FRASER, Mich. – If one has to look at the lineup card to see if Marc Schwartz is in the Metro Jets lineup, chances are he’s doing his job on the blue line.
Schwartz, a 17-year-old Macomb, Mich., product that turns 18 in late December, is the Jets top-scoring defenseman with eight assists so far and even for a youngster, is always on the ice for Metro making the safe play and emerging as a steady influence for the Jets’ back end.
Two seasons ago, Schwartz played a handful of NA3HL games with the Michigan Mountain Cats (whose home rink was ironically enough, Fraser Hockeyland) and then spent last year with the Michigan Warriors U18 AAA club before looking at options for the 2015-16 campaign.
“I skated and worked out at the M.A.T. (Michigan Athletic Training) facility (inside Fraser Hockeyland) through the summer and got to know the coaches pretty well and I was asked to skate at main camp,” explained Schwartz. “And then I made the team at main camp. So far, this season has been a blast with the team and it's been good competition and hard-fought games in the league.”
Schwartz was teammates with fellow rookie Mark Vansaw, Jr., with the Warriors and said last season was a faster pace of play than what he was used to, and helped prepare him for this year with Metro.
Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville has been impressed with Schwartz’s durability thus far.
"Marc has been a bright spot for this group early in the season,” said Quenneville. “He transitioned very well to this level and has shown continued growth. It helps when you get to work with young men who want to learn and he comes to work every day willing to listen. His steadiness and positional play on the ice is exceptional for his age."
“I like to play an active position on the back end and Q’s system and style of play allows me to play how I prefer to play,” added Schwartz. “I hope the Jets will help provide the tools and equip me to be able to handle the next level. In the short term, I hope we can make a good run in the playoffs when that time comes.”
Away from the rink, Schwartz wants to graduate high school with a 3.5 GPA. Down the road, he said his goals are “to own apartments and wrench on cars.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets went on the road last weekend and came away with a sweep of the Southern Tier Xpress in Jamestown, N.Y.
Metro fought for a 6-4 win Friday night before rebounding for a 6-0 win on Saturday night and then coming home last night and downing the West Michigan Wolves 5-1 at Fraser Hockeyland.
With the wins, Metro moves to 10-2-0 on the season and remains in first place in the NA3HL’s East Division.
Friday night, the returning Mathias Tellstrom scored two goals and Graham Day, Jacob Rutkoske and Jacob Drinkard all posted a goal and an assist.
"We got some timely goals tonight and I felt that we did enough to win, but still not good enough of an effort for the standard we want to play at,” said Quenneville. “Our puck management wasn't the best at times and we will have to get back to making stronger plays in our own zone."
Chase Sereno also scored, while Michael Tratar, Kevin Shand, Chas Distelrath and captain Matt Dempsey all contributed a pair of assists to go along with a 20-save effort in goal from Kam Limburg.
“I thought it wasn’t one of our best games, but it’s huge to get two points on the road and bounce back from last week’s loss at home,” Drinkard said. “Good teams find ways to win even though the game may not be going your way and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”
Then Saturday night, Limburg turned aside all 25 shots he faced and the Jets peppered Southern Tier goalies Cody Gibson and Ryan Pascarella with 58 shots to sweep the weekend series.
Shand went for a goal and two assists, Sereno a goal and an assist and Tyler Camposano made his season debut and his goal 3:42 into the game stood as the game-winner.
"All around our best 60-minute effort as team,” Quenneville said. “When we did need it, Kam stepped up and made the save. Everyone contributed and was rewarded for it. We played a smart, aggressive puck-moving game the way we work on every week."
Tratar, Distelrath and Spencer Graham added single goals and Pearce Vance and Tellstrom chipped in with two assists apiece.
“I felt really good out there,” said Limburg. “I thought I controlled the game well and made the big saves when I needed to. It was good for me to get back to the way I'm capable of playing. The boys in front of me also did a great job. The sweep is very big for us to bounce back from our last loss. We're all pretty excited and our happy that we're on top.”
Last night back in Fraser, Tratar, Tellstrom and Sereno all posted a goal and an assist in the first game of a staggered home-and-home set.
Distelrath and Drinkard also scored and Jason Recchia contributed a pair of assists for the Jets, who led 2-1 after 40 minutes before tacking on three goals in the final period.
“I liked how we competed and how we answered, especially in the second period when West Michigan pushed and we held up,” said Quenneville. “We got some big saves from Kam when we needed them and had that huge penalty kill (four minutes to Shand) against the top power play in the league right now. I felt like we played a good game, good enough to win, but I don’t feel like it was a 5-1 game. We didn’t do right things at the right times, but good teams find a way.”
“I thought we played good, even when things got rough in the beginning of the second period,” added Recchia. “We came together and shut them down after that, so it was a pretty good game.”
In net, Limburg was phenomenal, stopping 32 shots in addition to a penalty shot attempt by Ryan Price early in the third period.
Next up for the Jets is the second part of the home-and-home this Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo.
The game will also be available on www.fasthockey.com.
Tickets for all Jets home games are available at the ticket office on game day starting at 6 p.m. for $5 or by emailing Nancy Krajewski at email@example.com.
Come to the ticket office on Tuesday nights from 6-8 p.m. and get tickets for any home game for just $2.
Tratar sits in a tie for third place in NA3HL scoring with his 20 points on nine goals and 11 assists, good for tops with the Jets and in the East Division.
With goalies Trevor Kalinowski (sports hernia) and Austin Kane (hand surgery to repair torn tendons) sidelined by injuries, the Jets signed 17-year-old Macomb, Mich., native Michael Latorella on Tuesday.
Latorella spent the 2014-15 season with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, going 9-7-0 with a 3.22 GAA and a .907 save percentage.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Scott Hughes, a Lathrup Village, Mich., native, was a goaltender for the Jets during their first season of 1989-90 and is now a goalie equipment representative for Vaughn.