WATERFORD, Mich. – The Metro Jets will join five other North American 3 Hockey League teams later this week to vie for the coveted Silver Cup championship and an automatic berth to the USA Hockey Tier III Junior National Tournament.
The Jets won the regular-season East Division title and then fought through two rounds of playoffs to earn the right to get to Chicago to play for the Silver Cup.
Metro beat the Southern Tier Xpress in the opening round in two straight games and then needed all three to beat the Pittsburgh Vengeance, winning the East playoff title this past Sunday at Lakeland Arena.
“Obviously, the kids have been really focused as of late and want to do something bigger and better every week,” Jets’ head coach Justin Quenneville said. “This is another great opportunity for the guys, but to be honest, we don’t really change much. We’ve been playing consistent hockey for the last couple months, so we’re glad that we can get right back at it.
“We’ll head into Chicago with the same mindset we’ve had lately and we’ll play our game and let the other teams dictate change and approach to playing us.”
The Jets drew the No. 4 seed in the tournament and open up against the top-seeded and South Division champion Nashville Jr. Predators on Thursday at 3 p.m. EST. Metro then plays the Frontier Division champion Great Falls Americans Friday at 2 p.m. and wraps up pool play on Saturday against the wild card Granite City Lumberjacks at 2 p.m.
Teams are reseeded after pool play.
The West Division champion North Iowa Bulls and Central Division champion West Michigan Wolves, based in Battle Creek, Mich., are the other two teams participating in the event.
“We’ve had this mentality recently,” Metro forward Cody Jones said. “We know we can do it. It’s just a matter of putting it into effect.”
Jets’ captain and defenseman David Chavis II is anxious for the trip to the Windy City.
“I think what the whole team expects a weekend of hard-fought battles,” Chavis said. “There isn't going to be a single game we think will be easy, but we've been playing our game well the last couple weeks and I'm confident the boys will continue to buy in and get the job done.”
GRANITE CITY (MINN.) LUMBERJACKS
Regular season: 33-9-5, second in West Division
Coach: Brad Willner
Key players: Forwards Jared Sprink (25 goals, 50 points) and Dallas Marvin (18 goals, 53 points), defenseman Mitchell Gwost (27 points) and goaltender Jesse Garcia (18-3-1-3, 2.29 GAA, .909 save %, two shutouts)
GREAT FALLS (MONT.) AMERICANS
Regular season: 34-10-3, won Frontier Division championship
Coach: Jeff Heimel
Key players: Forwards Lucas Lomax (30 goals), Josh Larson (16 goals), defenseman Lucas Stover (25 points) and goaltender Lauren Massie (15-8-1-2, 2.14 GAA, .922 save %, two shutouts)
NASHVILLE JR. PREDATORS
Regular season: 42-4-1, first overall, won South Division championship
Coach: Karlis Zirnis
Key players: Forwards Trent Kulczyk (31 goals, second in NA3HL), Ben Falk (25 goals) and Colton Anderson (44 points, plus-39), defenseman Matiss Gelazis (36 points) and goaltender Nathan Klebe (21-3-0 (first in wins), 1.65 GAA (second), .931 save % (fourth), six shutouts, tied for first)
NORTH IOWA BULLS
Regular season: 37-9-1, won West Division
Coach: Todd Sanden
Key players: Forwards Johnny Panvica (26 goals, 62 points, sixth in NA3HL scoring), Joe Burgmeier (28 goals) and Brett Gravelle (61 points, tied for seventh in NA3HL scoring), defensemen Joe Kleven (38 points) and Kurt Halbach (17 points, plus-39) and goaltenders Tommi Ahlgren (12-1-0-1, 2.09 GAA, .923 save %, one shutout) and David Johnson (11-2-0-0, 1.74 GAA, .932 save %, six shutouts, tied for first)
WEST MICHIGAN (MICH.) WOLVES
Regular season: 31-15-1, won Central Division
Coach: Marc Fakler
Key players: Forwards Dakota Ulmer (27 goals, 60 points, plus-39, tenth in NA3HL scoring), Michael Tratar (61 points) and Devin Farkas (24 goals), defensemen Kyle Keeder (22 points) and Corey Siwula (20 points) and goaltender Hunter Vorva (17-6-0-0, 2.04 GAA, .941 save % (first in NA3HL), three shutouts)