FRASER, Mich. – When the Metro Jets preach player development, look no further than rookie defenseman Robby Flannery.
A four-time Division 2 All-State player at Berkley High School (twice honorable mention), Flannery graduated from Berkley in 2015 and left high school with a signed tender to play for the Jets.
“(Jets assistant coach) Randy (Wilson) scouted me in high school and I went out and skated over in Lakeland during my senior year and really liked it, so I tendered,” explained Flannery. “It was a pretty big jump from high school to the NA3. The skill and speed was a big difference compared to high school hockey, along with the length of the season.”
At the start of the 2015-16 season, Flannery was in and out of the lineup, but since the second half of the season, Flannery has been a steady presence on the back end, forcing Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville to have no choice but to put his name on the lineup card each night.
“’Flanny’ was a big signing for the Jets last season,” said Quenneville. “His noticeable assets are his offensive instincts and his shot. He has come a long way since the start of the season and really found his game of late. Our younger guys made impressions early and are a big reason for the success this year. Flanny is one of those big contributors.”
And Flannery, a Lathrup Village, Mich., native, has also seen his game take strides due to some mentoring from three-year NA3HL veteran Jacob Gleason.
“I feel like my game has become more well-rounded,” said Flannery. “Q, (assistant coach) Jamie (Lovell) and Randy are great coaches with a bunch of experience in the game and that has helped a lot. I think after the first couple months, I started becoming more adjusted to the game and getting more comfortable with the level of play. ‘Gleas’ has also really been a big part of my transfer to junior hockey. Great guy, great vet to show me the ropes.”
This season, Flannery has notched four goals and 14 points in 33 games for Metro. He also skated for one of the league’s 18U Select teams at the Top Prospects Tournament earlier this month in Plymouth.
He said that even with all the success, it’s been easy to stay focused.
“We just have fun every week,” Flannery said. “Each week brings a new challenge and when it's so easy to come to the rink every day with all the boys, it's not very hard to start focusing on what’s ahead of us.”
In high school, Flannery played with Stephen Wroe, a former All-State goalie who started last season with the Jets before a deadline deal sent him to the Gillette Wild.
“It just goes to show how much better the Berkley hockey program has become and how Jeff Fleming and the rest of the staff has developed players,” said Flannery. “After seeing Wroe make the jump and talking to him, I knew I wanted to play at Metro the next year.”
With just four games left in the regular season, Flannery has his priorities set to help the Jets keep winning.
“Long-term goals this season as a team are to win the Silver Cup and in the short term, we want 40 wins,” noted Flannery. “On a personal level, I just want to continue to work to get better and shoot the puck more.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The captain delivered Saturday night for the Jets.
After Flannery tied the game with the Toledo Cherokee 2-2 early in the third period, Matt Dempsey’s power-play goal at 15:26 gave the Jets the lead and the team held on the rest of the way for the dramatic come-from-behind win at the Team Toledo Ice House.
“It was a little bit of a broken play from the front of the net,” explained Dempsey. “’Don Chav’ (David Chavis) recovered the puck and skated it down the wall and took it to the net to make a play out front. I came in as a third man while Chas Distelrath crashed the net. The puck took a funny bounce and I heard people in the stands yelling, ‘Shoot.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Oh yeah, now would be the perfect time to shoot.’
“Next thing you know, we’re in the corner celebrating.”
Jason Newel also scored for the Jets, while Kam Limburg stopped 26 shots for his NA3HL-leading 25th win in goal.
Toledo led 2-1 after 40 minutes.
“It was a tough game,” said Quenneville. “We had some frustrating calls and ran into a hungry team with a hot goalie (Glen Bates, 32 saves), but we got some big saves, blocks and played a strong third to close it out in 60. The game was won in special teams and it was good to see everyone contribute.”
The Cherokee scored in the first and second periods Saturday night and held on to beat the Jets 2-1 at Fraser Hockeyland.
Jacob Drinkard scored a shorthanded goal for the Jets and Austin Kane made 26 saves in goal for the Jets.
“We played against a top-notch team,” Quenneville said. “They played an amazing game.”
Toledo goalie Cody Gibson finished with 48 saves.
Both the Jets and Cherokee have earned East Division playoff berths, but the Jets have clinched first place and hold an 18-point lead over Toledo.
The Jets (36-5-2) host the Southern Tier Xpress this weekend at Fraser Hockeyland. Game time Saturday night is 7:30 p.m., followed by a 1 p.m. start Sunday afternoon.
Tickets for all remaining Jets regular-season home games (March 5-6 vs. Southern Tier, March 12 vs. Wooster) are available at the arena ticket office one hour before game time, by emailing Nancy Krajewski at email@example.com, or by clicking www.metrojetshockeytickets.com.
FUNDRAISER WITH MORC STARS ON SUNDAY
The Jets continue to show their commitment to supporting local community outreach with a new partnership with the MORC Stars disabled hockey program.
The MORC Stars hockey team was formed in 2007 as a partnership between Macomb-Oakland Regional Center (MORC) and former professional hockey player Peter Ciavaglia, who some from Michigan may remember from his time playing pro hockey with the Detroit Vipers.
Ciavaglia, who also played for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and the 1994 U.S. Olympic Team, decided it was time to use his hockey talent to assist people with disabilities. He approached MORC, the non-profit human service agency that supports over 4000 people with developmental disabilities in Macomb and Oakland County, and the rest, they say, is history.
On Sunday, March 6, prior to the Jets hosting the Southern Tier Xpress at 1 p.m. at Fraser Hockeyland, the MORC Stars will be running a skate-a-thon fundraiser and will be part of a ceremonial puck drop before the Jets-Xpress contest.
The link to donate – https://secure.ministrysync.com/ministrysync/event/?e=11165
Anyone can participate in the skate-a-thon, but the MORC Stars ask that they obtain a minimum of $100 in pledges. If people don't want to participate, but would like to support the players, they can click on the same link and select "Give" and it will bring up the players who have registered.
“Our coaches are all volunteers and have been around for years – they just love these athletes,” said Tracy Horton from the MORC Stars. “Our goal right from the start was to provide the hockey experience to our players at little to no cost and we've been very fortunate to be able to meet our goal each year through fundraising. We provide ice time, equipment, uniforms and subsidize tournament costs.”
“When we had the opportunity to get involved with the MORC Stars team, it was an easy decision,” added Quenneville. “We wanted to partner specifically for this event so we can highlight the athletes prior to our game and participate in the continued efforts to grow their fundraiser. The Jets organization values local outreach organizations that raise money for a cause and we are excited to help out in any way possible.”
The MORC Stars and the 501(c)3 charity “Skate To Be Great” exist for the enrichment of athletes with developmental disabilities. In addition to teaching the physical skills of ice hockey, the program strives to develop individual characteristics such as dependability, self-reliance, confidence, concentration, willingness to share and personal accountability. Males and females of all ages are welcome.
The organization started in 2007 with seven players and now has more than 100 players – all with special needs. The players range in age from six to 45 years old and the program runs five practice groups each Sunday.
For more information, visit the official MORC Stars website at www.morcstars.com.
Attention Jets alumni!
Come to our last regular-season game on Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. against the Wooster Oilers for recognition and a fun reunion!
Let us know on Twitter with #JetsReunion or tag Metro Jets on Facebook.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Check out the Jets extensive list of alumni at all levels of hockey at THIS LINK.