WATERFORD, MI – As one of the few returning players to the Metro Jets this season, Matt Stirling is being counted on for leadership and offense as the Jets hope to play in the North American 3 Hockey League playoffs for the first time in five years.
Leadership hasn’t been an issue as Sterling is an alternate captain for the second straight season. The offense, though, has sputtered, but has recently come alive for the 19-year-old Dexter native.
“The first two months of the season have been interesting and not what I was expecting,” Stirling said. “It has been a slow start for me this season and has been frustrating so far. With that said, I feel that my play has picked up recently over the past couple weeks and that with the better play, I should hopefully have better results soon.”
Going into this weekend, Stirling has just two goals through 14 games. Last year, he posted 24 goals and played in the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament last February in Ann Arbor.
“Last season, I learned that you have to bring your game every night and that the consistency of your play is vital to success,” remarked Stirling. “The more consistent you are, the better chance you have of moving up or playing well. I also learned that it is a long season full of ups and downs in which you have to be prepared for anything.”
Looking back on last year, Stirling said the feel around the locker room is much different, and in a good way, as compared to the 2010-11 season.
”I think there is a different mindset to this year’s team because of the amount of returning players to the Jets and the leadership the returners bring to the team,” said Stirling. “The returners know what to expect this year on and off the ice, where last year we were all learning a new system and that took time for players to develop.”
Stirling went to summer camps with the North American Hockey League’s Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings and Traverse City North Stars, but felt another year of seasoning in Waterford would help improve his game to move up next year. Getting a few more wins on the board could help slow starters like Stirling pick up their game, and if a catalyst like Stirling can get off the schneid, that can only be a positive for the Jets.
“The team has slid a little bit from our hot start in our last couple games, but I feel that we have some good hockey players and as a team, we are playing very well so far,” Stirling said “I think that if I can get my game going and keep improving my game, it can only help the team in the long run.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Metro traveled to Cleveland last weekend and suffered a two-game sweep at the hands of the East Division-leading Jr. Lumberjacks.
Saturday night, Steve Klisz and Mike MacKinnon scored late in the third period, but it wasn’t enough as Cleveland held on for a 3-2 win.
Devin Williams was outstanding in goal with a 48-save performance against the NA3HL’s highest-scoring team.
Then Sunday afternoon, Cleveland blanked the Jets, 5-0. Williams started and made 24 saves on 29 shots through 35:04. Dillon Kelley played the rest of the game and stopped all 18 shots he faced.
This weekend, the Jets (8-6-0-0) come home to Lakeland Arena to battle the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins. Game time Saturday night is 7:50 p.m. with a 1:20 p.m. matinee scheduled for Sunday.
Pittsburgh sits in fourth place in the East, just three points behind third-place Metro.
Forward Zach Mohr, a 19-year-old Novi native, joined the Jets in a trade from the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons late last week and is expected in the lineup this weekend against Pittsburgh.
Mohr totaled two goals and two assists in 14 games with Port Huron this year.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Tommy Burns, who played for the Jets last year, is averaging better than a point per game with Lindenwood University’s ACHA Division II team this season.
Burns, a 21-year-old forward from Pinckney, has eight goals and 13 points in 11 games for the Lindenwood, a school based in St. Charles, Mo.
Last season, Burns posted 16 goals and 33 points in 43 games in 2010-11, good for fourth in team scoring.
Photo/Andy Grossman/Detailed Images