Blackhawks add forward, defenceman
The Thorold Blackhawks continue to tinker with their roster.
After picking up speedy centre Owen Holmes from the Niagara Falls Canucks recently, the Blackhawks added a couple of more pieces in forward Mario Zitelli and defenceman Owen Green.
Zitelli is a former Blackhawk who began the season in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, while Green started the season with the Canucks before moving on to the Buffalo Regals.
“We’re trying to get better every time,” Hawks coach Scott Barnes said. “We lost some of our forward depth (Dylan Jenkins, Riley Sutherland) so we were able to add a couple of good forwards in Holmes and Mario and Green on the back end.
“I think we’re definitely becoming a better team. It’s just making it work and seeing how quickly you can make it fit.”
Zitelli played four games with the Hearst Lumberjacks of the NOJHL, but quickly came to realize he wasn’t going to be getting top-six minutes and asked for his release.
“Having a path and the year I thought I was going to have up there, after the first couple of weeks it was evident that my plan, my vision of going up there wasn’t going to pan out,” said Zitelli, a 19-year-old native of Hamilton.
Zitelli, who collected five goals and 15 points in 17 games for the Hawks last season after being acquired from Welland, got in touch with Barnes and began to skate with the team while contemplating his next move.
“He was looking for another junior A team. He skated with us throughout the whole process and I didn’t put any pressure on him,” Barnes said. “In the back of my head I knew it might be an option. It was something I let him decide and didn’t pressure him.”
Zitelli appreciated being able to come back to Thorold.
“It’s great,” he said. “We went out for a team gathering while I was looking for a team and met all the new guys and it was evident (Scott) kept the priority of character-first guys the room so the transition back felt really good.”
Zitelli would love a top-six role, but also wants to enjoy the ride day to day.
“At this point, I just want to have some fun,” he said. “I don’t want to overthink it. Originally when I was looking for a Tier 2 team the goal was to move on and play some kind of collegiate hockey. Now I just want to play and if I have a stellar year and something comes up I will pursue it. If not, at least I’m having fun with the guys.”
Barnes plans to use Zitelli in a number of roles.
“He’s going to have a good impact with us. He’ll play in all situations,” he said. “I think he’s a top-three line player. It’s hard now because we’re adjusting lines. He’s got a very good hockey IQ and he can make plays and create space for other guys out there.
“He’s kind of a complementary player so we’re just trying to find the best fits for everybody right now. We’ve got with a couple of different line combinations trying to figure things out.”
Green, a 19-year-old native of Williamsville, had 17 points in 24 games for the Regals this season.
“I’ve been basically looking for another D. We only have six so we wanted to get a seventh in case we run into suspensions or whatever. I had been talking to Buffalo for a week or so and we finally got it done,” Barnes said.
Green is slated to make his Hawks debut Thursday when Thorold play host to Caledonia. The Hawks then travel to Niagara Falls Friday and Hamilton Monday.
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