FRASER, Mich. – The Metro Jets were leading the Southern Tier Xpress 11-0 last Saturday night in the final minute of the third period.
Jets defenseman Mark Vansaw, Jr., figured what’s one more and scored his first goal of the season to round out the scoring.
“We were on the power play and ‘Flans’ (Robby Flannery) took a shot that hit a couple guys in front of the net,” explained Vansaw. “I started to sink and crash the net when the puck bounced to me. I took one shot that (Xpress goalie Timothy) O’Sullivan saved, but the rebound was sitting in the crease so I just started to stab at it, hoping it would squeak by. I never saw it go in because I was ambushed by our guys who were celebrating.
“I will be giving this puck to my dad who has been there for me from when I started playing.”
Vansaw, who played 15 games in the NA3HL two seasons ago with the Flint Jr. Generals before spending the 2014-15 season with the Michigan Warriors 18U AAA program, signed a tender agreement last spring with the Jets and has enjoyed the ride this season.
“This season has been amazing,” said Vansaw, a Grand Blanc, Mich., native who turned 19 on Jan. 17. “From the start, we have had our eye on the division championship and the Silver Cup. We are getting closer and closer to our goals. Personally, this season was everything I hoped for and more. I feel like over the season, I have improved on my speed and play making.”
Part of a deep blue line for Metro, Vansaw has played 29 games this year with a goal and 11 points for his efforts, along with a plus-21 rating.
“Sitting out games is no fun and probably the worst feeling in the world as a hockey player, but I have full trust in Q (Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville) and in his system that he knows what he's doing, which he has proved this whole season.”
Quenneville said Vansaw has been a true team player right from the get-go.
“’Vanny’ is the ultimate team guy,” said Quenneville. “Everybody loves him and his presence in the locker room is infectious. On the ice, his high hockey IQ is evident and one of the reasons he transitioned so quickly out of the gates. He has come a long way this season and we hope he continues in this direction. He has so much to offer and has been positive throughout this process. He is a reliable and a steady player night in and night out and is a big reason our group has collectively had so much success in the regular season.”
Lately, Vansaw has been paired on the back end with Marc Schwartz, a teammate from last season and another young player that saw time in the NA3HL two seasons ago with the Michigan Mountain Cats.
Vansaw said the chemistry he and Schwartz have on the ice is no coincidence.
“Last year with the Warriors, we played together a lot,” explained Vansaw. “Marc has been one of my best friends for a few years and I wouldn't have it any other way.”
With the success the Jets have experienced this season, Vansaw has seen up close what makes this team go.
“We approach every weekend differently,” Vansaw said. “Teams have different tendencies and styles of play that we recognize and shut down. I also feel like our chemistry as a team is part of our success. It's been a long time since I have been a part of a team that is so close.”
Once the college discussion comes up with Vansaw, he said he hopes to take on academics and hockey at the same time and has aspirations of going into federal law enforcement.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets bagged two more wins over the weekend in a home sweep of the Xpress at Fraser Hockeyland.
Kam Limburg needed to make just 16 saves for his fifth shutout and NA3HL-leading 26th win on the season in the 12-0 win Saturday night.
In front of Limburg, Kevin Shand scored three goals and added two assists for a five-point night, while Mathias Tellstrom added a goal and four assists and Jason Newel pitched in with a goal and three assists.
Michael Tratar tallied once with two assists, while Jason Recchia, Cam Schwartz and David Chavis all had a goal and an assist.
Jacob Rutkoske, Stefan Boskovic and Vansaw added single goals and Flannery and Jacob Gleason contributed two assists each.
“Good to see our guys spread out the offense and get off to quick start,” said Quenneville. “Overall, a hard game to stay focused in, but I am proud of the guys sticking to the game plan. It was a night to get everybody involved, too.”
Metro outshot Southern Tier 56-16 and held the Xpress to just nine shots over the final 40 minutes.
Sunday, the Jets doubled up Southern Tier 6-3 as Tellstrom tallied a goal and two assists, captain Matt Dempsey popped two goals and Shand and Pearce Vance each recorded a goal and an assist.
“I don’t think we rebounded as well as we wanted to after Saturday night,” Quenneville said. “I think we got a little complacent and credit to Southern Tier. They’re not going to lay back and they want to try and get a big win at the end of the year. It was a frustrating game, but we made it through.”
Chas Distelrath also scored and Austin Kane finished with 17 saves in goal.
The Jets (38-5-2) wrap up the regular season with a home-and-home series this weekend with the Wooster Oilers. Game time Friday night in Wooster is set for 7:45 p.m. with the finale Saturday night at Fraser at 7:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Shand was named the NA3HL East Division Star of the Week.
Shand had seven points and was plus-4 in the two wins over Southern Tier. On Saturday night, Shand posted a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, and two assists and then Sunday, registered a goal and an assist.
For the season, Shand leads the Jets in scoring with 78 points (39 goals, 39 assists) in 42 games. His 39 goals are also good for a third-place tie in the league scoring race.
“Kevin's line had a big weekend, naturally, and it's good they got back to their dominant ways in time for playoffs,” said Quenneville. “They have been a consistent threat collectively and Kevin's shot benefits them more often than not. He nearly has 40 goals in a division that night in and night out is difficult to play in. Every night, teams are matching their top guys against them in particular, and they get hungrier to score time and time again.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Check out the Jets extensive list of alumni at all levels of hockey at THIS LINK.