WATERFORD, Mich. – Cody Jones said there was “never any doubt.”
His goal in the final minute of the second period put the Metro Jets up 2-1 on the Pittsburgh Vengeance in the deciding Game 3 of the NA3HL East Division finals Sunday afternoon.
And that’s the way it ended as the Jets held off the Vengeance for the third period and skated away in the Lakeland Arena finale with a division playoff championship.
The Jets will now join the other five division playoff champions for the Silver Cup tournament next weekend in Chicago. The winner of that event will represent the NA3HL in the USA Hockey Tier III Junior National Tournament at the end of the month in Simsbury, Conn.
“I went to the net and ‘Coop’ (Cooper McLean) got the puck up to the point,” explained Jones. “I remember looking up and ‘Chavy’ (Jets’ captain David Chavis) shot it through the screen and it hit me right on the skate and it was just laying there for me. I got rid of it as fast as I could – best one ever.”
Ryan Bloom opened the scoring at 14:05 of the first period before Nils Markgren tied it for Pittsburgh 7:41 into the second.
Jets’ goalie Jake Stephan, inserted as the starter after Kam Limburg played Games 1 and 2, earned the win with a 17-save performance.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Stephan said. “Getting the opportunity to play possibly the last game for my team and seeing us come up big, it’s an unreal feeling.”
Pittsburgh goaltender Brian Baker stopped 45 shots in suffering the loss.
Metro head coach Justin Quenneville said after the game that getting to this point of the season starts with “waking up in the morning wanting to be the best.”
“You train to be the best and you hope to be the best,” said Quenneville. “When we were putting this team together last summer, we knew we had something special. We found some good pieces and added a few more as the season went along. Collectively as a team, the kids showed some promise, some promising hockey, in terms of where we could end up at the end of the year.
“At the end of the day, you just try to prepare them as best as possible and hope for them to buy in, and these kids have done that.”