By Matt Mackinder
The Metro Jets have announced that last season’s captain, Morgan James, has signed a professional contract with the Columbus (Ga.) Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
James, a 21-year-old defenseman from Commerce Township, Mich., had two goals and two assists in 39 games last year to go along with 180 penalty minutes, fourth in the North American 3 Hockey League.
“Morgan is obviously a big man and plays a physical game, something that I think we missed with Dan Leslie and Craig Stahl retiring at the same time,” Columbus head coach Jerome Bechard said. “He has been utilized as both a defenseman and a forward and was his team captain last year. I think he could bring a lot of intangibles to our team that we may have been lacking last year.”
The SPHL is a Single-A league entering its eighth season in 2011-2012 with nine teams in the southeastern United States. The Cottonmouths have been in the league since its inception in 2004-2005.
James, who sat out the three seasons prior to last year, was named Metro’s captain midway through last season. He’s now looking forward to the next stage of his career.
“I’m very excited to get my feet wet in the pros and I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” James said. “I am going to the camp there in early October and have spoken with Coach Bechard who does plan on using me for the 2011-2012 season being that everything goes well. The Cottonmouths, from what I’ve heard and read, are a top organization in the SPHL. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous, but I also have confidence that I will be able to compete. I’ve been training very hard to get ready for this and I have the tools needed to do my job and more.”
Playing for the Jets last year did wonders for James’ development and he said he owes a debt of gratitude to the entire organization.
”I worked so hard in my one season for the Jets that I was noticed by a pro team, but that would not be giving credit where credit is due,” said James. “Without (head coach) Jason Cirone, I wouldn’t be heading down to skate with the Cottonmouths in the SP. I really want everyone out there to know that if you work hard for Jason, listen to him, and do him right as a player that he will do you right in return, whether that’s getting you to the next level or simply turning you into a well-rounded player that plays a role as part of the dynamic machine that is a hockey team.”
With the close of summer around the corner, James has a new set of goals for the upcoming season.
”I’m setting short-term goals only for right now,” said James. “I’m just focusing on going down there, skating my butt off and playing my role to the best of my abilities.”