WATERFORD, Mich. – Coming from a powerhouse program at Trenton High School, Andrew Sawyer has brought that winning mentality to the Metro Jets this year.
Trenton has won 14 state championships over the years and Sawyer was part of the latest one in 2013-14 as the Trojans knocked off Hartland 8-3 in the Division 2 title game last March at Compuware Arena.
Legendary Trenton coach Mike Turner also retired after last season.
“Playing for Coach Turner at Trenton really helped me a lot,” said the 18-year-old Sawyer, who was a captain at Trenton last year. “He's a great coach who had been coaching at Trenton for a long time and knew how to handle every situation.”
Over the course of last season, Jets’ assistant coach Randy Wilson, who does a yeoman’s work scouting and recruiting players, monitored Sawyer’s progress and signed the 6-foot, 175-pound forward to a tender agreement shortly after the high school season concluded.
Now among Metro’s top scorers with 16 points on three goals (one game-winner) and 13 assists (three on the power play), along with a respectable plus-12 rating, Sawyer has overcome the early learning curve associated with ascending the hockey advancement ladder.
“The biggest adjustment from high school hockey to the NA3 is the speed of the game,” Sawyer said. “The amount of time and space diminishes at each higher level and that was something I had to get adjusted to. I think I've improved a lot this season with the help of ‘Q’ (Jets’ head coach Justin Quenneville). I've gotten much stronger and I feel like I've become better away from the puck with things like screening in front of the net.”
Quenneville has also been pleased with Sawyer’s commitment to daily improvement.
“Andrew is a special player,” Quenneville said. “Randy and his coaches spoke highly of him last year, but he really showcased his skillset in the off season at our pre-draft camp. You could see his vision and ability to extend plays was impressive. What’s impressed me the most from Andrew is that he is one of the most coachable players at this level.”
As for his future, Sawyer would like to earn a shot with a North American Hockey League club, but if that doesn’t happen, he has realistic aspirations and a mature way of looking at what he wants.
“My goal is to be able to look back and know that I did whatever I could to reach my full potential,” said Sawyer. “Playing in the NAHL would be a big accomplishment for me, but I'm just trying to be the best player I can be at whatever level I'm playing at. After my playing career is over, I plan on going to college for business. I'm sure I will find a way to incorporate hockey into my life in the future as well, just not as a player.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Metro took part in the NA3HL Showcase this past week in Blaine, Minn., and came away with a 2-1 record.
Sunday night, Zach Koonce and Alex Holm scored in a 3-2 loss to the Wisconsin Whalers. Goalie Jacob Stephan finished with 17 saves.
Then Monday, Max Vance exploded for three goals and two assists and Kam Limburg stopped all 16 shots he faced in a 7-0 shutout over a team made up of players from the North American 3 East Hockey League.
Graham Day, Jason Newel and Holm also scored, while Cooper McLean recorded a goal and a pair of assists and a plus-4 rating in the game. Jacob Drinkard added two assists.
Finishing up Tuesday against the Chicago Jr. Bulldogs, Day and McLean scored to lift the Jets to a 2-1 win as Stephen Wroe took the win in net with a 17-save outing.
“The boys played well and really bought into the preparation before the showcase,” said Quenneville. “We wanted to play a style that not only highlighted our strengths offensively, but limited time and space away from the puck. We should not have lost our first game against Wisconsin, but credit to their goaltender for playing well. Overall, we feel our style of play was evident at the showcase and hopefully, that continues moving forward.”
The Jets next play a home-and-home with the West Michigan Wolves Friday and Saturday this week with Saturday’s game at Lakeland Arena set for 7:50 p.m.
“This is a big test for us,” added Quenneville. “West Michigan is playing strong hockey of late and we will need to play a disciplined game Friday night. We are still a little banged up from the last couple weeks and have a couple players suspended, so we will need guys to step up again in their absence.”
The Showcase also saw the debut of Jets’ forward Chas Distelrath, an 18-year-old native of Hartland, Mich. Distelrath was a member of Hartland High School’s state Division 2 runner-up team the past two seasons.
“Chas was a bubble player at the conclusion of training camp, but we felt that there was something there we needed to look into a little more,” said Quenneville. “He is a dynamic player and sees the ice really well. Practicing with us all season has allowed him to make a quick transition into the lineup with injuries and call-ups now.”
Metro team captain David Chavis II also returned to the lineup at the Showcase after three weeks with the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness.
The Jets also released forward Thomas Luzynski, a Commerce Township, Mich., native that started the year with the NAHL’s Soo Eagles and had two goals and an assist in four games with the Jets.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Former Jets’ forward Dwight Parrish, who played on the first-ever team back in 1989-90, enjoyed a college and pro career that spanned more than 700 games from 1992-2008.
Parrish, a 42-year-old Southfield, Mich., native, skated at Ferris State University from 1992-96 and then in the American Hockey League, International Hockey League and East Coast Hockey Leagues before jaunting off to play pro hockey in Great Britain from 2000-08.
On Dec. 23, 2008, Parrish announced he was retiring from hockey to accept a job offer outside of hockey back in Michigan.
For his hockey career in England with both the Manchester Storm and Manchester Phoenix organizations, Parrish's No. 17 was the first to be retired by the Phoenix.