WATERFORD, MI – Michael Lawrence has been all over the map over the last year or so, but is happy to have found a home with the Metro Jets this year.
Last season, Lawrence skated for the West Michigan Hounds AAA and in the North American Hockey League for a bit with the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings.
This year, he started out with the Granite City (Minn.) Lumberjacks, the team that tabbed him in the tenth round of last summer’s North American 3 Hockey League draft. With the Lumberjacks, Lawrence tallied two goals and six points in 13 games, but wanted a bigger role.
On Nov. 30 while both teams were at the first league showcase in Blaine, Minn., Lawrence was traded to the Jets and since the deal, has 17 points in 24 games in a Jets’ uniform.
“I requested a trade here because I felt I wasn't getting the playing time I deserved in Granite City,” said Lawrence, a 20-year-old from Mattawan. “With all the returners they had from winning a national championship last season, I kind of got lost in the mix of players. I came into the league kind of blind and not really knowing what to expect, but I feel I adapted pretty quickly, which was good.”
Lawrence said he serves a variety of roles with the Jets, a team scratching and clawing to earn a playoff berth.
”My role is to bring a physical presence on the ice and to answer the bell when called upon, but who doesn't like to score?” quipped Lawrence. “On this team, the mood changes depending on the day. Some days, we have a lot of life, but the next, we come out with no energy or drive. All in all, though, the mood is always good. Obviously, the captains like Matt Stirling, Dougie Andrews and I are called upon the most to get the boys going, but we have a group of leaders including Andrew Palushaj, Hargs (Travis Hargett) and Zack MacKay who aren’t afraid to let everyone know what's on their mind.
”As far as I'm concerned, there's still a lot of season left. We just need to grip down and play hockey like we can. We aren’t out of the playoffs just yet. If that day comes where we are officially out of the playoffs, that doesn't mean the season is over. We will still be playing for our pride.”
Playing for the love of the game is something Lawrence learned at a young age from his father, Mark Lawrence, who logged 142 NHL games with the Dallas Stars and New York Islanders and also played several years in the minors after starting in the Ontario Hockey League and playing at one time for the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors, now known as the Plymouth Whalers.
“I give him my dad the credit to where I am today,” said Lawrence. “He was still playing when I was growing up playing, so it was always easy to talk to him about the game. Then him coaching me my whole life, he was able to mold me into the player I am today. I just wish I had the scoring touch like him, though.”
Next season, Lawrence knows the options should be aplenty, but wants to look at each and every one of them with a fine-tooth comb.
”I have a great offer to play for Aquinas University, but I also still have another year of junior eligibility left, so I'm really up in the air right now,” Lawrence said. “I just want to take things day by day.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets played four games over the past week, including three at the second NA3HL Showcase, this one at the Troy Sports Center.
Last Wednesday, Josh Beleski's goal at 11:16 of the third period snapped a 4-4 tie and the Jets went on to defeat the Michigan Mountain Cats 6-4 at the Great Lakes Sports City in Fraser.
Kyle Shreve scored two goals, while Stirling added a goal and two assists to back Riley Corbin's 31 saves in goal.
Palushaj chipped in a goal and an assist, Andrews put home an empty-netter with 30 seconds left in the third period and defenseman Thomas Evans finished plus-3 on the night.
In Troy, Metro opened the event with a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon over the Breezy Point North Stars.
The Jets spotted the North Stars an early 2-0 lead, but came back with three unanswered goals to gain the victory. Stirling had a goal and an assist, while Brad Hepler added two assists and Trevor Kalinowski picked up the win in goal with a 25-save effort.
Andrews and Mike Gambino also scored in the win.
Tuesday, Corbin stopped all 31 shots he faced as the Jets blanked the Queen City Steam 3-0.
Shreve had a goal and an assist, while Gambino and Evans scored for the Jets.
Lawrence chipped in two assists as well.
The Jets gave up three early goals to the Minnesota Flying Aces and rallied to tie the game in the second period, but fell in overtime 4-3 Wednesday morning to close out the NA3HL Showcase.
Stirling, Alex Holm and Lawrence scored for the Jets, while Corbin and Kalinowski combined for 43 saves between the pipes.
Payton Trammel's goal 3:24 into overtime won it for the Flying Aces.
Metro (18-21-3-0) next plays in Flint this Saturday night. Game time at Iceland Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.
Beleski, who made his return to the Jets just prior to the NA3HL trade deadline and roster freeze two weeks ago, was originally the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Jack McCoy played with the Jets during the team’s early years and has worked his way up to be a linesman at the American Hockey League level.
McCoy, a Livonia native who played college hockey at Oswego State in the SUNYAC, has also worked as an on-ice official in the OHL, ECHL, International Hockey League and United Hockey League.