By Miles Regan / USPHLPremier.com
Metro Jets Development Program
Seed: Midwest East #2
Seeding Round Schedule
All games to be played at Utica University Nexus Center, Utica, N.Y.
Day 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Florida Eels, 7 p.m. EST
Day 2: Friday, March 24, vs. Northern Cyclones, 5:30 p.m. EST
Remainder of schedule determined by results of seeding round.
For the third consecutive season, the Metro Jets Development Program will be competing at the USPHL Premier National Championship. The 2022-23 Midwest East No. 2 seed have put together fantastic runs in the past and are pumped to have earned another shot this season.
“It’s exciting to be heading there again,” said associate head coach Jamie Lovell. “It speaks to our program and how much we preach development. If we develop our players, they’ll eventually come through for us and earn the rewards they want. They put the work in and earned the bid.”
Player development is paramount in Mount Clemens, and the MJDP roster reflects that fact well. Six Jets will be making their second Nationals appearance in Utica, and Lovell knows how important their experience in big moments will be. He sees Nationals as a sort of “fourth season,” different from the preseason, regular, and early postseason rounds that come before it.
“Everybody’s there for a reason. They’re all top teams, so everyone’s confident and playing on a high. Six [games] in six [days] is a tall task but we’ll be ready to bring it each game.”
Leading the Jets into the fourth season will be returners Nolan Bruxfoort [‘02/Grand Rapids, Mich.] and Jack Rivera [‘02/Macomb, Mich.], a forward and defenseman who were each at the top of their game in MJDP’s Midwest East Finals series against Motor City.
Bruxfoort had a big goal and assist in MJDP’s series-extending Game 2 victory while Rivera scored and assisted the winning goal in Game 3. The Jets won these elimination games by nine combined goals, a feat that becomes even more impressive when you learn how they lost the series opener.
MJDP led Game 1 by a 1-0 score with under a minute left when Motor City pulled their goaltender. The Jets defense held off the intense Gambler attack as long as they could but ended up surrendering a goal with just 15 seconds remaining in regulation. Motor City then scored off of a rebound in overtime to take the game. It made for a stinger of a loss, but MJDP rose to the occasion and responded well.
“We knew it was going to be a tough hard-fought series, but we preach character and how you respond when facing adversity. Tough way to lose Game 1, but we preached character and our guys definitely bounced back and responded in Game 2. It all came to a head in Game 3.”
Experience may often be the Metro Jet M.O. but don’t let it fool you, they’ve got some rookies who can play, too.
Goaltender Taylor White [‘03/Bay City, Mich.] was one of the best netminders in all of Premier this season. He led the league in save percentage with a .944 figure and tied for second among all qualified goaltenders with a GAA of 1.64. White started all three games during the Motor City series and has stopped 93 of the 99 playoff shots he’s faced.
“Can’t say enough about our goaltending. White’s been the best goaltender in the league all year,” said Lovell, when asked about what aspect of play is most important to the Jets’ success. “It’ll also come from our depth and contributions all down the line.”
MJDP’s seeding round games will be played against the Florida division champion Florida Eels and the New England division top-dog Northern Cyclones. They did not face either team during the regular season but have played both teams at Nationals before, dropping seeding round contests to the Cyclones in 2022 and the Eels in 2021.
Whether or not revenge is on their minds is another question, but we can assure that MDJP will be unfazed by whatever Northern and Florida throw their way. The Jets faced five of the other 17 Nationals contenders during 2022-23 and know that they can do more than just hang with the big boys if they play their game.
“We’re going to focus on being strong defensively and cashing in on the chances we are able to create. Do that and we’ll be just fine.”