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#USPHLPlayoffs: Metro Jets vs. Buffalo Stampede

Great Lakes Division 

Buffalo Stampede (5) at Metro Jets (1) 

All Games At Mount Clemens Ice Arena, Mount Clemens, MI 

Thursday, March 7, 2:30 p.m. EST

Friday, March 8, 2:30 p.m. EST

Saturday, March 9, 11:30 a.m. EST (If Necessary) 

 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com

 

The Metro Jets are proud to be one of the three teams to join the USPHL Premier after its 2017-18 inaugural season to have qualified for each USPHL Nationals of their existence through 2023. They hope to extend their total Nationals trips to a second hand for six total qualifications – including the eventually canceled 2020 Nationals. 

The Buffalo Stampede know they have a gargantuan task in front of them if they are to both stop this historical run and also to make their own Nationals debut. They won their second playoff series in their six-year history when they beat the fourth-seeded Columbus Mavericks in two 5-4 victories to move on to one of the two Great Lakes finals. 

“The opportunity to face a top program like the Jets is a challenge we’re certainly looking forward to,” said Stampede Head Coach Brian Thompson. “We’ve played some pretty good hockey the last month and we hope to be able to come in and make life difficult for them and compete for a spot at the national tournament.”

Metro, who won the season series 4-0 against Buffalo, earned a bye after capturing their fifth Great Lakes Division regular season title and first since 2022. 

“Playoffs are the best time of year. We are excited for our guys to finally get going after having the week off,” added Jets Head Coach Jamie Lovell. “We approach each week throughout the season the same way — we ask ourselves ‘how can we develop our guys and help them reach their full potential as hockey players?’ From there, we put together a plan for the week both on and off the ice we feel addresses those things.

“Playoffs are no different,” Lovell added. “Yes, the stakes are higher and winning matters, but we have instilled in our guys that if they trust the process, the success will come.”

Metro brings its typical veteran-heavy group to the fore, whether completely with the Jets or having come up from the Metro Jets Development Program (MJDP). The Jets are fourth in most games played by players on their roster, at 1,769 (or 69 games per player). Leading the way in experience are third-year Jets forward Alex Bedenko, with 128 points in 107 games, and defenseman Devon Mastay, with 62 points in 110 games. 

The Jets had the league’s best offense this year, averaging 8.35 goals per game, and not surprisingly, they had 14 players who averaged better than a point per game over a whole season. Second-year players Ugo Lollier and Carson Finney had 81 and 72 points, respectively, to lead the team – and both have more than 100 points in their career. First-year Jet Tyler Bautko had a huge debut season with Metro coming in from the Belle Tire AAA program – he scored 71 points in 41 games this year. 

The Jets also had the No. 1 defense in the USPHL Premier, averaging just 1.65 goals against per game. Defensemen Carson Redd and Brock Hart finished 1-2 in plus-minus at +89 and +84, respectively. Defenseman Michael Lucia registered 38 blocked shots to lead the team. In goal, a crew including Taylor White – tied for most shutouts in a Premier career with 10 – and Carson Mackenzie. The two averaged .925 between them. 

“We expect our group to be ready for Game 1 Thursday. It’s a new season, everyone is back to zeros statistically and they are all excited to get going,” said Lovell.

Buffalo’s Liam Letters was impressive in the first round in net, stopping 72 of 80 Columbus shots for the two straight wins. Up front, returning forward Caden Cavalieri led the team in the regular season (38 points in 40 games) and in the playoffs so far with four points over the first two games. Matthew Riblett (28 points), Jeremiah Rausch (21 points in 22 games) and Gavin Lafferty (16 points) rounded out the top five, both in the regular season and the postseason. 

“As far as Buffalo is concerned, we expect them to be a much improved team from when we last saw them earlier in the season,” he said. “Plus, they are going to be a confident group coming off a first round series sweep. It’s going to a good series, and we welcome the challenge.” 

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