FRASER, Mich. – Most years, the Metro Jets have a roster chock-full of Detroit-area natives due to the area being a breeding ground for top junior hockey talent.
Then again, there is the rare occasion when a player isn’t so local, or isn’t so American.
This season, Sweden’s Mathias Tellstrom has been an impact forward for the Jets and during the 2013-14 season, Davide Mantovani came all the way from Italy to suit up for the Jets.
“During the Under-18 World Junior Championship WJC in 2013, I was talking with my team's goalie coach about junior hockey in a country where hockey is an important sport with a lot of visibility, like in the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia,” Mantovani explained. “So the goalie coach with the coach of the pro team started searching for a spot where I could fit. Jason Cirone was the head coach for the Jets that year, but before that when he was a player, he played for Asiago Hockey for many years and he was teammate with the head coach of the pro team in my town. So they got in touch and Jason gave me the chance to get in the United States and try to see if I could fit in the team.”
Mantovani platooned with current Jets goalies Kam Limburg and Trevor Kalinowski that season and played nine games, getting his first win in a 3-2 shootout win Sept. 29, 2013 against the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks. He stopped all four shots in the shootout to help the Jets grab the victory after making 30 saves in regulation and overtime.
“From that season, I have a lot of good memories,” said Mantovani, who now plays pro hockey for Asiago in his hometown. “I had good coaches that helped me to improve myself and get better day by day and awesome teammates that even if I was a foreign player, they welcomed me.”
Jets assistant coach/goalie coach Randy Wilson said having Mantovani on the team was a unique situation, but one he enjoyed.
“Davide was a great kid, very technically sound with a quick glove,” said Wilson. “He was fast as far as mobility goes and he learned to challenge the shooters more as the season went on. Davide had a great work ethic as well.”
Adjusting to a new country was rough at first, but eventually, Mantovani settled in, living with the Krajewski family in Macomb, Mich.
“Living in the U.S. for me was way different,” said Mantovani. “First of all, I was born in a really small town up in the Alps (north of Italy) with a small community. Also American’s habits are way different from Italians on the ice and off the ice, but I actually really liked and loved every aspect of the life in the U.S. I would come back right now if I had the chance.”
Mantovani said he still talks to the Krajewski family, Cirone family and several of his Metro teammates on a regular basis.
This season, the 20-year-old Mantovani is enjoying pro hockey in Italy’s first division and also playing for the Asiago junior team when time allows. He also tends the crease for Pergine, the farm team of the Asiago pro team.
“It's been a hard season to find ice time, but I think that the good work one day will pay off,” said Mantovani.
In addition to his hockey exploits, Mantovani is studying economics at Trento University, about an hour from Asiago. He said he is finding the balance between hockey and finding a possible career path.
“I would love to play hockey until I’m 80, but I guess that is impossible,” said Mantovani. “That’s way I'm studying to build me a future outside the hockey world.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets played a home-and-home series with the Wooster Oilers last weekend and after losing 3-2 in a shootout on the road Friday, rebounded for a 4-2 win Saturday night back at Fraser Hockeyland.
Friday night, the shootout went the home team’s way as the Oilers scored twice in the five rounds and came away with a 3-2 win over the Jets.
“Everybody is always playing their hardest against us and that's how it should be,” Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville said. “It was a good test for us tonight and they got the extra point, unfortunately. It felt almost playoff-like, but there's nothing to get disappointed about when you outshoot, outchance and outplay your opponent.”
Wooster goalie Joe Morgan made 39 saves in the win.
Limburg stopped 29 shots for the Jets.
Michael Tratar and captain Matt Dempsey scored for the Jets in regulation, while just Kevin Shand was able to solve Morgan in the shootout.
“We played hard and we really wanted that one after our last game against them (a 5-3 loss at home on Oct. 10),” said Tratar. “We had a lot of quality chances and give credit where credit is due – we ran into a hot goalie.”
Metro led 1-0 after one period and 2-1 after 40 minutes. Christian Miller’s goal at 1:19 of the third period for Wooster was the only scoring in the third period.
Mathias Tellstrom's goal at 19:28 of the second period proved to be the game-winner on Saturday.
Shand, Pearce Vance and Chase Sereno also scored and Limburg made 28 saves between the pipes for the Jets, who are 16-3-2 at the midway point of the NA3HL season.
"We just needed to regroup and get some rest after that long trip back (last night)," Quenneville said. "The boys were busy (Saturday) with some appearances, but I'm proud that they battled through, stayed disciplined and pulled it off."
Metro's penalty kill was a perfect 8-for-8 Saturday night.
"It was a good game and I thought the team played really well," said Shand, who now has goals in nine of the Jets' 11 home games this season. "That's a good goalie they have over there (Morgan) and we just happened to break through a couple times."
"We were just gelling out there," added Jets defenseman Mark Vansaw, Jr. "Wooster is a good team, but we were out there moving the puck and getting some shots on net and then crashing the net. The goalie was leaving some rebounds and as long as we were putting them in, that's all that matters."
Morgan finished with 35 saves for the Oilers, who are 9-5-6 and sit in a second-place tie with the Pittsburgh Vengeance in the East Division, 10 points behind the Jets.
The Jets sit idle this weekend before a home-and-home set with the West Michigan Wolves Dec. 4-5 with the first game on the road and the second contest at Fraser with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
Tickets for any upcoming home game are available for $2 from 6-8 p.m. every Tuesday night at the Fraser Hockeyland ticket office.
For more ticket information, contact Nancy Krajewski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shand and Tratar, who each have 30 points apiece this season, are in an eighth-place tie in the NA3HL scoring race.
Limburg’s 11 wins have him in a first-place tie among NA3HL goalies in that category.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Josh Stockel skated for the Metro Jets when the franchise was a Junior B club in the Central States Hockey League back in the mid-1990s and is now the referee-in-chief for the National Roller Hockey League.
The NRHL is a second-year professional league with four teams in the Metro Detroit area.
Stockel also played for the North American Hockey League’s Compuware Ambassadors and attended an Ontario Hockey League tryout for the Ottawa 67’s (where he was the lone American) and when that chance didn’t work out, he turned his attention to officiating.
In the middle of his new career, Stockel played five games for the Motor City Mechanics of the defunct United Hockey League back in 2004-05, calling Chris Chelios his defense partner during the NHL lockout.
He was part of USA Hockey’s Junior Development Program and worked junior games in the CSHL, NAHL and USHL, college games in the CCHA and Big Ten and pro games in the American Hockey League, ECHL, Central Hockey League, All-American Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League. Stockel also serves as a supervisor for the Federal Hockey League, is a certified power skating instructor and works with USA Hockey as a seminar instructor.
Away from the floor, Stockel and his wife, Cheryl, have been married for eight years and the couple has a six-year-old son, Benjamin.