WATERFORD, MI – After going 3-5 against the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks over the course of the regular season, the Metro Jets are hoping for better results this weekend as they open the North American 3 Hockey League’s Hurster Cup playoffs in Cleveland in a best-of-three series.
The winner of the series will advance to play the Flint-Pittsburgh winner for the right to go to the NA3HL championship series in suburban Chicago at the end of the month.
Due to the NA3HL re-structuring the playoff format, all teams in all four divisions qualify. The last time the Jets made the playoffs was in 2007 when they were swept in two straight games by the Dubuque Thunderbirds.
Metro captain Tommy Kilgore knows that regular season stats go out the window this time of year and that Friday night starts a new season.
“I just try to remind the guys what we are playing for, and they already know, and they’ve come focused everyday,” said Kilgore. “We expect (Cleveland) to come out hard right out of the gate and we plan to match or exceed their effort so we can keep our season going.”
The Jets beat Cleveland on Jan. 28 and March 11 in shootouts and then 6-5 on Feb. 4 in a back-and-forth affair.
Cleveland outscored Metro, 44-26, in their eight games during the season.
“Cleveland is a good hockey team and they were the top team in the league the first half of the season,” said Jets’ coach Jason Cirone. “We just have to go in there and be ready to play. If we’re not ready to play, it’ll be a very short series.”
Jets’ forward Cameron Bazin is excited to head to Cleveland and get the series underway.
“I think as a team, we all know what to expect and how we have to play to beat them,” Bazin said. “It will be a hard-fought series and even harder since we play in their building. I think we want to win a lot more than any other team and we won't let anything stop us from that. Cleveland is a real solid team, but I think when we are on our game, we can beat anyone.
“If you take the last three games we played against Cleveland, we are 2-1, which is what we need to go at worst to win this series. I know the atmosphere in these games will be a lot different from the regular season, but we know we can beat them and we know how to beat them. A major key to winning the series is using our team motto "Do What We Do," which means just always playing our game and everyone playing the way that excels them the most. Another key would be always going all out on every shift, whether it's for 30 seconds or a minute, and just never toning it down.”
Metro goalie Dillon Kelley, who said goalies are always under the microscope, isn’t about to cave into pressure.
“You always feel that pressure, but it’s how you handle it,” said Kelley. “As for feeling uncomfortable or nervous, I don’t feel that way at all. I have confidence in my game as well as my teammates. I’ll be there for my team and vice versa.”
Game 1 is at 8 p.m.Friday night and 8 p.m.Saturday night at Ice Land U.S.A.in Strongsville with a 1:30 p.m. start time if a Game 3 is needed on Sunday.
“We have been fine-tuning our game and know what we need to do to win,” added Metro defenseman Will Shier. “This preparation has lead to confidence and we are ready for this weekend.
”The key is to play our game and do what we do. That’s what will win the series for us.”