Petoskey goaltender eyes spot in United States Hockey League
Recent Petoskey High School graduate Dillon Kelley mans the net for the Waterford Metro Jets of the North American 3 Hockey League earlier this season. Kelley has his sights set on joining the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League. (courtesy photo / June 22, 2012)
Fresh off his first season in the North American 3 Hockey League with the Metro Jets -- a team based in Waterford -- Kelley, a 17-year old goaltender from Petoskey, recently took part in a tryout camp and performed well with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League.
Kelley, who played in one period with the Fighting Saints as an emergency backup in April, said he's looking forward to potentially playing in the USHL this season and hopes to make an immediate impact in Dubuque, where he was one of six goaltenders at a camp in which some 160 players participated.
He'll take part in another camp with the Fighting Saints in August in hopes of making the club's everyday roster.
"It's a relief," said Kelley, who just closed his senior season playing baseball at Petoskey High School and last week played in the Near-Far High School Baseball All-Star Game at Traverse City Central High School. "It's knowing what you're going to do and having a plan and having things set in stone finally. It's stressful, because I was thinking if this doesn't work out what am I going to do and where am I going to go, but I feel good knowing what I'm going to be doing."
Kelley, who with the Metro Jets posted an 18-8-1 record with three shutouts, a 3.62 goals against average and a .891 save percentage, had hopes of being drafted by Dubuque -- or any team for that matter -- in the USHL draft in May.
"One of the things that Dubuque told me when I was there is that they stay true to their word," Kelley said. "They never told me straight up they were going to draft me, but I got my hopes up that they were going to do it and I was upset in a way. But I knew in the back of my mind if I worked hard and stayed on course I would be able to walk in there and have a good chance of making the team."
Kelley, who played two seasons with the Petoskey High School hockey team before moving to Clarkston to play with the Metro Jets, is the new prototype when it comes to goaltending.
Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing just over 200 pounds, Kelley said he's lost 18 pounds in five weeks after working out regularly at Petoskey CrossFit along with help from Brian McGeath, Phil Loesch and owner Jon Jansen.
"They've been working my tail off," Kelley said. "The one thing they (Dubuque) said was they were really impressed with my body type. I've been working hard and they could tell I've been working and it showed on the ice. I'm moving better, I'm quicker and more fluid around the net.
"I've slimmed down quite a bit and I don't know if I would've made the team if it wasn't for those guys at CrossFit."
Kelley, who said his ultimate goal is to eventually play for a Division I college program like many players in the USHL advance to, said he was grateful for his coaches in the NA3HL in Metro Jets head coach Jason Cirone and goaltender coach Randy Wilson.
"Playing in the NA3 was just one more stage in my development," Kelley said. "I owe a lot to those two guys, especially Randy Wilson. If it wasn't for those two guys I wouldn't be where I am right now."
Kelley also credited his former Petoskey High School coaches, Rene Chapdelaine and Bill DeLyon, in his development.
"Rene and Bill have always been there for me and they were always talking to different guys for me," Kelley said. "They were my first coaches that really treated me like a professional. When I went to Metro, I was treated pretty similar. With Rene and Bill, they made that transition to the next level that much easier."
Right now, Kelley's goal is to perform well at the USHL, which is the premier junior hockey league in the United States, before hopefully making the jump to the college level.
"My goal is to play Division I and it's one step at a time," Kelley said. "I know I have to play well in Dubuque, but Division I is my goal and we'll see what happens."