WATERFORD, MI – The Metro Jets pretty much have an all-new team this season, but for the staff and players, that is most definitely reason for optimism.
Being mired in the lower echelon of the Central States Hockey League standings the past couple years is in the past and with the crop of new players, along with three returnees from the 2009-2010 squad, moving up the standings is one goal the Jets think is very attainable this season.
“I think a realistic expectation is to make the playoffs and move five players up to the next level,” said first-year head coach Jason Cirone, an assistant coach last year with the Motor City Metal Jackets of the North American Hockey League. “I will lean on all the players nightly. We have a team where everyone will have to show up every night for us to be successful.”
Returning defenseman and captain Mike Corder agrees with Cirone.
“My expectations are that Coach Cirone will bring a different perspective to the organization and that we will all work together to make the Jets a competitive team, game in and game out,” said Corder. “The team is looking good and we have a lot of potential. With the group of guys this year, I feel we can exceed our potential as a whole.”
And being the one with the ‘C’ on his jersey, Corder plans to take that role to the fullest extent.
“I plan to motivate my teammates by leading by example,” Corder explained. “I will work hard and I will expect that they will work hard. I want the team to gel and become a brotherhood where everyone looks out for everyone else. I will do what it takes to get this group to work hard, play hard, and become a team on the ice, off the ice, in the locker room, during workouts, you name it.”
Another returning skater, forward Mike Denston (White Lake, Mich.), wants his second year with the Jets to be leaps and bounds better than last season.
“Last year’s season has brought my motivation to a new level,” said Denston. “It wasn't fun losing all those games, especially when we had talent. This year, we have kids who can play the game and want to be here and that has motivated me to push the envelope and try to be better myself.”
“Last season, we fell short of our goal of making the playoffs,” added Corder, a 20-year-old native of Warren, Mich. “Personally, it is not easy to relive that disappointment. Setting realistic goals for myself to help improve the team and achieve the overall goals is not difficult. Remembering last season will help push me to stay focused on what is necessary to achieve the team goals.”
Leading the team along with Corder will be alternate captains Matt Stirling (Dexter, Mich.) and Justin Bennett (Brighton, Mich.), both forwards.
On the blue line, rookies Blake Blaha (East Lansing, Mich.), Jordan Reames (Essexville, Mich.), Ian Costello (Lansing, Mich.), Brian O’Loughlin (Franklin, Tenn.) and Brennan Borowiak (Gaylord, Mich.) will join Corder and be thrown right into the mix.
Up front, veteran Brett Grech (Hartland, Mich.) is back for his final season of junior hockey. Travis Hargett (Clarkston, Mich.) is just 16 years old and will be one of the youngest players in the CSHL this year. Erik Bachynsky (Windsor, Ont.) played the last two years for Northland College, a Division III school, and will be counted on for leadership and to mentor players like Hargett, Josh Beleski (Southgate, Mich.), Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney, Mich.), Joe Matyaszek (Taylor, Mich.), Matt Elswick (Gaylord, Mich.) and Mike Moroso (Macomb, Mich.).
Getting two wins in their two-game exhibition set with the Flint Jr. Generals three weeks ago, the Metro staff had the chance during those two games to evaluate the younger players and see where their strengths lie.
Rookie forward Dan Hudson, an 18-year-old from Gregory, Mich., scored three goals in the two games with Flint and showed he has the ability to be a pure goal-scorer in the CSHL.
And while there may be reason to be giddy, Cirone knows the regular season means more than two pre-season contests.
“We have a good crop of rookies and expect them to perform every night,” said Cirone. “Let’s wait and see which ones decide to be impact players.”
Nineteen-year-old goalie Allan Dowler (Oxford, Ohio) is expected to shoulder the workload in net.
“I'm very excited about all the new players this year,” Denston said. “Everyone looked good in our exhibition games and if we all do what were told to do, then we'll be a very good team. I want to give it everything I got and hope that everyone else will want to do the same.”
The Jets open their 22nd season in the CSHL tomorrow night at 7:50 p.m. at Lakeland Arena against the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks. All tickets are just $5.