Wlodkowski does have a goal and three assists in 17 games thus far, but aside from that, statistics aren’t kept for the intangibles he brings to the table for the Metro Jets.
“He’s probably our most under-appreciated player,” said Jets head coach Jason Cirone. “He works hard and he does all the little things that help a team win. I don’t think he gets enough recognition for what he does, but I notice him and so does the rest of the team.”
Before his father’s job took the family down to Katy, Tex., Wlodkowski grew up in Michigan. His family still in the Lone Star State, he now lives in Riverview with his grandparents.
“I think it’s been a good season so far,” said the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Wlodkowski. “I think I keep improving each week and working harder. Before this season, I didn’t know a whole lot about the North American 3 Hockey League. I just knew that Jason was the coach of the Jets and that he was interested in having me play for him. It’s nice living with my grandparents, too, because I don’t really get to see them a lot, but now that I live there, I get to spend time with them.”
Wlodkowski, now 19, played high school hockey in Texas and initially got into hockey in Michigan watching his father play.
“My dad was my big influence growing up and his dedication to make me a better hockey player influenced me a lot,” said Wlodkowski.
Defenseman Adam Reid is also a Texas native with the Jets, a Georgetown native who grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich.
When told of Cirone’s “under-appreciated” comment, Wlodkowski felt a sense of humility.
“I feel as though that I keep improving each week and I just leave it all on the ice every game without complaining about anything because that’s just not the player I am,” he said. “And the shifts I do get, I make sure I give it all I got.”
In the model of hard work paying off, Wlodkowski said his short-term goal this season is to “get some time in the NAHL and be up there for good next season.”
After that, Wlodkowski is eyeing college hockey.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
After sitting idle two weekends ago, the Jets lost to the Flint Jr. Generals, 5-2, on Thanksgiving Eve at Flint Iceland Arena.
Cirone wasn't the least bit upset after the game, though, instead praising his team for playing "a heck of a game against a heck of a team."
"I think the whole game was a positive," said Cirone. "We played hard in a building that's a tough building to come into and against a tough team to play against. If you match their intensity and work ethic, you usually get a good result. Unfortunately, (Wednesday) night we didn't."
Dillon Kelley got the call in net with Devin Williams still on a call-up with the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters and finished with 27 saves.
"I have complete confidence in Dillon and thought he did a good job again tonight," said Cirone. "Of the five goals, I think just the fifth he'd like to have back, but that goal had no bearing on the game at all."
Doug Andrews and Jordan Jones scored the Jets' goals, with Jones' being his first of the season.
Richard Jansson scored two goals for Flint, while Ben Myers made 34 saves for the win.
Steve Klisz scored his team-best 13th goal of the season with six minutes left in the third period and the Jets held on to defeat the Toledo Cherokee, 4-3, Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.
Mike MacKinnon had given the Jets a 3-2 lead at 8:23 of the third, only to have Charles Kingston tie the game for Toledo 44 seconds later.
The Jets (11-8-0-0) played with a short bench after a handful of players were benched for arriving late to practice Saturday and defenseman Andrew Shalawylo left the game with an upper-body injury in the middle of the second period.
"We played with a skeleton crew and when guys are late getting to practice or miss practice, you don't play," Cirone said. "I think that shows disrespect to teammates and me when that happens. I thought the kids that played today were unbelievable, especially our goalie (Kelley), who I think is finally recognizing what it takes to be a junior hockey player."
Kelley made 29 saves for his fourth win of the season, while Austyn Roudebush finished with 26 stops for Toledo.
Chris Hellebuyck and Josh Beleski scored the other Jets goals and captain Tommy Kilgore chipped in with two assists.
"We played the exact game we played last Wednesday night in Flint," said Cirone. "There was no panic and I thought we dominated for the first two periods and even when we took the lead in the third, I didn't think we played as well as we could have played."
The Jets are off until Sunday when they travel to Darien, Ill., to play in the Combat Hockey NA3HL Showcase, starting a stretch of six games in eight days. Metro will play the Quad City Jr. Flames (Sun. Dec. 4, 4:30 p.m. CST), Peoria Mustangs (Mon. Dec. 5, 9:30 a.m.), Minnesota Flying Aces (Tues. Dec. 6, 12:30 p.m.) and North Iowa Bulls (Weds. Dec. 7, 11:30 a.m.) at the Darien Sportsplex.
"I think four wins is a realistic goal and I wouldn't want anything less," said Cirone. "Hopefully, our work ethic from the past two games will carry over into the showcase."
Metro will host the Queen City Steam Dec. 10-11 at Lakeland.
With a full roster, despite injuries to key players like Jake Schlacht and Zach Schlacht and Tim Perks nearing his season debut, Cirone said changes may be coming shortly to the Jets’ roster.
“I think what our problem is right now is that we have a lot of good hockey players that I’m trying to find a lot of ice time for,” Cirone said. “I think we’re going to have to make a couple moves in the next few weeks to move some bodies and get some guys some playing time elsewhere.”
Goalie Ethan Loo (Raleigh, N.C.) was released last weekend. He had not seen game action this year. Williams is expected to be in Waterford the rest of the season after dressing for several games recently as a backup for the Otters.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Jon Cooper, the head coach of the 2002 Jets’ Silver Cup Junior B national championship team, is currently in his second season as head coach of the Norfolk Admirals, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Prior to joining the Admirals, Cooper led the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers to a USHL championship in 2010 and the NAHL’s St. Louis Bandits to two straight NAHL titles in 2007 and 2008.
Cooper has also spent time behind the bench internationally, most recently serving as the assistant coach for the USA U-18 team that competed in the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He won a silver medal as head coach of the USA U-17 team that participated in the 2007 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic and was named a finalist for the 2007 United States Olympic Committee’s Development Coach of the Year.
Cooper’s assistant coach in Norfolk, Mike Flanagan, was formerly coach and GM of the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls (now the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution) in the NA3HL (then known as the Central States Hockey League).