Jets helping to grow Jr. Jets youth program in major strides in Year 2

FRASER, Mich. – The incredible season the Metro Jets have had to date is apparently contagious.

Not only have the Jets dominated the NA3HL, but several Jr. Jets youth teams have also tasted team success.

The Jr. Jets’ Bantam B and Midget BB White teams all won MAHA Districts earlier this month and qualified for the state tournament, while the Midget AA team finished second at Districts and is also heading to states.

In addition, the Jr. Jets’ Pee Wee B and Midget B teams were runners-up in Districts and the Midget BB Blue team will be entering a second-chance tournament to earn a berth to the state tournament.

“This year, we have had very good success at many levels,” said Jr. Jets president Mark Thornton. “We currently have six teams in five different divisions competing in the state finals and the Metro Jr. Jets were awarded to host two different divisions by MAHA this past fall. We look to build off this success and improve our current teams as well as form new teams. In a nutshell, it means we have quality coaches who are developing players. Our coaches and volunteers are the backbone of the organization.”

On the junior side, the Jets remain undefeated in NA3HL play, running their record to 39-0-0 after defeating the West Michigan Wolves last Friday night. The Jets host the Peoria Mustangs this weekend at Fraser Hockeyland.

“Naturally, it’s been special season this year,” Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville said. “I have been blessed to be a part of a successful program here with the Jets and its starts at the top. Our owner, Pete Cammick, gives us the tools to continue to operate the right way and as long as we have players that continue to buy in, then we will provide opportunities to these young men. This year in particular, we got off to a strong start largely in part because of our goaltending. We are a deeper team top to bottom this season, which has given us more punch in the lineup every game.”

When the Jets organization relocated to Fraser in the summer of 2015 and helped the various youth programs at the arena merge and grow into the Jr. Jets, it was expected that success would find its way to the youth ranks over time.

But in less than two years’ time?

“The biggest improvement this season has been the facility itself,” noted Thornton. “The owners have invested a lot of money to improve the ice conditions and they are maintaining the facility better. The Little Jets program is expanding and the kids love it. The Metro Jr. Jets coaches at all levels deserve the credit for the great year we have had. These quality coaches volunteer a lot of their time and we appreciate all the staff members of every team and will continue to support them in growing the game for the Jets and more importantly, the players.”

Two players from the 2015-16 Jr. Jets’ 18U team – goaltender Nick Barrett and forward Jake Stawinski – are rostered with the NA3HL’s Jets and that is another positive sign of growth within the organization.

“It’s a great accomplishment to have players that played Midget AA on the Metro Jr. Jets to make the Metro Jets this past year,” Thornton said. “We hope to continue to grow and develop more players every year that can make the Jets. This just strengthens our younger programs when players can see and talk with other players who have come through the Jets program and now play for the junior team.”

As Thornton mentioned, the Little Jets program (learn to play) is skyrocketing, and with consistent volunteers and the Jets’ own Samantha Johns leading the way, it’s easy to see why the Jets are arguably one of the most highly-sought and recognized associations in all of Michigan.

Before a recent Jets game, numerous players took time to work with the Little Jets on basic techniques and fundamentals.

Smiles and satisfied parents were seen all around the rink during and after the session.

“It’s not a secret that our organization is making a name for itself in town,” Quenneville said. “We have everything available for players and coaches to succeed here and its starts with the foundation of development. We do not distract ourselves with other organizations, in that our primary focus is on the players and how we can help them progress. Our facility here is top notch and players get everything they need to succeed, from unlimited ice, full-size gym with a shooting area, private video rooms and top-notch coaching. Our platform is laid out in a unique way that is organized and a simple concept of getting better every day.

“Mark Thornton and others on the board have helped implement these values and transition the culture here in Fraser as a unit, and it shows why teams and players alike are finding success.”