By Matt Mackinder
When Steve Klisz scored the overtime game-winner to send the Metro Jets past the Flint Jr. Generals in both team’s season opener two weeks ago, he said after the game that the goal was “definitely one of the biggest goals I’ve ever scored.” Not too shabby for a player the Jets drafted in June in the 20th round with the 317th overall pick in the North American 3 Hockey League Entry Draft.
“We drafted Klisz on the recommendation of (former Metro assistant coach) Sean Clark,” said Jets head coach Jason Cirone. “So far, he’s been one of our most skilled players and is a kid that can bring the pace of the game to his level. That’s not something you teach and it also shows that he doesn’t panic.”
After he found out Metro selected him, Klisz (pronounced KLISH) started doing his research. “When I was drafted, I honestly didn't know much about the Jets or the league, but after going to some (summer open) skates and talking to (Jets head) coach (Jason) Cirone, I realized that playing for the Jets would be the best for me,” explained Klisz, an 18-year-old forward from Livonia, Mich. “I like the team and I’m very glad I made this decision.”
Scoring his clutch goal against Flint only solidified Klisz’s decision to play for the Jets. Like he mentioned, it was one of a handful of what he considers to be memorable goals. He added three more this past weekend against the Queen City Steam and now leads Metro in scoring with nine points.
“Last year for Livonia Churchill High School, we played Orchard Lake St. Mary's in the state quarterfinals and I scored two big goals,” remembered Klisz. “Another time was in Bantams when I scored the game-winning goal at Joe Louis Arena to win the Little Caesar’s championship.”
Klisz, like most players at this level, has very high, yet reasonable expectations of himself. ”I want to play great defense, score 30 goals and have 30 assists and be a great team player,” said Klisz, who grew up looking up to NHL stars Steve Yzerman, Pavel Datsyuk and Mats Sundin. “One person I look up to is my dad. I wouldn't be playing hockey today if it wasn't for him.”
“He’s a very big part of our power play,” said Cirone of Klisz. “He’s so calm, cool and collected with the puck and we need a guy like that on the power play. We’ve scored a power-play goal in every game so far and Klisz is a big part of that.”
Klisz also has a hockey future mapped out past this year. ”I would like to play in the North American Hockey League next year and I think that would be a big achievement for me,” Klisz said. “Then after that, I would like to play college hockey. Ohio State has always been a dream ever since I was a little kid and that would be a blessing if I played for the Buckeyes.”
Keep scoring big goals and Klisz may have his pick of where to play in the future.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets reeled off two wins on the road against the Steam last weekend, completing their first sweep in Cincinnati in more than five years.
The Jets, now 3-1-0-0 on the young season, won both games by a 5-3 count with goalie Devin Williams earning both wins.
"The funny thing that happened this weekend is that everyone played well," Cirone said. "I rolled four lines Saturday night, but then we had a couple injuries and I played three lines plus one and eight defensemen Sunday. We played extremely well for five periods this weekend, with the exception being the third period Sunday."
Saturday night, Klisz scored twice with an assist, Mike McKinnon had a goal and two assists, Matt Stemkoski a goal and a helper and Doug Andrews the other goal.
Williams finished with 24 saves.
Sunday afternoon, Klisz, Andrews, Stemkoski and McKinnon scored again with Branden Morganroth tallying as well. Andrews has scored in all four games thus far for the Jets.
"The guys worked hard all week and I think our practice Thursday was our best of the year," said Cirone. "It was upbeat, up-tempo and there was a lot of teaching and a lot of learning going on."
Matt Stirling chipped in with a pair of assists and Williams stopped 27 shots in goal.
The Jets return home to Lakeland Arena this Saturday night for their lone game this week, a 7:50 p.m. start against the Flint Jr. Generals.
Cirone said to prepare for Flint, a team that the Jets played on opening night and took a 8-7 win in overtime, not much should change this week in practice.
"We just have to keep continuing what we're doing," Cirone said. "Flint's a very good team and if we don't keep ourselves grounded from winning these two games in Queen City, Flint will fix that real quick."
Metro captain Tommy Kilgore turned 19 last Sunday … Forward Travis Hargett was back in the lineup for the Queen City series after suffering an upper-body in the season opener against Flint on Sept. 9 … Williams is tied with Granite City goalie Matt Grove for most wins in the NA3HL this year (3).
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Steve Oleksy, a defenseman who played for the Jets during the 2004-2005 season, has agreed to terms with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads on a contract for this season.
The 25-year-old Oleksy is returning for his third season with the Steelheads. He originally signed with the team in January 2010 and going to the Kelly Cup finals. He returned last season and solidified himself as one of the team’s top blueliners with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) and a team-high 134 penalty minutes for the Steelheads before being loaned to the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League.
“Steve is a guy who got an opportunity last season and really took advantage of it,” Idaho coach Hardy Sauter said. “You want the kinds of players that will step up like Steve has. He got good experience with us and in the AHL last season, so we’re really happy to have him back.”
During his time in the AHL, Oleksy skated in 17 games, picking up four assists and 39 penalty minutes. He also appeared in three playoff games with Lake Erie.
After playing for the Jets, Oleksy played for the NAHL’s Traverse City North Stars and then three seasons at Lake Superior State from 2006-2009.