FRASER, Mich. – It’s natural progression for Matt Dempsey.
Two seasons ago when he joined the Metro Jets as an 18-year-old rookie, Dempsey found himself immersed in getting acclimated to junior hockey in the North American 3 Hockey League.
Then last year, Dempsey played another season for the Jets, earned a mid-season call-up to the North American Hockey League’s Keystone Ice Miners and served as an assistant captain for Metro.
Now in his final season of junior eligibility, the New Baltimore, Mich., native will don the ‘C’ as the team captain this year and will do it closer to home at Fraser Hockeyland, the new home arena for the Jets organization.
“My reason for coming back to the Jets is to give myself the best opportunity to go to college,” said Dempsey, who turns 20 on Oct. 16. “I worked a lot in the offseason on my strength and quickness, and I think my role on the team will be to be a consistent player in the lineup, work hard and put up points.”
Metro’s assistant captains this year are Graham Day, Jake Drinkard and Michael Tratar.
During the 2014-15 season, Dempsey posted 12 goals and 38 points – nearly double the production from his 20-point season in 2013-14.
“’Demps’ is one of the originals from when I took over here in Metro (in Sept. 2013), said Metro coach-GM Justin Quenneville. “He has progressed and developed tremendously over the past two seasons, but what impresses me the most in Matt is his character. He is a team player, cares about his peers and is willing to put the work in everyday. He deserves the opportunity to lead this team on and off the ice and will be a good role model for our younger core.”
And after registering three assists in last weekend’s season-opening sweep in Pittsburgh, Dempsey looks to be picking up where he left off last season. Only now, he’ll get to do it playing home games in his backyard.
“What I'm looking forward to the most playing in Fraser is being able to have all the necessities to get better under one roof,” Dempsey said. “There's the ice, the gym (Michigan Athletic Training), we do video, everything. I played there as a kid growing up and I live in the area, so to finish out my junior career there will be really cool. I just want to work as hard as I can and get as much out of this season as I can.
“I expect the team to do the same with everything right here for us. All we can do is use it and work hard, and I think the momentum from last year will carry over with the returners we have back and our rookies this year will do a great job of carrying that momentum.”
Dempsey added that he’s hoping a college hockey opportunity is in his future, as well as a long playoff run in the spring that hopefully ends with a Silver Cup title.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Last weekend, Metro hit the road to play a pair in Pittsburgh and came away with two wins over the Vengeance at the Alpha Ice Complex – 5-2 on Saturday night and 6-1 Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night, Tratar led the way offensively with a pair of goals, while Kam Limburg made 21 saves in goal.
Quenneville said he was impressed by how the line of Tratar, Dempsey and Mathias Tellstrom moved the puck and how the team overall seemed to limit Pittsburgh’s chances.
Tellstrom and Mark Vansaw each posted two assists on the night.
“It's really good to get the first win out of the way – I'm sure we were all nervous,” said Tratar. “Now that we have the first win under our belt, we can keep improving and hopefully, go on a little streak. I thought the game went really well, we made smart plays and did the simple things. You could really tell the last three weeks of practice has paid off because all the drills we've been doing transferred over into the game.”
Chas Distelrath and Spencer Graham scored 30 seconds apart early in the third period to give the Jets a 4-2 lead after Pittsburgh tied the game in the first minute.
Drinkard tallied midway through the third and the Jets defense tightened up the rest of the way.
“Tonight’s win was for our owner, Pete Cammick,” added Quenneville. “He definitely deserves it.”
Then Sunday, Day, Distelrath, Devin Kelly, Dylan Naumovski, Tratar and Pearce Vance scored, while Marc Schwartz, Jason Newel and Dempsey chipped in two assists apiece.
"We got in a special teams battle today, but did a good job shutting down their limited chances,” Quenneville said. “I thought we put pressure offensively and created a lot more offensively today as well. Overall, a strong opening weekend on the road and we will look to get ready for our next opponent now.”
Jets goaltender Trevor Kalinowski stopped 26 shots.
“It was a great way to start the season off with a sweep on the road,” said Distelrath. “I thought we played really well today and did the little things to get the job done this weekend. I was happy to contribute offensively and look forward to see what we can do moving forward.”
The Jets (2-0-0) play in Toledo on Friday night and then open Fraser Hockeyland on Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop against the West Michigan Wolves. The first 100 fans through the door will get a free gift.
All Jets games will also continue to be made available on www.fasthockey.com.
Metro’s assistant captains for the 2015-16 season are Drinkard, Day and Tratar.
Game programs will be available for $1 at the Fraser Hockeyland ticket booth on game days.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Steven Oleksy, a Jets defenseman for two stints from 2003-05, made his NHL debut in March 2013 with the Washington Capitals – the first former Jets player to make the NHL.
This offseason, Oleksy, a 29-year-old Chesterfield, Mich., native, signed a free- agent contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Check out the Jets official website at www.metrojetshockey.com, like us on Facebook (search Metro Jets Hockey) and follow on Twitter @metrojetshockey.