WATERFORD, Mich. – Take a stroll into a Metro Jets practice at Lakeland Arena and two things are certain.
For one, coaches Justin Quenneville and Randy Wilson will be running a high-tempo, detail-oriented practice.
And two, not one player will complain.
Over the past year, the Jets have also welcomed former players to join the team on the ice during practice, as well as pro and college players looking for extra ice time.
Recently, Troy Schwab of the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye skated with the Jets while the ECHL was on its All-Star break and also donned a Metro jersey prior to the season during Jets’ training camp.
"I had a great opportunity to skate with the Jets for about five weeks prior to my training camp and was very fortunate Coach Q let me come out,” said Schwab, no stranger to Michigan as he played at Lake Superior State University from 2005-09. “With most pro players having already left, it was tough to find good, quality skates. I was very impressed with the pace and the skill level of the players on the Jets. It definitely helped me prepare for my season in Toledo.”
Being around the team made Schwab (pictured) an instant fan.
“I've been following along with the Jets season and the All-Star break gave me a chance to go back and see Coach Q, talk with the players and also stay on the ice and in shape for a strong second half in Toledo,” Schwab said. “I enjoy the interaction with the players. Skating with them, you definitely see the love of the game and how much they enjoy being on the ice. If I can pass on any knowledge of the game I have to any of those players, it's a worthwhile time.
“Coach Q has a great program. I'll be keeping a close on them to see how they finish the year."
Other players that have skated with the Jets in the past year alone include Dan Milan (Syracuse Crunch, AHL), Vlad Namestnikov (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL), ex-Jets’ defenseman Josh Hosking (Adrian College, ACHA Division I), Brady Tomlak (Springfield Jr. Blues, NAHL), former Metro forward Kevin Shand (Brookings Blizzard, NAHL) and former Metro goalie Devin Williams (Erie Otters, OHL).
“When I played, I never had the opportunity to skate with programs in the offseason or during breaks to stay in shape,” Quenneville explained. “When I coached in Corpus Christi (NAHL), I had a buddy and former teammate of mine, Ryan Garbutt (now with the NHL’s Dallas Stars), that asked if he could come out and skate before training camp. Not only was it great opportunity for the players to see him, but interact and learn from him. The best part was how thankful ‘Buttsy’ was afterwards. Ever since then, I have never hesitated to allow players to come out and skate. Professionals like Troy, Dan and Vlad coming to skate is nothing but a win-win for everyone, but former Jets players making appearances speaks volumes of our program’s impact.
“The hardest part is coming up with drills for 30 players.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets moved into a second-place tie in the NA3HL’s East Division last weekend with a home-and-home split with the team they are tied with – the Toledo Cherokee.
Both teams have 48 points, but the Jets have one more win.
Friday night, the Jets fell 3-2 in overtime as Toledo’s Cody Estrel won it 3:44 into the extra session at the Team Toledo Ice House.
Jake Sealy and Matt Dempsey scored for Metro and goalie Jake Stephan finished with 27 saves.
Metro responded Saturday night back home at Lakeland Arena as Cooper McLean scored twice in a 4-2 win over the Cherokee.
Jacob Gleason and Kyle Shreve also scored, Max Vance picked up two assists and Kam Limburg stopped 30 shots between the pipes.
“We set a goal last week to play Toledo as if it were playoffs,” said Quenneville. “Taking three of four points any weekend is a positive, but playing disciplined the way we did is even more of a positive. Home-ice advantage in playoffs is key and in order to do that, we have to continue to play consistent hockey down the stretch.”
This weekend, the Jets (23-12-2) head to Cincinnati for two games with the Swords at SportsPlus Cincinnati. Game times are 7 p.m. Saturday and 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
After that, Metro travels to Battle Creek to start a staggered home-and-home with the West Michigan Wolves next Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Wolves then visit Lakeland next Saturday, Feb. 7, at 7:50 p.m.
“We have only seen Cincy once this season and they have some hard-working players,” noted Quenneville. “They have beaten Pittsburgh a couple times this year, as well as Cleveland. Teams like Cincy at this time of the year are always difficult to play against on the road, so we will need to be ready to compete.
“West Michigan has had a lot of success in the Central Division and always plays hard at home. They will be battling for points as the race is tight in their division for seeding. If we can avoid a special teams war against them, we will give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Jets’ rookie forward Andrew Sawyer, after getting called up to the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings two weeks ago, has returned to Waterford.
“This was a great opportunity for Andrew,” said Quenneville. “He recently made the difficult decision to return to Metro to finish the year with us, but he has grown from his experience with Aberdeen.”
Defenseman Evan Wilson is currently on team injured reserve and will be for the foreseeable future with a lower-body injury.
“He has another doctor’s appointment this week where we will get a better idea of the severity,” Quenneville said.
In addition, the Jets dealt rookie defenseman Bruiser Freatman to the USPHL’s Syracuse Stars Elite team for assets to create room on the roster.
“This league will give him more opportunities to play on a consistent basis and we wish Bruiser the best of luck out East,” said Quenneville.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Goaltender Riley Corbin, who played for the Jets during the 2012-13 season on loan from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, is now with the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
Corbin, a 19-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ont., has also seen time with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Hockey League and Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
With the Jets two seasons ago, Corbin went 9-6-0 with a 2.66 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts.