Travis Hargett is the youngest player for the Metro Jets, but has shown a mature side that has impressed his coaching staff and teammates to the point where they wonder if he really is just 16 years of age.
Coming into this season, Hargett was a forward by trade, but early on in the season was moved back to defense and had moderate success. While it was a big adjustment at first, Hargett found no need to complain.
“Travis has been trying to find a role for us and I think by being moved to defense, he’s learned how to take care of his own zone more effectively,” Metro head coach Jason Cirone said. “Back when we played St. Louis at home (last November), he was probably our best defenseman. Once we got some more ‘D’ through trades and free agency, we put Travis back at forward and while he occasionally makes mistakes young guys make, that’s something that will improve with experience.”
“Before this season, I hadn't played defense other than in practice for any team,” explained Hargett, who scored his first goal of the season last Sunday against Battle Creek. “It definitely made me a more well-rounded player and knowing defense makes my game as a forward easier to understand. After playing defense, the way I move on the ice without the puck has improved a lot.”
A native of Clarkston, Mich., Hargett played last season for Clarkston High School’s varsity team, but grew up playing at Lakeland Arena. He had long followed the Jets and hoped that one day he’d be able to lace up the skates for the squad.
“Knowing about the Jets, I wondered if I would ever be in that position,” Hargett said. “Then over this summer, my dad was at the rink for my brother’s practice and he saw (Metro head) scout Tim Ross. He invited me out to a skate that was later that day. I came out and kept skating with them and then (Jets GM) Butch (Wolfe) offered me a spot. I have always looked for a way to move up and play for the next level. I decided that is what I wanted after playing one year of varsity hockey.”
Making the jump from high school hockey to Junior A was an adjustment at first, said Hargett, but as the season wore on, Hargett found his comfort level and has been improving each day.
”I feel like I'm into the swing of things pretty well now,” said Hargett. “Speed and strength are what separates this league from high school hockey. The change was very noticeable, especially in how fast all the players think.”
The Jets also have several junior veterans on the team and having those players as mentors has been nothing but a positive situation for Hargett.
“Stepping into this team, everyone tells me little things that make my game better,” said Hargett. “I can usually find someone who can help me out if I have a question about what needs to be done. (Brett) Grech and the older guys have told me a lot of little things in between drills and shifts during games so I can improve.”
Hargett also said that his long-term hockey goals are to go as far as he can. Cirone thinks Hargett has the potential to move up, but one step at a time.
“Travis is a kid that comes to the rink every day, pays his dues and accepts his role,” said Cirone. “He plays his own style of game and I think he can make the jump to the next level, but another year here with us definitely wouldn’t hurt his development. His role right now is limited, but that’s just because of his age and our depth. I’d think that would change next season.”
LOOKING BACK LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets broke even last weekend, losing to Toledo at home Saturday night, 7-3, and then rebounding for a 4-0 shutout on the road at Battle Creek Sunday afternoon.
Matt Stirling, Tommy Burns and Matt Stemkoski scored in the Toledo game, while Grech assisted on all three and Eric Trunick made 31 saves in goal.
Toledo captain Chad Tickner had a goal and two assists and Justin Locante two goals to lead the Cherokee attack.
“The loss to Toledo was really disappointing,” Cirone said. “We showed in the second period the kind of team we can be, but then when we allowed that third goal, which I felt was a weak goal, we just fell apart.”
Sunday afternoon, Matt Braun stopped all 33 shots he faced for his first NA3HL shutout, first Jets’ shutout of the year and the team’s fourth straight win this season against Battle Creek.
“Matt was outstanding for us,” Cirone said. “Battle Creek works extremely hard and created a lot of chances just based on that.”
Justin Bennett tallied a goal and two assists and Mike Moroso, Hargett and Stirling added the other goals to go along with two assists from Cameron Bazin.
The Jets (12-20-1-0) play two games in St. Louis this weekend against the defending Tier III Junior A national champion Jr. Blues, currently in second place in the NA3HL standings. Game times (EST) are 3 p.m. Saturday and 1:45 p.m. Sunday.
“We need the points more than they do,” said Cirone. “St. Louis is a hard-working team and we’re going to have to work harder than them this weekend. It’ll be a good challenge for us and we’ll see what we’re made of.”
Grech is on a seven-game point streak where he has recorded 14 points on four goals and 10 assists … Stirling has scored six goals in his last five games … Braun has won his last two starts - last Sunday and back on Dec. 12 at Chicago … Defenseman Ian Costello has played in just 13 games this season, but Metro has won six of the games in which he’s played.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Forward Tommy Kilgore, who started this season with the Jets and scored 12 goals and 25 points in 31 games, made his NAHL debut last Friday and Saturday night with the Port Huron Fighting Falcons and stands a good chance of staying in Port Huron the rest of the season.
Kilgore, an 18-year-old from Pinckney, Mich., was held pointless in the two games at Traverse City last weekend.