By Matt Mackinder
It’s the old adage that if one were to look up the word “captain” in the dictionary, a picture of Matt Stirling would be on that page.
Then again, in today’s age of technology, simply Google the word “captain” and up comes photos and stories about Stirling.
What else can be said of a player who plays every position but goalie and has been at or near the top of the North American 3 Hockey League scoring race?
“I don’t know what I’ve asked Matt to do that he hasn’t done because he does everything,” said Metro coach Jason Cirone. “He plays up front, he plays defense and he does it with no fanfare or complaints. He just does it. I don’t know what more I can say about the kid other than he’s been outstanding for us.”
Now in his third year with the Jets, Stirling was an alternate captain his first two seasons with the club and was the obvious choice this season to assume the captaincy.
“The ‘C’ didn’t change a whole lot of things from the previous games I have played at this level and as a player, I think it is more what you do on and off the ice than what is on your jersey,” said Stirling. “My game has progressed in multiple areas so far this season. Mostly mentally, the game seems to be slowing down and it is becoming second nature to make routine plays on the ice.”
At 7-8-0-0 going into Wednesday night’s game in Flint, the Jets have been a streaky team much of the year, but have won their last two games, including Nov. 10 at home against Flint.
During a losing skid is where a player’s character and maturity can shine and Stirling has stepped up to show why he is the Jets’ ultimate role model.
“To an extent, I think frustration can set in because we know what we are capable of and how good we can be,” said Stirling, a 20-year-old Dexter, Mich., native. “As far as keeping the team focused, the veteran guys assist me and try to keep everyone level-headed. The highs can’t be too high and the lows can’t be too low. When you play well and you don't get the results, it is easy to become frustrated. The only thing is that it is a long year and we are just getting started.”
Stirling was named the league’s top forward for the month of September and has been consistent ever since.
“At this point, Matt has been our MVP,” said Cirone. “That is largely because we have used him in every type of situation imaginable. He has tremendous work ethic, determination and now in his third season with us, is a great leader. He is not a loud, outspoken guy, but he definitely leads by example.”
With Toledo on tap, Stirling wants to rejuvenate the Jets and get back to .500. After Flint on Thanksgiving Eve, Metro hosts the Michigan Mountain Cats on Sunday afternoon.
“These types of games are the ones that you need to help establish yourself in your division,” said Stirling.
After this season, Stirling is hoping to find a college that will be able to offer a top-notch academic program and a high level of hockey.
“Matt is a kid that exemplifies what a student-athlete should be,” added Cirone. “He’s a kid that is an exemplary student and not much more can be said as to what he can do on the ice. Matt has a bright future and it will be fun to track his progress.”