FRASER, Mich. – Coming into this season, Austin Kane knew his role as a rookie goaltender with the Metro Jets would be to learn from the two veterans ahead of him, but push for playing time.
On Sunday, Kane earned the start against the Pittsburgh Vengeance at home and stopped 24 of 25 shots in a 6-1 victory at Fraser Hockeyland.
Consider his debut a successful one and one that solidified Kane’s decision to sign with the Jets after being drafted in the second round (56th overall) of the NA3HL draft this past June.
“My decision to sign with Metro was a simple one,” said Kane, a 2015 graduate of Flint Powers Catholic High School. “I knew I wanted to be here after the first day of main camp. The facility is unmatched along with the coaching. It is the best team for young players to learn and get better and the goal is to improve every single day. I didn't even consider other junior teams.”
Over the summer, the Flushing, Mich., native knew he’d have options as to where to play for the 2015-16 season. The Jets brass scouted Kane much of last season and the team’s assistant/goalie coach Randy Wilson actually had his eye on Kane for a couple years
“I met Randy at a camp in the middle of summer and we talked for a while,” remembered Kane, who turns 19 on Nov. 16. “He said Metro would be a great fit for me. I also knew they would be drafting me, but I was very surprised when they told me – I hadn't expected that. When they called me before the draft and told me they were going to draft me, I was very excited and honored.”
Playing at Powers, which plays year-round hockey, was of a benefit to Kane, who said the school is “hard-working players who earned every single win.”
“Powers was the perfect school for getting me ready for juniors,” Kane said. “The coach, Travis Perry, is a very good at disciplining each of the players. He also knows a lot about nutrition and working out. That was probably the most important to me. I got a lot stronger over the years. Fortunately, I received a lot of playing time at Powers and game experience is important. Powers is a blue-collar team and taught me a lot, but the most important lesson I learned is that you need to work just as hard off the ice as on the ice.”
With 20-year-old goaltenders Kam Limburg and Trevor Kalinowski also making the Jets this year, Kane understood the situation and has accepted what he must do to see the ice.
“I've always been pretty accepting and easy-going and I understood I wouldn't have a lot of playing time at the beginning of the season, and I agreed with that,” said Kane. “Both Kam and ‘Kali’ have been in the league and have worked hard to get where they are. They are both are awesome goalie partners and I look forward to competing with them every day and to be honest, I look up to them. I need to work hard and get consistently better each day. The only thing that can hold me back is what's inside my head. Staying positive, having a short-term memory and giving maximum effort are the main things I focus on.
“My goal is to be the best I can be.”
Down the road, Kane knows continuing to progress is at the top of his to-do list, and he’s committed to doing that on the ice and in the classroom.
“Short-term goals for hockey are just getting better day to day, which includes eating right and getting my body in peak physical condition,” explained Kane. “I'm not too tall (5-foot-9), so athleticism is something I have to excel in. In school, I want to keep getting good grades (Kane sported a 4.3 GPA in high school) and I'd like to keep that up. Long-term goals in hockey are to make it as far as a can – I think that is every hockey player’s goal – and I would really like to play NCAA hockey. Of course, I never want to give up the sport and I want to play until my body can't any more.
“I’d also like to coach. I already do a bit of goalie coaching on the side. In school I am very interested in medicine right now, but that can change. I have my different interests and it's just wherever life takes me. My main goal is to just be happy with what I'm doing.”
A win in his debut? Yeah, that’s something to be happy about.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets swept Pittsburgh at home last weekend, outscoring the vengeance 11-3 in the process after a 5-2 win Saturday night and the 6-1 victory Sunday afternoon.
In Saturday’s win, Metro scored seven minutes into the game and never trailed.
Michael Tratar recorded a goal and two assists for the Jets and Kevin Shand added a goal and a helper in the win.
“We worked hard in practice this week and we came into tonight’s game thinking we would work just as hard,” said Tratar. “It went well. Every time we killed a penalty, it gave momentum to our team for the next shift.”
Pittsburgh went 0-for-9 on the power play.
Limburg made 21 saves for the win, while Marcus Gloss stopped 25 at the other end.
Jacob Gleason, Jacob Drinkard and T.J. Krajewski (empty net) added goals for Metro, while Chase Sereno made his season debut and assisted on Gleason’s goal at the seven-minute mark of the opening period.
“The boys were ready to go and obviously, we have a lot of good guys around here,” said Sereno. “Playing my first game tonight, it felt good to help out the team and get the win here.”
Then Sunday afternoon, Kane’s 24 saves and Tratar’s two goals and two assists paced the Jets.
“I felt comfortable, but was a little nervous at first,” Kane said. “Once that first shot came, I was right back at home.”
Shand added a goal and an assist and Pearce Vance tacked on three assists. Jacob Rutkoske, Jason Newel and Jets captain Matt Dempsey also scored in the win and Marc Schwartz chipped in with two assists.
“Obviously, I think we took it to (Pittsburgh) pretty good these past two games,” Quenneville said. “We would have liked to see more 5-on-5 play from our guys, but when it gets chippy, things happen. We were on the wrong end of that this weekend and I’d like to clean that up a bit.”
Metro went 10-for-10 on the penalty kill.
The Jets (6-1-0) now get set for a home-and-home with the Wooster Oilers this weekend. Friday night’s game in Wooster, Ohio, starts at 7:45 p.m. with Saturday’s finale back at Fraser for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
Both games will be available on www.fasthockey.com.
Tickets for all Jets home games are available for just $5 at the Fraser Hockeyland box office or by emailing Nancy Krajewski at email@example.com.
Come to the box office on Tuesday nights between 6-8 p.m. and get tickets for just $2.
Tratar was named the NA3HL’s East Division Player of the Week on Tuesday after his seven-point outburst against Pittsburgh last weekend.
Shand has scored five goals in the Jets’ four home games this season.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Cooper McLean, who turned 20 Wednesday, played for the Jets from 2013-2015 and tallied 29 goals among 63 points in 91 games.
A native of Farmington Hills, Mich., McLean is now a freshman forward at Adrian College, skating for the Bulldogs’ ACHA Division I team.