FRASER, Mich. – After his freshman season playing for Eastern Michigan University’s ACHA Division I team in 2013-14, Jacob Rutkoske decided to take a step back and reevaluate his hockey and academic future.
Joining the Metro Jets for the 2014-15 season and again this year has paid off as the steady defenseman has committed to play NCAA Division III hockey at Northland College, a school with an enrollment of 800 located in Ashland, Wis.
The Lumberjacks are also a member of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Conference, a league that also includes Michigan’s two D-III teams with Adrian College and Finlandia University.
“Before I made any decisions, I wanted to visit the campuses and get a feel for what would be the best fit for me,” said Rutkoske, who turns 21 on April 25. “After visiting Northland's campus and hockey rink, I knew that's where I wanted to be. Coach (Seamus) Gregory and Coach (Mike) Lennon at Northland made it an easy choice for me and my family.
“Northland has a beautiful campus right on Lake Superior, which drew me in right away. The small class sizes and strong academics made it stand out to me the most. They also have a great graduation rate and placement rate after graduation, which is extremely important for my future after hockey. The hockey teams involvement with the surrounding community of Ashland made it feel like home.”
Last season, the Macomb, Mich., native compiled two goals and 11 points in 42 games and in 32 games this year, Rutkoskse has two goals and 20 points and has a plus-34 rating. He was plus-24 last year.
“On behalf of the entire organization, we would like to congratulate Jake on his commitment,” said Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville. “He had several options and after a few visits to different campuses, he and his family determined Northland was the best fit. Their coaching staff is excited and he will bring a consistent game to the program. He can be paired with just about anyone on the ice. He is cerebral and a positionally-sound d-man. Jake has been a big part of the Jets’ success the past two seasons and provides balance in our lineup every night.”
Quenneville also noted that several other Metro players will be announcing commitments over the next couple months.
Once he arrives at Northland, Rutkoske plans on majoring in biology with a focus in pre-physical therapy. He wants to attend graduate school in four years to pursue a career in physical therapy.
On the ice with the Lumberjacks, Rutkoske said “fitting in should be no problem next year.”
“The coaches and players made me feel very welcome and accepted,” he said. “The team is young, so there is room to grow with the program and develop into a top team.”
In making a decision like this, Rutkoske said he has a long list of people to thank in helping him reach this point in his career.
“First off, my teammates have been a huge part of my success and these past two years have been a major turning point in my hockey career,” explained Rutkoske. “I have never had so much confidence and so much room to grow with one organization. Q, Randy Wilson and Jamie Lovell have given me the tools I need to play at the next level. I have learned more playing for Q in two years than I've learned in my whole career. Playing for Metro has been the best choice I've ever made.
“Q, Randy and Jamie have been so supportive of not just me, but everyone. They would do anything for the boys. Also, none of this could have been possible without my family (parents, Lynn and Bob, and sister – and occasional national anthem singer at Jets games – Stephanie), so I thank them for everything and all the time they put in to this.”
Before he gears up to get back into the groove of college life, Rutkoske has one thing on his mind this season.
“The Silver Cup will make this season successful,” he said. “We have the talent and depth to make a deep run this year. Not looking too far ahead, though, as we need to finish out the season strong and be ready come playoff time.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
There is still a month left in the NA3HL’s regular season, but by virtue of their 5-2 win over the Toledo Cherokee Friday night, the Jets have clinched the East Division’s regular-season championship.
The Jets have an 18-point lead on second-place Toledo, who has nine games left, but the Jets own the tiebreaker. Metro also won the East in 2014-15.
Friday night at the Team Toledo Ice House, Jacob Drinkard’s shorthanded goal at 11:39 of the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and Mathias Tellstrom added a late goal and then an empty-netter.
“It was great to come back after last weekend and get a huge ‘W,’” said Drinkard. “I thought the boys responded very well after last weekend. We had a good practice week and came in tonight focused and did what we needed to do.
“My goal was kind of a broken play. Cam Schwartz got the puck to me out front and I just put the puck towards the net and it found its way to the back of the net.”
Chas Distelrath and Schwartz also scored and Kevin Shand recorded two assists for the Jets.
Kam Limburg picked up his NA3HL-leading 22nd win with a 17-save effort.
“We had another opportunity tonight to win the game in the third and our guys played hard,” said Quenneville. “It was a playoff atmosphere out there and we played a smart game tonight. It was a complete team effort and a big win in a tough barn to play in.”
The Jets (33-4-2) play a home-and-home with the West Michigan Wolves this coming weekend, starting Friday night at 7 p.m. in Battle Creek before coming home Saturday night to Fraser Hockeyland for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
Tickets for all remaining Jets regular-season home games are available at the arena ticket office one hour before game time, by emailing Nancy Krajewski at firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking www.metrojetshockeytickets.com.
Attention Jets alumni!
Come to our last regular-season game on Sat. March 12 at 7:30 p.m. against the Wooster Oilers for recognition and a fun reunion!
Let us know on Twitter with #JetsReunion or tag Metro Jets on Facebook.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Check out the Jets extensive list of alumni at all levels of hockey at THIS LINK.