WATERFORD, MI – Will Shier is proof that you can go home again.
The Metro Jets’ defenseman started last season playing in the Northern Pacific Hockey League with the Wyoming-based Yellowstone Quake, but after a handful of games, decided he needed a bigger challenge and wanted a venue where he would be scouted.
Enter the Jets, the team that drafted Shier in the 2010 North American 3 Hockey League draft.
“I had heard that the Jets hired Jason Cirone (as head coach) and were now a part of the NA3HL,” said Shier. “I felt that I would have a better opportunity to make it to the next level if I returned home and played in the NA3HL.”
Once he returned to Michigan and signed with the Jets, things changed drastically.
“Last season had quite a few ups and downs for me personally,” said the 19-year-old Sterling Heights native. “As the season went on, my game really improved because Coach Cirone pushed me constantly. I was also in the gym every day working hard to get stronger. I earned a lot of playing time which helped my game out quite a bit. By the end of the season, I had gained a lot of experience and was really confident with my game. I believe playing for the Jets last year really contributed to the player I am now.”
Earlier this season, Shier earned a call-up to the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the North American Hockey League. He had gone to Port Huron’s main training camp in August and narrowly missed making the team.
When he got the call in October, Shier took advantage of the opportunity to impress Port Huron head coach Bill Warren during the two games he dressed for the Fighting Falcons.
“When I got called up to Port Huron, I knew from my experiences at the Fighting Falcons’ main camp, that the speed would be quite different than that of the NA3HL, and it was,” explained Shier. “In the NAHL, you have less time to make decisions and it is a much faster game. I knew a few of their players received game misconducts the day before and I thought I was only getting the call up for one game, but was happy to find out after the first game, that I would be playing another one. I got to play alongside many great players, many of them whom I played with in the past. I spoke with Coach Warren before heading back to the Jets and he told me to be patient, my time would come.”
With the Jets, Shier has been playing 25-30 minutes a game, including the point on the power play. He has a goal and five assists for six points thus far this season.
“I wish I had three or four more Will Shiers on the team,” said Cirone. “He’s our go-to defenseman and is a leader back there for us, which is also why he’s one of our alternate captains. He’s played with several different defense partners and makes them all better players when they’re out there with him.”
Still, the NAHL is Shier’s goal, both short-term and long-term. He said being in Port Huron showed him what it takes to move up and play in the league.
”I worked really hard on my game during the offseason,” said Shier. “I went out east for ten days and skated with one of the coaches (Blair Joseph) from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. I received a lot of positive feedback from the NAHL coaches during tryouts this summer, but I just fell a bit short. Coach Cirone and (Metro GM) Butch Wolfe attended every tryout and gave me a lot of support. With the addition of full-time assistant coaches Dave Hague and Randy Wilson, I know we are going to have a great year and this is where I want to be. I wanted to come back and play for the Jets because I know Jason will help get me to the next level.
“I know, when given the chance, through hard work and dedication, I will be successful. I have already had a taste of the NAHL and can’t wait for more. Hopefully, the hard work will pay off and I will receive an offer to play college hockey for the 2013-14 school year as I work toward a degree in architecture.”
Looks like Shier is already building a solid future for himself.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Metro swept both games at home last weekend against Pittsburgh, winning 7-3 on Saturday night and then 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night, Shier (goal, two assists), Chris Hellebuyck (two goals, assist) and newcomer Zach Mohr (goal, two assists) had three-point nights and goaltender Dillon Kelley finished with 39 saves.
Steve Klisz, Matt Stirling and Matt Stemkoski also scored in the victory.
The Jets’ penalty kill shut down Pittsburgh’s power play as the Jr. Penguins went 0-for-6 with the advantage and 1-for-12 over the entire weekend.
In the series finale, Stemkoski and Mohr each had a goal and an assist, while Stirling and Doug Andrews tallied the others.
Klisz recorded two assists and Devin Williams made 32 saves in goal.
“Every single kid played well,” said Cirone. “I attribute that to last week in practice. It was probably our best week of practice since the second or third week of the season. Our kids really put it together last weekend and showed they have what it takes to win in this league.”
Metro (10-6-0-0) hosts Toledo this Saturday night for a 7:40 p.m.puck drop at Lakeland Arena in the lone game of the weekend.
“It all starts in practice and typically, how you practice is how you play during the weekend,” Cirone said. “I’d like to think we’ve turned a corner here and have turned our kids into believers.”
Mohr wasn’t the only new player in the lineup last weekend as forward Cameron Bazin made his return to the Jets in Sunday’s game.
“Bazin was one of my favorite players last year and is really a silent leader,” said Cirone. “Kids on our team can learn from him. His first shift on Sunday, he goes out and blocks a shot that prevented a scoring chance and then on his second shift, he throws a big hit. He’ll be an asset for us.”
Last year, the 19-year-old Troy native had three goals and 10 points in 36 games for the Jets.
Mohr, a 19-year-old from Novi, had a five-point weekend after coming over from Port Huron two weeks ago.
“I don’t expect Zach here the whole season,” said Cirone. “He’s very deserving to get another shot in the NAHL and I think once he works on some things that may be hindering his game he’ll be back up there.”
In another transaction approved Wednesday, the Jets traded Swedish defenseman Niels Olesen to Queen City. Olesen had one assist in 11 games this year.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Nick Kenney, the Jets’ top scorer during the 2006-07 season with 31 goals and 35 assists for 66 points (35 on the power play), is starting his junior season at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a Division III school in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA).
After the Jets, the 23-year-old Wixom native skated two seasons with the NAHL’s Mahoning Valley Phantoms.
Photo/Andy Grossman/Detailed Images