First-year Jets players settle in
JANESVILLE--Drew Callin needed some time to get acquainted with his new teammates and linemates.
Kyle Patava was taking the step up from the midget level of hockey to juniors.
The early portion of the Janesville Jets season has served as somewhat of an adjustment period, but the team is seeing an increased role from some of its first-year players. The Jets hit the one-third mark of the North American Hockey League season this weekend when they host Port Huron on Friday and Saturday night.
“Sometimes it's about feeling them out, seeing what type of kids they're going to be,” Jets coach Joe Dibble said. “A lot of these guys have to adjust to being on their own and becoming men.
“As soon as we grasp something and start to move forward with it, something else is exposed because of all the young kids we have. But it's been coming together.”
No Jets player is hotter at the offensive end than Callin.
He's got nine points in 14 games this season, and six of them have come in the past five games. He's scored five of his six goals during that span.
“I kind of broke out the past couple weekends,” Callin said. It took some time for me to get to know my teammates. Once we got to know each other, we started playing really well.
“The biggest adjustment for me was probably the physical play.”
For Callin, the transition came in moving from the top-tier United States Hockey League last season to the Tier II NAHL.
“A lot of kids think if they play in the USHL, coming down to the NAHL they should light it up and be the best player on the ice,” Dibble said. “That's not the case. Third or fourth line at that level is pretty much the same.
“It's an ego thing. You've got to crush that ego. Some kids are able to do it and some kids aren't.
“If (Callin) continues to go down the path he's on, he's going to start getting a lot of attention.”
Patava, a 17-year-old forward, played at the midget level last season and wasn't an immediate fixture in Janesville's lineup to start this year.
“He didn't like it, but he kept working,” Dibble said. “He's committed to (play for Army starting in 2015), so the work ethic was never an issue, but it's mentally just getting these young kids to recognize what it takes to win hockey games at this level.”
Patava enters the weekend seventh on the Jets with eight points.
He's averaging an assist per game over the past four outings.
“I feel like I caught on after the first weekend or two,” Patava said. “I got more comfortable and settled in. That's when I play my best.
“Now I know this is the place for me.”
And now it's time for the Jets to determine their spot in the NAHL North Division.
They sit last in the six-team division with 15 points but are just four points out of fourth. Janesville, however, has had just one series against divisional opponents, sweeping second-place Michigan in early October. Visiting Port Huron (13-2-4) sits atop the division.
“Everybody looks at it first-place team/last-place team, but with as tight as our division is, in a matter of three weeks you can go from last to first,” Dibble said. “We're chomping at the bit.”