WATERFORD, Mich. – Matt Dempsey is the perfect example of what the North American Hockey League’s advancement model is all about.
Playing last season in the North American Prospects Hockey League for the Detroit Falcons, the Chesterfield, Mich., native joined the Metro Jets of the North American 3 Hockey League this year and hopes to complete the trifecta next year in the NAHL.
For now, though, the 18-year-old forward is focused on fine-tuning his skill set with the Jets.
“Last year in the NAPHL, the thing that prepared me most for juniors was the pace and the physicality of that league,” Dempsey said. “I knew the NA3 was good. I had watched the games at some of the showcases and was impressed by the level of play.
“I feel that I have become faster overall this season and I’ve also become smarter and more patient with the puck. I’ve had opportunities this year to play on a line with good players (Josh Beleski and Alex Holm mostly) that I have learned a lot from.”
This season, Dempsey has potted six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 45 games.
He also praised the Metro coaching staff of head coach Justin Quenneville and assistants Tom Krajewski and Randy Wilson.
“The coaching staff has been great,” said Dempsey. “Overall, they have provided me a lot of direction and tweaked my game so that I continue to improve personally and so that we grow as a team.”
Going into this weekend’s home-and-home series with the Toledo Cherokee with the fourth and final East Division playoff spot on the line, Dempsey’s outlook is succinct.
”The team is very focused,” Dempsey said. “We all know what we need to do in order to get the big wins this weekend.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
After sitting idle last weekend, the Jets saw Toledo lose all three games (one to Cleveland, two to Flint) to set up the two-game showdown this weekend.
If the Jets win both games against Toledo in regulation time, they get fourth place in the NA3HL East and the last playoff berth by virtue of more victories than the Cherokee.
Game time is 7 p.m. Friday night in Toledo and then 7:50 p.m. Saturday night at Lakeland Arena.
Four players – defensemen Brad Hepler and Adam Lockner and forwards Holm and Kyle Downey – have played in all 46 games this season for the Jets.
Every Jets’ player has recorded at least one point this season, save for forward Cam Bruff, defenseman Anthony Catalina and goaltenders Kam Limburg and Davide Mantovani. Goalie Trevor Kalinowski has two assists this year.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Wylie Rogers, a goaltender on the Jets’ 2002 Silver Cup-winning Junior B national championship team, has hung up the skates and is now in his second season as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
Rogers, a 28-year-old Fairbanks native, played four years at the school from 2004-08 before playing three years with the Central Hockey League’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees and one year in the Netherlands.
In addition to the Jets, where he went 22-5-0 with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage, Rogers also played junior hockey with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (then with the America West Hockey League), Victoria Salsa of the British Columbia Hockey League and seven games with the U.S. National Team Development Program.