WATERFORD, Mich. – T.J. Krajewski is literally immersed in hockey 24/7.
A second-year defenseman with the Metro Jets, Krajewski works each day to progress his game and make strides, all while taking instruction from the Jets’ coaching staff.
One of the Jets’ assistant coaches is Krajewski’s father, Tom, a longtime youth hockey coach in Michigan.
According to the younger Krajewski, playing for his dad has never been a problem and in fact, is quite a privilege.
“It has been fairly easy,” said the 19-year-old from Macomb, Mich. “He doesn't really say much to me on the bench, but when he does, it's usually helpful and he explains what I could have done. He is just ‘Coach’ to me all the time – I rarely call him dad. When the boys come over, he is still just Coach. He is friends with everyone on the team and everybody loves him.”
Last year as a rookie with the Jets, Krajewski tallied two goals and 11 points in 35 games and this year, has recorded four goals and 12 points over 39 games.
Last offseason, Krajewski attempted to crack a North American Hockey League lineup, but when that fell through, it was a win-win situation to come back and skate in Waterford.
“I feel like I have gotten a lot faster in the last two seasons and have been able to make decisions faster on the ice,” Krajewski said. “Coach Q (Jets’ head coach Justin Quenneville) has his own gym (Michigan Athletic Training in Fraser) that me and fellow teammates Davide Mantovani and Carter Reid work out at three times a week. (Quenneville) has helped me out with my first three steps, which are now more explosive. Q is also a great coach that wants to see everyone move up to the NAHL. He really has helped me with my defensive and offensive abilities.”
Krajewski also talked of the numerous opportunities to get noticed by playing in the NA3HL.
“There are always some scouts at our games every time we play,” explained Krajewski. “When we went to the showcase in Chicago (last November), there were scouts everywhere and even though we struggled in the showcase a bit, there were still scouts at our games and Q always tries to sell us to the scouts that come.”
Those scouts will also have a say where Krajewski plays for the 2014-15 season, but for now, the priorities lie in getting Metro into the post-season.
”My short-term goals as of right now are to make playoffs and play for the Silver Cup,” said Krajewski. “Long-term is to play college hockey and move on from there.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Last weekend in Pittsburgh, the Jets fell on Saturday night before rebounding and taking Sunday’s contest in a shootout.
Kyle Shreve scored the game's first goal for the Jets, but the Vengeance notched the next three en route to a 3-1 win Saturday night.
Metro goaltender Trevor Kalinowski stopped 18 shots through 58:06 before Mantovani played 25 seconds and turned aside the only shot he faced.
Jason Kumpfmiller made 32 saves to get the win for the Vengeance.
Sunday's game between Metro and Pittsburgh couldn't be solved in 60 minutes of regulation or a five-minute overtime.
Dramatically, the Jets came away with a 2-1 shootout win as goaltender Kam Limburg stopped all four Vengeance shooters in the shootout.
Cooper McLean scored the regulation goal for the Jets and Limburg stopped 27 shots in his 65 minutes of work.
Kumpfmiller made 34 saves at the other end.
“The win was big and we needed it – the points, the confidence,” said Jets’ captain Zack MacKay. “Just a step closer to a playoff spot.”
The Jets (20-24-2) are still battling the Toledo Cherokee for the fourth and final East Division playoff spot. Metro is idle this weekend, but Toledo plays three games – one against Cleveland and two against Flint.
“Right now, we’re all about determination,” said Krajewski. “We have to win these last two games against Toledo to make playoffs. We are 100 percent determined to make playoffs and we will do whatever it takes.”
After this weekend, the Jets and Cherokee will each have played 46 games before playing one another March 7-8 in a home-and-home series that could decide the final playoff berth.
Right now, the Cherokee has 46 points and the Jets have 42.
The Jets have won 10 games at Lakeland Arena and 10 games on the road this season.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Jack McCoy played with the Jets during the team’s early years and has worked his way up to be an on-ice official at the American Hockey League level.
McCoy, a Livonia, Mich., native who played NCAA Division III college hockey at Oswego State in the SUNYAC, has also worked as an on-ice official in the Ontario Hockey League, ECHL, International Hockey League and United Hockey League.