WATERFORD, MI – Thomas Evans came all the way from Las Vegas to play for the Metro Jets.
Well, sort of.
A current Waterford native, Evans and his family moved nearly three years ago from the West Coast for a variety of reasons – one of which was, of course, hockey.
“In the beginning, I didn't actually know a lot about the Jets, but I did know about the league and that it was going to be a good place to help me improve and eventually get to where I want to go,” said Evans, who turns 18 in March. “My mom is originally from Port Huron and she wanted to move back and my parents wanted me to go to school here. I also came to have a better chance with hockey.”
Last year, Evans manned the blue line for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and made it all the way to the Division I state high school semi-finals, where Brighton moved on after a double-overtime victory.
Playing at a high level with OLSM made Evans realize the potential he had to play junior hockey.
“After last year, my goal was to play junior hockey this year,” explained Evans, who has a goal of Division I college hockey in the future. “I tried out for the Jets and I liked the team and the coaches, it was close to where I live and all of those things made my choice easy. Coming from high school to juniors was a big step that was challenging, but I feel like it was the right choice and that it was good for me to make that step.”
Making the jump to the NA3HL, Evans hasn’t seen his role as a defenseman change much, only that the game is faster and his decision-making has to be quicker.
“First and foremost, my role is to not allow the other team to score and second, to move the puck up the ice as quick as possible to help our forwards get moving up the ice,” said Evans. “I think my strengths involve my skating ability, passing and seeing the ice.”
Heading into this weekend, Evans wants to see the Jets pick up a couple notches in the win column and eventually, go on a run leading into the league playoffs in March.
”It is always disappointing to not have the record that we would like, but we have had some close games and we could easily have a better record,” Evans said. “I believe that we are all maintaining a positive attitude because it's not over yet. The veteran players all know we can still do it and they all help out the younger guys by being positive even when it's tough for them as well.
“We still want to win and I am sure that is how everybody else on the team feels as well. There is still a lot of hockey to be played this season and we will continue to improve one day at a time.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Last weekend, the Jets suffered a two-game sweep at home to the Michigan Mountain Cats.
Spencer Craig made 44 saves to lead the Mountain Cats past the Jets 3-1 Saturday night.
Kade Morrison scored all three goals for the Mountain Cats and Austin Sartorius picked up a pair of assists.
Metro forward Doug Andrews broke up Craig's shutout bid at 19:26 of the third period.
Riley Corbin made 33 saves in the Metro net.
Sunday afternoon, Michigan took a 4-1 win as Craig made 21 saves for his second straight win.
Brad Hepler scored Metro's lone goal at 13:48 of the third period and Corbin stopped 23 of 27 shots in goal before being lifted for Austin Julvezan 9:50 into the third after Michigan's fourth goal. Julvezan stopped the only shot he faced.
“It was a tough pill to swallow losing to Michigan twice last weekend,” said Metro captain Matt Stirling. “I thought we played well, but it obviously wasn’t enough to win the games. I thought we played well in the first game and really should have won that game, but their goalie was on top of his game.”
Metro (12-18-1-0) hosts the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks this Saturday night at 8 p.m. and then the Toledo Cherokee on Sunday for a 2:50 p.m. start.
After this weekend, the Jets are not home again until March 2.
Jets’ forward Ryan Chapie suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday and is out for the season.
Defenseman Derek Britton (shoulder) may be back before the end of the season and forward Mike Gambino (hand) is still 2-3 weeks away from returning.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Former Jets’ coaches Jon Cooper and John Burkart are now with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.
Cooper, who led the Jets to the 2002 Silver Cup Junior B national title, is the head coach of the Syracuse Crunch, the Lightning’s AHL affiliate. After leaving Metro, Cooper won national championships in the NAHL with the St. Louis Bandits and in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers.
Burkart, an assistant to Cooper on the 2002 team, scouts for Tampa Bay.
Both Cooper and Burkart attended the second annual USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game this past week in Muskegon.