WATERFORD, MI " Morgan James is hoping his last year of junior hockey will be more memorable than the past couple years.
After taking a break from the game after his last year of midget hockey three years ago dealing with personal problems, James signed with the Metro Jets in the offseason and was recently named team captain.
Making the decision to return to hockey was the easy part and once he laced up the skates for the Jets" training camp, the comeback was complete.
"I signed with the Jets because I wanted to get back into the game that I"ve always played and loved," said James, a 20-year-old from Commerce Township, Mich. "I called (Metro GM) Butch (Wolfe), he had me come out, and that was that. After taking a couple years off going through a rough time in my life, now I"m back and I regret ever stopping (playing hockey). The adjustment hasn"t been a problem."
With just one assist through 20 games this season, James does lead the team with 103 penalty minutes, also second overall in the North American 3 Hockey League.
More than points, though, are James" desire to improve on a daily basis and continue playing hockey after this season.
"Morgan"s come a long way since he joined us," Metro associate coach Jamie Hayden said. "He"s a good leader in the locker room and on the ice, he"ll definitely step up for any one of his teammates. He can also play forward or defense and has done anything we"ve asked of him.
"As for being captain, I think he was a good selection. He"s never been a captain at any level of hockey before and growing up, a lot of teams pick their three best players as captains and Morgan was probably never one of those players. When you get to this level, character plays a big role in who you pick as a captain."
Racking up the penalty minutes has always been a part of the way James plays the game. He realizes he"s not going to be a 30-goal scorer or a top-four defenseman, so playing the physical side of hockey is the role he fills to a "T." Being 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds only helps matters.
"I"m going to do whatever it takes to keep playing this game at a competitive level and if that means fighting, then bring it on," boasted James. "I"ve always been a bigger guy on the ice, so I"ve been pushed to be physical. It"s my strongest and favorite point of ice hockey."
James wants to come back from the holiday break ready to get back to business and start the Jets" push for a playoff spot. Looking even further ahead, James reiterated that continuing his career is more than just a hope.
"Come the New Year, we will be better than ever before," said James. "Everyone has a better feel for each other now and it"s time to dominate. After this season will be a long summer of work and then hopefully some good hockey."
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets stumbled a bit last weekend in getting swept at home by the Peoria Mustangs, but rebounded with a 6-4 win in Flint Tuesday night.
The visitors from Illinois won 3-0 on Saturday night and then 7-2 Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.
"Not many positives to take from this weekend," said Hayden. "Eric Trunick played well Saturday night in the second and third periods, but didn"t show up in the first period and that was pretty much the difference in the game. Sunday, we just didn"t bring the effort we needed to play a team like Peoria, who is in fourth place and battling for one of the top spots in the league."
Trunick (Commerce Township, Mich.) made 28 saves in Saturday"s loss and then suffered the loss again Sunday despite playing only 22 seconds.
Matt Braun (Ramsey, N.J.) started in goal, but was pulled for Trunick after Mason Riley scored a shorthanded goal at 11:55 of the first period to give Peoria a 2-0 lead. Kyle Hamilton scored again shorthanded on Trunick at 12:17 and Trunick was yanked for Braun.
With the Jets scoring twice, Peoria"s third goal (Hamilton"s) stood as the game-winner and Trunick the goalie of record.
Cameron Bazin (Troy, Mich.) and Matt Stirling (Dexter, Mich.) scored for Metro and Braun finished with 28 stops.
Riley and Brandon Neville each had two goals for Peoria.
Tuesday night at Iceland Arena, it was a 3-2 game in favor of the Jets after two periods before three goals in a 68-second span to start the third period from Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney, Mich.), Stirling and Brett Grech (Hartland, Mich.) gave the Jets a four-goal cushion at the time.
Stirling and Kilgore scored in the first period and Dan Hudson (Gregory, Mich.) added a goal in the middle frame.
Trunick finished with 46 saves between the pipes for the Jets, now 9-17-1-0.
For Flint, Andrew Lay had two goals and an assist, Nate Scurfield a goal and an assist and Stephen Hibbard three assists. Nick Szalacinski also scored in the loss and Dominic Orlando and Andrew Habasevich combined for 24 saves.
Metro"s next action comes Jan. 8-9, 2011 in Pittsburgh before a home-and-home with Battle Creek the following weekend.
Grech made his return to the lineup last Saturday night after being out with a deeply lacerated thigh suffered Nov. 7 against St. Louis "¦ The Jets have four players named Matt on the roster (Braun, Elswick, Stemkoski, Stirling) and three players named Mike (Corder, Denston, Moroso). They also have two Jordans (Jones, Reames) and two Tommys (Burns, Kilgore). Burns and Kilgore are also both natives of Pinckney, Mich "¦ Moroso, Stirling and Kilgore have each played in all 26 games this season.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Chicago native Anthony Cacciatore played on the Jets" blueline during the 2000-2001 season and after that season, he played two years of Division I club hockey at Robert Morris College and then two years of pro hockey in the United Hockey League with Muskegon and Port Huron.
Cacciatore, now 29, has come full-circle as he now lives and works in Chicago operating his own business as a private and personal chef.