WATERFORD, Mich. – Kam Limburg was singing the blues two weekends ago, but in a good way.
After all, getting a call-up to the Springfield Jr. Blues of the North American Hockey League is a feather in Limburg’s goalie helmet, but not only did the Metro Jets’ rookie get the call-up, he played the last 31:46 of the Jr. Blues game Jan. 18 against the Topeka RoadRunners, a 6-1 loss for Springfield.
Never the less, the experience Limburg went through in his week of practice with the Jr. Blues and his game action is something he can build on the rest of this season in Waterford.
“I went to Springfield’s main camp over the summer and did well and they have been checking in on me periodically throughout the season,” said Limburg, an 18-year-old product of Howell, Mich. “A couple days before I went there, one of the goalies was reported to be injured and they needed a goalie to fill in while he was out, so they decided to give me the call.”
On Jan. 18, Limburg came on in relief of stating netminder Stefanos Lekkas and stopped 15 of 19 shots.
“The players and staff were very welcoming to me when I arrived,” Limburg said. “I got in the locker room and most of the guys came up to me and introduced themselves and tried to include in as much as they could. When I got the nod on Saturday night, to be honest, I was a little nervous. Springfield had a pretty big crowd that night and as I was skating to the net I received a lot chirps from the Topeka bench. That being said, once I made the first save I felt very comfortable out there. I thought I ended up playing well for my first appearance.”
Immediately, Limburg noticed the big jump from the North American 3 Hockey League to the NAHL.
“I think the biggest change between the NA3 and the NA, as a goalie, was the speed,” Limburg said. “The players were faster, the passes were faster and crisper and the release on the shots was quicker. The Springfield coaches said that they like what they saw from me over the week I was there and that they think I am progressing well this season.”
In Waterford, Limburg has battled for playing time all season with veteran Trevor Kalinowski and fellow rookie Davide Mantovani and has posted a 5-9-0 record with a 3.56 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage.
“I think the experience I had in Springfield was great and I definitely gained some confidence from it,” said Limburg. “It helped me realize that I have more time on the ice than I previously thought. Trevor and Davide have been playing well lately, so I think it will continue to be good competition between the three of us in practice and when it comes to game time.”
And even as the Jets have had to shuffle their lineup lately with a number of NAHL call-ups, head coach Justin Quenneville calls that situation a good problem to have.
“I believe that there is a healthy balance to developing players, promoting them and winning hockey games,” Quenneville said. “I don’t buy when coaches use that as a crutch to say that they ‘lost’ a player. Our job as coaches is to challenge our players and develop them. When players are ready, they should be playing at a higher level because they deserve so and coaches should never hold them back, plain and simple.
“I think we’re a hard-working team that plays an in-your-face style. We want to give ourselves a chance to win every night and to do that, we have to be hard to play against and make good decisions with the puck. Naturally, as a coach, I’d love to have more skill, but we have players that are getting rewarded right now for their effort on and off the ice.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets and Pittsburgh Vengeance split their two games last weekend at Lakeland Arena.
Saturday night, the Jets used five different goal-scorers to pick up a 5-2 victory.
Kyle Shreve had a goal and an assist for the Jets, while Alex Holm, Cody Jones, Brad Hepler and Nate Phillips added single goals to back Kalinowski's 25-save outing between the pipes.
“I'll never complain about getting two points when we need it more than they do,” said Quenneville. “At the end of the day, we got our two points and we'll move forward building off the positives. We're playing stronger hockey every game, but I think for selfish reasons as a coach, you want to play consistent hockey, so good teams still find ways to win and we're doing that even when we're not playing our best.”
Pittsburgh then salvaged a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon.
Shreve and Cooper McLean scored for the Jets and Kalinowski finished with 26 saves in the loss.
The Jets (16-20-2) next play a home-and-home with the Michigan Mountain Cats. Game time is 7:50 p.m. Saturday night at Lakeland and then 1:45 p.m. Sunday at Fraser Hockeyland.
Former Jets’ forward Steve Klisz has committed to attend and play hockey at ACHA Division I Indiana Tech University beginning with the 2014-15 season.
Klisz, a 20-year-old Livonia, Mich., native, played for the Jets during the 2011-12 season and led the team with 30 goals and tied for the team lead with 67 points.
Defenseman Josh Hosking, who played for the Jets last season before being traded to Pittsburgh at the NA3HL trade deadline, returned to Waterford two weekends ago against the Michigan Mountain Cats.
Hosking, a 20-year-old native of Oxford, Mich., recorded three goals and seven points in 29 games with the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League this season.
Last year with the Jets, Hosking scored two goals and 11 points in 29 games before being dealt to Pittsburgh on Feb. 6. He was then re-acquired by the Jets on May 24.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Jon Elliott, a forward who played for Metro during the 2009-10 season, is now in his sophomore season at St. Mary’s University, an NCAA Division III school in Winona, Minn., that plays in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Elliot, a 22-year-old native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., has tallied three goals and three assists for six points through 16 games this season.
In his season with the Jets, Elliott was second in team scoring with 15 goals and 26 points and also played in all 48 games that year.
From 2010-12, he played for the Cumberland Grads of the Central Canada Hockey League, registering 29 goals and 75 points in 124 games.