By earning 15 wins this season, the Metro Jets have certainly built a foundation for the future.
Still, not qualifying for the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) playoffs stings, but the outlook is bright for next season and a playoff berth is already being discussed for this time next year.
Team captain Morgan James and alternates Justin Bennett and Matt Stirling all feel the 2010-11 season went better than expected, even considering head coach Jason Cirone didn’t come aboard until late in the summer.
“We had a lot of potential as a team and had the ability to beat any team in the league,” said James. “I just don't think we knew how to put it all together for every game. I feel like we under-achieved because we had the potential to be great.”
“Cirone is a great coach and he deserved more from us,” Bennett said. “The whole year was a roller coaster - highs to high and lows to low. We showed glimpses of the hockey we should have played all year. We as a team were a shell of what could have been.”
“I think the season went well for the Jets,” added Stirling , who represented the Jets in the first annual NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament this season. “I think the addition of Jason Cirone was definitely a great move. Jason established an attitude that the Metro Jets needed to make them successful again. I think we could have done better than our record, but we won more games than most people expected.”
In December, goalie Matt Braun earned his first win in a shootout against then-first place Chicago. Other highlights included the Jets taking every game from Battle Creek , their season-ending sweep on the road over Quad City and an earlier sweep at home over Quad City . An early-season five-game winning streak also boosted team confidence when the team hit the .500 mark.
Seeing certain players develop was also a key part of the year, especially in January when forward Tommy Kilgore earned a call-up to the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
“Tommy played well for us all year and his success at the beginning gave him a chance to play in the NAHL,” said Stirling . “Mike (Moroso) came to the Jets from his travel team and helped the Jets considerably. His offensive help, especially in the beginning of the year, helped the Jets win games early as everyone else found their stride. For Ian (Costello), he didn't play many games at the beginning of the year, but he came a long way from where he was and played in many games at the end of the year. Ian didn't give up when he didn't see much action in games and looks like a great player for the Jets in years to come.”
“To me everyone grew significantly,” added Bennett. “Kilgore came in with loads of raw talent and is now leaving polished ready to tackle the NAHL. Stirling came in a shy, skilled player and is leaving a proven leader and go-to player. Costello overcoming size and age to be one of the most reliable blue liners at the end was also something very positive for us.”
As for what lies ahead, uncertainty has always been a staple in junior hockey, but with Metro, good things appear to be lurking on the horizon.
“The Jets are heading in the right direction as a franchise,” Stirling said. “With our improved record this year from previous years, this coming year looks to be even better. Young guys like Travis Hargett and Ian Costello are set to lead the team and hopefully to the playoffs. With some veteran help as well, the Jets can be a playoff team next year.”
Bennett showed a humorous side when discussing the 2011-2012 season.
”The future for the Jets looks less handsome without me, but with the coaching staff in place and a solid foundation of talented young players, nothing but good things will happen with this team,” said Bennett.
As the wearer of the "C" and a graduating player, James reflected on what he wishes could have been.
“We had a great time, a lot of fun, and became very close teammates,” James said. “I wish we could start over and do it again.”
Check back next week when head coach Jason Cirone reflects on the Jets’ 2010-11 campaign.