn., for an NA3HL Showcase event. Metro will play the Alexandria Blizzard at 1:45 p.m. EST Thursday, the Rochester Ice Hawks Friday at 1 p.m. and then close out the showcase Saturday with an 11:15 a.m. game with the Billings Bulls.
“The showcase is a great exposure opportunity and the platform they provide there for all the scouts is amazing,” Quenneville said. “It’s a good time of the year for everyone and the guys are all itching to go and hopefully, we can go up there, play well and do a good job representing our division.”
After this weekend, the Jets are idle until playing on the road against the Pittsburgh Vengeance Jan. 9-10. Metro’s next home game isn’t until Saturday, Jan. 23, against the Wooster Oilers for Heroes and Military Night.
On Tuesday, Vance was named the East Division Star of the Week.
Vance recorded five points in the two wins over Wooster and Toledo and was also a plus-4 during the weekend.
“Pearce played consistent both games contributing in all areas,” Quenneville said. “When he gets going, he is a dangerous player offensively and everyone hopes that continues moving forward.”
Gwillim was named the division’s 2nd Star of the Week.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Josh Magnan played 29 games for the Jets in 2009-10 and scored 16 goals and four assists for 20 points.
A Waterford, Mich., native, the 25-year-old Magnan is now in his second season as an assistant coach for the Walled Lake Northern high school hockey team.