WATERFORD, Mich. – After just barely missing out on the North American 3 Hockey League playoffs last season, the Metro Jets are optimistic heading into the season-opening series this weekend in Pittsburgh.
That said, optimism doesn’t win games on the ice and Jets’ fourth-year head coach Jason Cirone is realistic when it comes to season expectations in early September for Metro, a franchise entering its 25th season of operation.
“Right now, I think we’re right where we should be,” Cirone said. “The chemistry is pretty good, but as it always is, it usually takes the first few weeks of the season for the guys to get to know each other and how each other plays.”
Back from the Metro squad that went 22-23-3-0 a year ago are forwards Zack MacKay (Brighton, pictured) and Alex Holm (West Bloomfield), defensemen Brad Hepler (Chelsea) and T.J. Krajewski (Macomb) and goaltender Trevor Kalinowski (Commerce Township). Cam Bruff (Flushing) skated with the Jets during the 2011-12 season and is back up front this season as well.
New to Lakeland Arena this year are goalies Davide Mantovani (Gallio, Italy) and Kameron Limburg (Howell), both of whom will battle with Kalinowski for time between the pipes.
“Having three goalies is always good because it makes all three push each other to do their best,” said Cirone. “(Assistant coach) Randy Wilson has done a great job recruiting these guys and getting them here.”
Other newcomers include defensemen Kenny Forton (Petoskey) and Adam Lockner (Farmington Hills) and forwards Cooper McLean (Farmington Hills), Spenser Boman (Auburn Hills), Cody Jones (Keego Harbor), Kyle Downey (Canton), Zack Kopinski (Royal Oak), Travis Baranowski (Walker) and Matt Dempsey (Chesterfield).
Forton was a second-round pick of the Jets earlier this summer, while Kopinski was a third-rounder, Downey was tabbed in the fifth round, Jones in the seventh and Baranowski in the ninth round.
The Jets head to Pittsburgh this Saturday and Sunday to play the Pittsburgh Vengeance and then open the home portion of their schedule next Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15, against the Cincinnati Swords. Game times at Lakeland are 7:50 p.m. on Saturday and 11:50 a.m. on Sunday. Tickets are just $5 and are available at the door.
“We’re going into Pittsburgh hoping to get two wins – that’s the bottom line,” said Cirone. “We know what we get when we play Pittsburgh and that’s a team that likes to score goals and a team that keeps the tempo high. We’re expecting the same thing from Cincinnati in our building. They always play us hard and it’s up to us as coaches to gauge where our guys are and how to build from that.
“Overall, this season is going to be like any other season. If these guys learn to play well in their own end and play for each other, we’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of how long it will take to get us to that point and that’s up to the players.”