CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – The Metro Jets had quite 2014-15 regular season in the North American 3 Hockey League.
From setting a franchise record for home wins (19), giving multiple players North American Hockey League opportunities and now a regular-season division title, all of the hard work and persistence paid off this weekend as the Jets swept the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks in a staggered home-and-home series to secure the East Division regular-season title.
The Jets finished 32-13-2 and were tied for top spot with the Pittsburgh Vengeance with 66 points, but won the tiebreaker with more wins (32 to Pittsburgh’s 30).
"The guys played two hard games with a sense of urgency,” Metro head coach Justin Quenneville said. “They all knew what was at stake and they were rewarded for their play. We got strong goaltending both nights, good defense and timely goals early to apply pressure throughout the games."
Friday night at Lakeland Arena, Jake Stephan stopped all 15 shots he saw in a 3-0 win. Cody Jones, Tyler Layle and Alex Holm scored the Jets’ goals.
Then Sunday afternoon on the road for the final game in Cleveland (moving to Wooster, Ohio, next season to become the Wooster Oilers), Kam Limburg made 24 saves in a 4-1 victory. Ryan Bloom scored two goals and Chas Distelrath and Kyle Shreve tallied the others.
Limburg lost his shutout with 1:32 left in regulation on a John Barlow goal.
“Obviously, sweeping any team is the best outcome you can ask for, but to sweep the last weekend of the season to clinch the division title is pretty special,” Jets’ captain David Chavis II said. “The whole team is pretty excited about winning the East Division. Every night has been a battle, but the boys found a way. The hard work we put ourselves through everyday in practice is really paying off now.”
Metro will play the fourth-seeded Southern Tier Xpress in the first round.
“The first round is going to be a battle of who wants it more,” Chavis said. “Southern Tier won't take a night off and neither can we, but with that said, I feel very confident that the boys are ready to go and if we play like we know we can, we're going to get it done.”
"I couldn't be more proud of these guys,” added Quenneville. “They have really bought into the process and have played consistent hockey down the stretch. We set a goal as a team to win three seasons. The first one is the regular season and they accomplished that. Next is playoffs, and hopefully, the finals. This season title is a complete team effort from top to bottom and we are ready for the next challenge.
“Tomorrow everyone starts at zero and we will prepare to be at our best for game No. 1.”
As of Sunday night, the first round of the NA3HL playoffs will tentatively see the Jets host Southern Tier this Thursday, March 5, at Lakeland Arena at 7:50 p.m., then play in Jamestown, N.Y., Saturday at 5 p.m. and back at Lakeland Sunday, March 8, if necessary, at 12:30 p.m.