WATERFORD, Mich. – Metro Jets’ coach Jason Cirone knew heading into last weekend’s season-opening series on the road in Pittsburgh would be a challenge, but hoped to come away with four points.
Those hopes wound up as reality as the Jets swept the Vengeance with identical 3-2 wins Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Blade Runners USA, leaving Cirone in a satisfied state at the start of the North American 3 Hockey League season.
“Our goaltending and defense did an outstanding job all weekend, and we only had four defensemen,” Cirone said. “Before Sunday’s game, I told the kids not to be satisfied with just winning the first game because to get to the next level, you need consistency. Then we came out Sunday and took advantage of our opportunities and limited their chances and we got the win.”
Saturday night, Metro blew a two-goal lead in the third period, but came back to win in a shootout.
T.J. Krajewski and Alex Holm staked the Jets to a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. Krajewski also assisted on Holm's goal for a two-point night.
In the third period, Pittsburgh's Nick Santiago scored on a penalty shot and Oskar Thorsen scored at 18:17 to force the overtime and eventual shootout.
Cody Jones and Zack MacKay, who served as captain last weekend, scored in the shootout for the Jets, while goaltender Kameron Limburg stopped four of the five Vengeance shooters to gain the win for Metro.
“Saturday night, we played great, competed for the full 60 minutes and our goalie was outstanding,” said Cirone. “We got what we deserved.”
Then in the rematch Sunday, Kyle Downey's goal at 6:49 of the third period proved to be the game-winner and the Jets held on to defeat Pittsburgh and open the season 2-0.
Jones and Cooper McLean also tallied for the Jets, while Trevor Kalinowski (pictured) finished with 46 saves in net.
“All of our returning guys – Holm, MacKay, Brad Hepler, T.J. and Kalinowski – are all guys I am going to lean on heavily this season because they know how I work and how I like things done,” Cirone said. “Every one of them played like a returning player last weekend and played very well for us.”
The Jets now gear up for their home opener this Saturday night against the Cincinnati Swords (formerly the Queen City Steam) at 7:50 p.m. at Lakeland Arena. The two teams finish up Sunday at 11:50 a.m.
Last weekend, the Swords swept the perennial powerhouse St. Louis Jr. Blues in a pair of one-goal games in Cincinnati.
“We’ll watch some tape on Cincinnati this week to see what they are all about,” said Cirone. “Sweeping St. Louis, though – that’s no joke. We’re going to have to work hard and get our noses dirty if we want to be successful. Cincinnati is a team that takes advantage of their leads and we have to do all we can to not let them get those leads.”
Cirone said that while MacKay was last weekend’s captain, no permanent captains have been named as of yet.
Three former Jets’ players will begin the 2013-14 season in the North American Hockey League.
Goaltender Dillon Kelley, who played in Waterford during the 2011-12 season, has made the roster of the Flint, Mich.-based Michigan Warriors and forwards Mike Gambino and Kyle Shreve, both of whom played last year with the Jets, are with the Springfield Jr. Blues.
Shreve signed a tender agreement with the Jr. Blues last season, while Gambino was a training camp invite by Springfield and impressed to earn a roster spot.
Two Jets who played for the team in 2012-13 and two more that played the year prior were recently announced as new skaters for the Oakland University ACHA Division I team down the road in Rochester, Mich.
Forwards Matt Stirling and Doug Andrews played last season for Metro, with Stirling serving as captain and Andrews an alternate, while defenseman Will Shier and forward Mike MacKinnon skated for the Jets in 2011-12.
Together, the quartet joins other former Jets in sophomore forward Tommy Kilgore (2010-12), sophomore defenseman John Baker (2011-12) and senior forward David Merkle (2009-10) on the Grizzlies’ 2013-14 roster.