WATERFORD, MI – Devin Williams has taken the reins as the Metro Jets’ No. 1 goaltender and has been in net for six of the team’s eight wins this year.
He’s handled the responsibility of being the last line of defense with remarkable maturity and has his eyes on signing an Ontario Hockey League contract in the coming days with the Erie Otters.
All of this after a busy summer that saw the Saginaw native represent the gold medal-winning United States at the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor, emerge as a candidate for the U.S. National Team Development Program and stand out as the top goalie at the USA Hockey Select-16 Festival in Rochester, N.Y.
Not too bad for a player that won’t turn 16 until Oct. 30.
“Devin came here to play minutes and see traffic in front of the net,” said Metro head coach Jason Cirone. “He’s been a major component of our success so far and I think a lot of that falls on (Jets goalie coach) Randy Wilson. Devin has been as good or better than I expected most nights.”
The Otters drafted Williams in the fifth round of the OHL draft this past May on the recommendation of Cirone, also a scout with Erie. Once he signs with the Otters, he’ll still play for the Jets, but will be eligible to be called up to the OHL at any time. Williams figures to be in the OHL on a full-time basis next season.
Like most Americans, deciding between Major Junior hockey and the NCAA was an issue Williams dealt with, but he believes he’s made the right choice to play in the OHL.
“I grew up watching the Saginaw Spirit and my dream was to one day play in the OHL,” said the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Williams. “I’ve always felt the OHL atmosphere was what I wanted and I think it will be a good fit. I’m adjusting to the junior level here and I think playing against older guys is a challenge, but it’s a challenge I want. There is pressure, but to me, it’s fun pressure. The team has been great in front of me and it’s been a team effort all year long.”
Williams even garnered attention from Red Line Report, an independent scouting newsletter, back at the Select 16 Festival where he had a .945 save percentage and miniscule 1.33 goals against average.
“Very solid mentally and gives up nothing in 1-on-1 showdowns with shooters,” the report read. “Always makes puck carrier make the first move. Excellent rebound control. Follows the puck well through traffic and anticipates developing plays very well.”
Focused on helping the Jets get their name back on the map after a few dreary seasons the past couple years, Williams said he actually had other options over the season as to where to play this season.
“I skated with Jason all summer and he told me that I’d be a good fit with Metro and it would prepare me to go up to Erie,” explained Williams. “Jason always has the player’s interests before his own. I love him. He’s just a great coach.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Metro split its series in Pittsburgh last weekend, losing Saturday night before winning Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night, Doug Andrews tallied the lone goal in a 4-1 loss, while Williams finished with 36 saves,
Sunday afternoon, a wild game had the Jets up 3-0 heading into the third period and holding on for a 7-4 win.
Mike MacKinnon and Steve Klisz scored twice and Josh Beleski, Matt Stemkoski and newcomer John Baker added singles.
“It’s good morale for the team to get a split on the road,” said Cirone.
Dillon Kelley made 32 saves in goal for the victory.
The Jets (8-3-0-0) play just one game this week, a home contest Saturday night at 7:50 p.m. at Lakeland Arena taking on Flint.
“It seems like we play Flint every week,” Cirone said. “Do we prepare for them any differently than we would any other team? No. Do I think we’re developing a rivalry with them? I do. I think we have similar teams and that always makes for some good hockey games.”
Defenseman Will Shier was sent back to the Jets from the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons and played both games last weekend in Pittsburgh.
Cirone thinks Shier will be back in the NAHL before too long.
“He’s had a taste and I believe he wants more,” said Cirone. “You know, it’s like a yummy steak. You have a great steak and want another one. Will knows he can play at the NAHL level.”
Baker, a 20-year-old from Waterford, was also added to the roster and saw time at forward and defense in Pittsburgh. He was a Jets’ draft pick back in June and started this season with the Leamington Flyers of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“He’ll bring grit and versatility,” Cirone said. “He’s an older guy and he’ll also being experience and leadership.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Last Friday night in Southern Professional Hockey League exhibition play, two former Jets players dropped the gloves as Colin Ronayne (Knoxville Ice Bears) and Morgan James (Columbus Cottonmouths) went toe-to-toe with one another.
Ronayne skated with the Jets in 2005-2006, while James captained the Jets last year.
What’s ironic is the two are Commerce Township neighbors and close friends.