WATERFORD, Mich. – Last season, Jacob Drinkard played against the Metro Jets as a rookie with the Flint Jr. Generals.
When the Cronk family sold the Jr. Generals and the franchise relocated to La Crosse, Wis., Drinkard decided to make the move with the team and start fresh in new surroundings.
Only problem was that Drinkard didn’t get that “right fit” feeling in La Crosse. He was traded to the Jets on Oct. 30 after playing just three games and scoring one goal.
“Things in La Crosse just weren’t right for me and I knew I needed a change,” said Drinkard, an 18-year-old forward out of Lapeer, Mich. “I knew Metro had great team and a great coaching staff and I felt that coming to Metro would be the best thing for me. Playing against Metro last year, I knew they had talent and a great coaching staff that really brought the best out of the team.
“The trade has really helped me being around just a great group of guys and an amazing coaching staff. Coach Q (Justin Quenneville) has really helped me develop my game.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Drinkard is averaging almost a point per game as a Jet, scoring six goals with 11 assists for 17 points in 20 games. He exploded for a goal and three assists last Saturday in Cincinnati and added two more goals Sunday as the Jets swept the Swords to clinch a playoff berth in the NA3HL playoffs.
“When we had the opportunity to acquire ‘Drinks,’ I knew we were solidifying our depth chart up front,” Quenneville said. “He brings another element of toughness to our forward core and versatility that every team needs. He’s big, strong, smart, tough and coachable. We are lucky to have him and will need him in playoffs.”
In showing his versatility, Drinkard has been used on several different forward line combinations. When he first arrived in Waterford, he skated alongside Jacob Gleason and Graham Day and recently, has been with Zach Koonce (a teammate last season in Flint) and Jake Sealy.
“We have really been clicking,” added Drinkard. “We have a very special team here that I believe can get to the Silver Cup and potentially, Nationals. As a team, we are focused on that goal. We have great leadership in our captains and our coaches.”
Down the line, Drinkard has aspirations to move up a rung to the NAHL and to eventually earn a shot at college hockey.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
With their two wins in Cincinnati over the weekend, Metro clinched a playoff berth.
The Jets won 11-2 Saturday night and then 6-3 Sunday afternoon to also leapfrog Toledo into sole possession of second place in the East Division, two points up on Toledo.
“Our guys played hard against Cincy and I felt we took care of business by dictating the play throughout the weekend,” Quenneville said. “They are being rewarded for their play the last couple months with a lot of wins because of the process they bought into. We are playing strong hockey and I can only hope they continue to respond every week by continuously building towards playoffs.”
In Saturday night’s win, Koonce (three goals, two assists) and Sealy (two goals, three assists) had five-point games to go along with Drinkard’s four points. Tyler Layle and Cooper McLean each added a goal and two assists, Cody Jones posted a goal and an assist and Chris Williams and Andrew Sawyer notched one goal apiece.
Max Vance and Devin Kelly registered two assists each and goaltender Stephen Wroe stopped 17 shots for the win between the pipes.
Drinkard, Sealy and Koonce all finished plus-7, while Jacob Rutkoske, Sergey Golov, Layle and Kelly were all plus-4.
Sunday, McLean went for a goal and assist, Drinkard scored twice and Jake Stephan finished with 22 saves in goal.
Gleason, Jones and Kyle Shreve scored one each and Vance and Matt Dempsey each contributed a pair of helpers. Golov finished plus-4 for the game.
The Jets stay on the road with a 7 p.m. contest Wednesday night against the West Michigan Wolves to start a delayed home-and-home set. The two teams meet again Saturday night at Lakeland Arena for a 7:50 p.m. puck drop.
Last week, the NA3HL announced the rosters for the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament that will be held Feb. 23-24 at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Dempsey and Vance earned the nod for the Jets, along with team captain David Chavis II. All three will play for Team East at the event.
The number of players each NA3HL team is sending to the tournament was based on each team’s winning percentage within their division as of Jan. 22, 2015.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Mike Moroso, a forward that played for the Jets during the 2010-11 season, is now a junior at Western Michigan and playing for the ACHA Division I team.
The 23-year-old Macomb, Mich., native tallied 20 goals and 36 points (good for third in team scoring) in 43 games with the Jets and then moved up to the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons in 2011-12, scoring 14 goals with 24 assists for 38 points over 56 games.
After a season at ACHA D-I Adrian College in 2012-13, Moroso transferred to WMU.