FRASER, Mich. – After an offseason of change, the Metro Jets are ready to drop the puck.
The Jets, who now call Fraser Hockeyland home after 25 seasons at Lakeland Arena in Waterford, open up their North American 3 Hockey League season Saturday night on the road in Pittsburgh and then play a Sunday matinee in the Steel City.
Ironically enough, it was Pittsburgh that the Jets upended in last spring’s East Division championship series.
That being said, Metro coach-GM Justin Quenneville wants bygones to be bygones.
"We think this is a great opportunity for us to start on the road against a strong team that is already 2-0,” said Quenneville. “Last year was special and naturally, we want to continue the success, but we have moved on and are excited about the challenges ahead of us.”
Back with the Jets this season is a slew of talent from the 2014-15 East Division champs, including forwards Matt Dempsey, Jake Gleason, Graham Day, Jake Drinkard, Spencer Graham, Devin Kelly (back up front after playing last season on defense) and Jason Newel, defensemen Jake Rutkoske, T.J. Krajewski and Chas Distelrath and goaltender Kam Limburg.
Forward Michael Tratar, who led the West Michigan Wolves in scoring last season, was acquired in a summertime trade and Trevor Kalinowski, who was a Jets goaltender from 2012-14, is back to battle Limburg and rookie Austin Kane for playing time. Defenseman Mark Vansaw is another player with NA3HL experience as he spent 2013-14 with the Flint Jr. Generals.
"It's important to maintain a core group of guys from the previous season,” explained Quenneville. “We promoted and moved up several players last year, but we are ready to move forward by trying to create the same environment as last season, and that starts with the veterans."
Donning Jets colors for the first time include forwards Mathieu Laforest, Cam Schwartz, Mathias Tellstrom (a Sweden native and lone non-Michigan product on the team), Chase Sereno and Tyler Camposano and defensemen Marc Schwartz (who had a cup of coffee with the NA3HL’s Michigan Mountain Cats in 2014), Noah Saad, Nick Papandrea (another player with junior experience in the USPHL last year), Rob Flannery, Dylan Naumovski, Jason Recchia and Collin Gamrat.
"We feel we have the right pieces to be a difficult team to play against,” Quenneville said. “Our team will be young on the rookie side, but they are eager to make an impact early and have all impressed us so far.”
After another road game next Friday night in Toledo, the Jets christen Fraser Hockeyland next Saturday with a 7 p.m. game against West Michigan.
All Jets game will also continue to be made available on www.fasthockey.com.
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