WATERFORD, Mich. – When the Michigan Mountain Cats’ franchise was sold and relocated to Jamestown, N.Y., last spring, several players on the roster wanted to stay close to home and play for a Michigan-based team in the North American 3 Hockey League.
One of those was 19-year-old forward Max Vance, who finished second in Mountain Cats team scoring in 2013-14 with 13 goals and 33 points in 46 games.
A Berkley, Mich., native, Vance was traded over the summer to the Metro Jets and his game has taken off to the tune of sitting atop Metro’s scoring chart with a handful of 22s – seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 22 games with 22 penalty minutes. Three of his goals have come on the power play and one was shorthanded.
The soft-spoken, almost quiet Vance said he wanted to latch on with the Jets to play for head coach Justin Quenneville and to stay close to family.
“Last year was a good step into the league even though we weren't very good,” Vance said. “This year, I think I am leader, a top-line guy and a playmaker. With Metro, I love the boys and everyone feels the same way and we all bought in and are focused on winning our division.”
Vance, who also participated in the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament in Troy, Mich., last February, has earned rave reviews from Quenneville.
“Max has been more urgent on the puck this season and he’s making better decisions with the puck, not turning the puck over and taking chances at the blue line,” Quenneville said. “He’s a better puck manager than he’s given credit for and we’ve been able to work with him to make better decision and to highlight him with those opportunities and he’s taken advantage of it. Hopefully, that continues for him and that translates for more opportunities for him.”
Two seasons ago, Vance skated for the Little Caesars 18U AAA team and then had several junior tryouts over the season, but just came up a tad short. After not having a spot back with Little Caesars, Vance looked to the NA3HL and hasn’t looked back.
And Vance, who said he’s been on skates the better part of the last 17 years, can’t see his future without hockey being a part of it.
”My dad got me into hockey when I was about two years old and I've loved it ever since,” Vance said. “I would say my mom and dad have been my biggest influences on my life and career. They have always been supporting me and pushing me to be my best.
“My long-term goal is keep advancing up. I would like to play on the NAHL and college, but right now, my goal is to help the Jets advance in the standings.”
Other ex-Mountain Cats on Metro’s roster this season are forward Jacob Gleason and defenseman Chris Williams.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets scored just two goals last weekend in suffering a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the Toledo Cherokee.
Friday night at the Team Toledo Ice House, Jacob Drinkard scored the Jets’ lone goal and Jake Stephan stopped 34 shots in net in a 3-1 loss.
Then on Saturday night at Lakeland Arena, Cooper McLean tallied for Metro and Kam Limburg finished with 27 saves in a tough 2-1 loss that had late dramatics.
McLean appeared to score the game-tying goal with 15 seconds to play in the third period, but the goal was disallowed when the officials ruled that the net behind Toledo goalie Glen Bates was knocked off its moorings.
“When we’re lucky enough to play 5-on-5, we’re the better team,” said Quenneville. “We’re limited to those opportunities here lately because of uncontrollable situations, but we will be fine.”
With the Jets sitting idle the previous weekend and the weekend ahead before heading to Blaine, Minn., for the NA3HL Showcase Dec. 7-9, Quenneville said it’s been tough to find continuity in games and practices.
“From a mental standpoint, the guys lose that focus and drive for a goal ahead,” Quenneville said. “The way we played against Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago, we wanted to keep going, we didn’t want that break, so we knew this past weekend would be difficult, but that’s hockey and you have to find a way to overcome all adversities.”
In Blaine, the Jets play the Wisconsin Whalers on Dec. 7 and the Chicago Jr. Bulldogs on Dec. 9. The opponent on Dec. 8 is still to be determined.
Metro captain and defenseman David Chavis II, called up to the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness two weeks ago, is now with the Wilderness for the foreseeable future after four solid games the past two weekends.
Quenneville said it’s up in the air if a new Jets’ captain would be named or if a third alternate would be added to serve with McLean and Matt Dempsey.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Chicago native Anthony Cacciatore played on the Jets’ blue line during the 2000-01 season and after that season, he played two years of Division I club hockey at Robert Morris College and then two years of pro hockey in the United Hockey League with Muskegon and Port Huron.
Cacciatore, now 33, has come full-circle as he now lives and works in Chicago operating his own business as a private and personal chef.