FRASER, Mich. – The 40 wins the Metro Jets earned during the NA3HL’s regular season are out the window.
Tonight, the Silver Cup Playoffs begin with the Jets making the four-hour trek to Wooster, Ohio, for Game 1 of the East Division best-of-three semifinals with the Oilers.
The Jets went 6-1-1 against Wooster during the regular season, which wrapped up last Saturday in a 10-1 win over the Oilers at Fraser Hockeyland.
“We know Wooster isn't going to just lay down and not give us anything,” Metro captain Matt Dempsey said. “We know they are gonna come out hard for this first round of playoffs. It starts with a good practice week and we had a good season but like ‘Q’ says, we’re back at zeroes now. Now we have to prove ourselves in playoffs.”
Game 1 starts tonight at 9:30 p.m. at the Alice Noble Ice Arena.
“We know they’re going to come back with a big push, so we just have to play strong, play our game, and it should go our way,” added Jets forward Graham Day.
Metro finished 40-5-2 during the season, which was good for second overall in the NA3HL behind perennial powerhouse North Iowa’s 42-2-3 mark.
“We have our lineup and we’re ready for the war,” Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville said. “We definitely have something to continue to prove here in the playoffs and as successful as the season was, we know what we need to do moving forward. Our game plan the whole year has been to refocus every week and come in with a clean slate, find new goals. Getting 40 wins was a significant accomplishment, but giving ourselves a chance to repeat last year’s playoff success starts fresh tonight.”
Jets forward Jacob Drinkard is in agreement with his head coach.
“Everyone is super focused on the task at hand,” Drinkard said. “We all know the road we have to go through to get where we wanna be and everyone is prepared for that. We have to just realize that playoffs is a new season, everyone has the same record now. We accomplished what we needed to in the regular season and now it’s just time to complete our next goal. I think a big key for us in this series is to use our speed and our ability to move the puck.”
Wooster, who finished 19-21-7 in the regular season to notch the fourth seed for the playoffs, has been led all season by goaltender Joe Morgan, who went 15-14-1-2 this year with a 3.50 GAA and a .898 save percentage. The Oilers’ offense will come from Mike Zenone (18 goals, 37 points), Rubin Chavarria (13 goals, 30 points), Tyler Houmard (16 goals) and Christian Miller (16 goals). Brad Sneed and Mike Ragone are steady on the back end.
Not changing any ingredient in what brought the Jets success during the regular season is a big component of the playoffs, according to Jets forward Michael Tratar.
“Our mindset is to keep it simple and we are going to focus on one game at a time,” Tratar said. “With it being my third year playing juniors, it's always been tough to forget about the regular season heading into playoffs. As a team we have done a great job exhibiting a short memory when moving on to the next game. All year, we never had back-to-back losses and that shows a lot of poise from our guys being able to bounce back when the going gets tough. ‘Q’ always says that there are three seasons in hockey and come playoff time it doesn't matter what we did in the regular season, this is a new season and we need to get prepared for the next team.
“We have a lot of talent and depth on this team and what it takes to go far is playing together and for each other, and I believe we have that mindset and will do whatever it takes to get the win.”
Game 2 is tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. back at Fraser and if a deciding Game 3 is needed, that game goes Sunday at Fraser at 12:45 p.m.