Kalinowski building on brief NAHL stint

WATERFORD, Mich. – Trevor Kalinowski admits he isn’t having the greatest year with the Metro Jets in terms of personal statistics, but even so, the higher levels have come calling.

Last week, the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the North American Hockey League saw one of their goalies, Alex Blankenburg, get injured and the team was looking for a backup to Max Milosek in Friday night’s game against the Michigan Warriors, a game Port Huron lost 5-4 in a shootout.

The Fighting Falcons called on Kalinowski, who practiced with Port Huron last Thursday.

“(Port Huron) Coach (Michael) Gershon got into contact with (Jets’ coach Justin Quenneville) and before I knew it, I was on my way up to practice with the Fighting Falcons,” explained Kalinowski, an 18-year-old from Commerce Township. “It was definitely a first-class organization and everyone in the front office and rink staff were very helpful. The practice was a high-performance preparation for Friday’s game. The game Friday night was amazing, although we couldn't pull off the win. My teammates were very serious come game time and in the locker room, we all were on the same page. We had a job to do Friday and that was winning whatever the cost.”

Ironically enough, the Warriors’ backup was former Jets’ goaltender Dillon Kelley (2011-12).

Quenneville said he’s hoping Kalinowski can use his time with the Fighting Falcons to help his game progress even more at the NA3HL level.

“It was a good opportunity for him to not only see what it takes to play at the next level, but to see pucks in a different environment,” said Quenneville. “We have a great relationship with Port Huron, as well as with a lot of other teams in the North American Hockey League and it was a great stepping stone for (Kalinowski) to get a little exposure and build on his learning curve.  Hopefully, he takes this experience as a positive and builds additional confidence to take his game to the next level.”

So far this year with the Jets, Kalinowski is 4-5-0-1 with a 4.24 goals-against average and a .874 save percentage playing in a goalie trio with Kam Limburg and Davide Mantovani.

“From a personal standpoint, I've had a rough start, but I'm not letting it affect my goals,” Kalinowski said. “The team has been in a bit of a slump in October and November, but with a nice win over Minnesota (at the NA3HL Showcase) and Pittsburgh this past weekend, I have much confidence in my teammates that we will get the job done Sunday against Michigan.”

Kalinowski played through a goalie rotation last year with any combination of Alex Nedeljkovic, Riley Corbin, Austin Julvezan and Luke DuBois and went 6-7-0 with a 3.50 GAA and a .898 save percentage.

“This year, it’s a little similar to last season, but we have more rotation giving each of us a breather after a big win or a day to review where we can improve,” Kalinowski said. “We all support each other. The more wins the three of us get, the closer we are to our goal this season – the playoffs.”

Reflecting on his individual success, Kalinowski credits Metro assistant coach and goalie coach Randy Wilson with his improved game over the past 15 months.

“Randy has made me into the goaltender I am today,” boasted Kalinowski. “He’s fine-tuned my skill set and refined my style so that I can reach my full potential. This year, I've improved a lot in all areas of my game. I got faster through training, stronger to stand my ground and fight through screens for the puck and my angle square and patience for the puck, not to mention awareness on the ice. Recently, I've been working on my rebound control to make my defensemen's job easier not having to worry about second chances.”

Through all that, getting a small sniff of the NAHL drives Kalinowski now more than ever.

“The small taste I got from the two days has only made me that much hungrier to get to the next level, whether it’s Port Huron or any other team in the NA,” said Kalinowski. “Personally, my goal is to get another call to the NA, but my expectations for the team from here on out are to make the playoffs. We have the talent and hard work to win games and make a run for the playoffs.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

Metro and Pittsburgh split a pair of overtime games over the weekend at Lakeland Arena.

Jets' newcomer Lucas Linville scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of the third period and then completed his hat trick with the game-winner 30 seconds into overtime to lift the Jets past the Pittsburgh Vengeance 4-3 Saturday night.

Linville, a 19-year-old from Whitmore Lake, practiced with the Jets earlier in the week and made his debut Saturday night.

“Obviously, you saw the dynamic he brought to our team tonight,” said Quenneville. "He elevates our level of offense and intensity that we need.”

Linville started this season with the Brockville Braves of the Central Canada Hockey League, where he had five points in 26 games.

James Roznowski also scored for the Jets, while Limburg made 21 saves for the win in net.

Robert Kinsey and Chris McCambridge each had a goal and an assist for the Vengeance.

Cody Black was the spoiler Sunday, scoring at the 3:10 mark of extra time to lift the Vengeance to a 3-2 win.

Alex Holm had a goal and an assist for the Jets, while Linville scored the game-tying tally early in the third period for Metro.

Linville was subsequently named the East Division Star of the Week by the NA3HL.

Mantovani finished with 20 saves in suffering the loss.

The Jets (10-15-2) play the Michigan Mountain Cats next Sunday afternoon (Dec. 15) at Lakeland with an 11:50 a.m. opening faceoff.

JET STREAKS

On Monday, the Jets traded 18-year-old defenseman Luke Thom to the Topeka Capitals for fellow defenseman Niko Greco, a 19-year-old native of St. Clair Shores.

In 19 games with Topeka, Greco registered a goal and two assists for three points along with 123 penalty minutes.

Thom, acquired on Sept. 12 from the North Iowa Bulls, picked up a goal and an assist with a plus-2 rating in 20 games with the Jets.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Sean Hogan, who played for the Metro Jets during the 1994-95 season, has been named an assistant coach for the United States at the World University Games that started this week in Trentino, Italy.

Hogan, was the head coach of the Oakland University ACHA team from 2005-2009, winning an ACHA Division I national championship in 2007 and an ACHA Division II national championship in 2006. Hogan was also an assistant coach for OU when the Grizzlies won the 2004 ACHA Division II national title.

Team USA started the tournament with a 2-0 win over Sweden on Tuesday night.