WATERFORD, Mich. – Kam Limburg is in a comfort zone this season with the Metro Jets.
His first foray into junior hockey, the 18-year-old Howell native is one of three goaltenders on the Jets’ roster (with Trevor Kalinowski and Davide Mantovani) and is enjoying his time in the North American 3 Hockey League after leaving home last year to play for the Chicago Fury 18U AAA team (pictured).
It also helps that Metro assistant coach Randy Wilson has been a mentor of sorts for Limburg as he progresses as a goaltender.
“I have known Randy for a while, so when I was in need of a place to play over the summer, he invited me to our camp and I was offered a spot on the team,” Limburg said. “I was very happy when this happened because this was close to home for me and gave me a chance to play junior hockey for a great team. I feel that last season prepared me well for junior hockey because it was pretty fast-paced and had a lot of good players to keep me sharp. Many players from that league and team went on to play junior hockey, so it was great preparation.”
So far this season, Limburg has gone 4-6-0 with a 3.62 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage. Kalinowski has three wins and Mantovani has picked up one victory.
Jets’ coach Justin Quenneville said it’s always a good problem to have with three goaltenders capable of being the No. 1 starter.
“Kam has definitely stepped up his game lately and we’ve needed that from our goalies,” said Quenneville. “Our goalies work hard and they push themselves in practice, but you’ve got to be able to compete in a game – you chose the position, you’ve got to find a way to win games. I’ve asked them to be responsible for their first shots, not so much worrying about what happens afterwards, but just doing the best you can to give us a chance to win and I think that lately, they’ve all done that.”
“The competition between Davide, Trevor and myself is pretty friendly and we all get along great,” added Limburg. “We spend a lot of time together in the hotel room on road trips. That being said, we all push ourselves and each other to be the best that we can be, and mainly just try to win games for our team when we get the chance to play.”
Limburg also touched on what Quenneville said about his game going up a notch.
“I think I have been gaining confidence over the past few weeks from playing well and it's been a little easier to get on a roll with more steady game time,” said Limburg. “I think I have adjusted to the NA3 better since I have been seeing more games. At first, I thought it was pretty fast-paced, but over the course of the season, the game has seemed to slow down for me.
“Coming into the league, I did not know much about it, but now that I have been here for this season, I believe that it is a great league to play in with a lot of skilled players. I would say that it is a little underrated and I think that’s mostly because it is classified as Tier III.”
Wilson has also been a major player in helping Limburg get acclimated to the junior hockey style of game.
“Working with Randy has been awesome,” beamed Limburg. “I think he has helped me improve my game greatly since the start of the season. One of the big things he tells me is to be patient and has also helped me with my puck play. I think he has tweaked my style a little bit (for the better) and he tries to help all three of us change little things in our game, without changing our styles completely.”
This past Sunday, after losing Saturday night at home to Flint, Limburg dressed as Mantovani’s backup for the game in Flint – a game the Jets lost on a power-play goal at 18:58 of the third period.
Limburg said watching the game unfold the way it did was frustrating.
“When Flint scored the game-winner on Sunday, as a goalie, I just kind of felt my heart drop a little bit because I have been there before and it is always a terrible feeling,” said Limburg. “For Davide to battle like he did through the whole game and play as great as he did, and really give our team a chance to win, I could definitely feel for him because it is extremely frustrating when you cannot come out with a win at the end of it. I was very proud of him for the way he played and our team was, too.”
And while Limburg has aspirations to be playing up a level in the North American Hockey League for the 2014-15 season, he’s focused on doing what he can to push the Jets up the East Division standings this year.
“I see our team being able to finish high in the standings and going deep into the playoffs because I know that we have a great group of guys that play for each other and when we play the way we are capable of playing, we can be pretty scary,” Limburg said. “On a personal level, I'm looking to get my stats back up to where I know they can be, but mainly I am just going to try to give my team the chance to win each and every hockey game because in the end, all that really matters for our team is the wins column.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Flint took both ends of the home-and-home with Metro last weekend and now has its record at a remarkable 21-0-1.
The Jr. Generals took a 5-1 win Saturday night at Lakeland Arena.
Brad Hepler scored late for the Jets to break Nathan Klebe's shutout bid.
Klebe made 35 saves, while Limburg stopped 20 for the Jets.
“I tell the guys all the time that this is like climbing a mountain – you take a tumble, but you have to keep climbing up,” said Quenneville. “We want to make sure we keep climbing throughout the season and that we’re not only getting better as a team, but getting better individually, learning from our mistakes and having a short memory. A short memory is the best thing for a hockey player, whether it’s a bad shift or a bad play, we’ve got to find a way to compete night in and night out.”
Then Sunday at Iceland Arenas, Brett Leppek's power-play goal with 1:02 left in the third period broke a 1-1 tie and Flint held on for a 2-1 win.
Jets' defenseman Luke Thom had tied the game at 6:37 of the third period.
Mantovani made 42 saves, while Anders Franke stopped 24 shots for Flint.
“Sunday’s loss was really tough,” Metro captain Josh Beleski said. “We played as a unit and kept the pressure on them all night, but we took a stupid penalty at the end of the game that cost us the win. We play them two more times this season, so we will make sure we get them next time because even the best have to lose.”
The Jets (8-12-1) now get set to travel to Romeoville, Ill., this weekend to partake in the NA3HL Showcase.
Metro plays the Granite City Lumberjacks Friday at 2 p.m. EST, the Peoria Mustangs Saturday at 5 p.m., the Twin City Steel Sunday at 8 p.m. and then the Minnesota Flying Aces Monday at noon.
All games will be available on www.fasthockey.com.
Forward Michael Muller signed with the Jets last week and made his debut in the two Flint games.
Muller, an 18-year-old from White Lake, played last season for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School.
“I didn’t expect too much of him (with Saturday being his first game of the season) and I knew he would compete, but I didn’t want to see him run around with his head cut off,” said Quenneville. “He responded well and he went out there with intensity and the right mindset that he wanted to make our team better, not just go out there and skate.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Goaltender Riley Corbin, who started last season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League and finished up with the Jets, is now playing for the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Corbin, an 18-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ont., went 9-6-0 with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage, along with three shutouts.
In Trail, Corbin is 2-4-0 thus far with a 3.70 GAA and a .902 save percentage.