Meteors honour grads
Drew Passero’s final official day with the Fort Erie Meteors was the furthest thing away from how he envisioned the end of his junior hockey career.
The 21-year-old Fort Erie native arrived at the Fort Erie Leisureplex, put on his black and orange Meteors jersey one final time, then posed for a picture with the other graduating players.
“It’s kind of weird because for so long we were thinking we were going to play and we haven’t played for so long,” Passero said. “It’s not like you get a proper good bye. It’s just been lingering in the air for so long.”
Passero, who is studying construction engineering at Niagara College, spent three full seasons with the Meteors and was eagerly anticipating his final season of competitive hockey before entering the working world.
“It hurts. I was really looking forward to the last year, especially with the team we had,” he said. “We had a good coaching staff and good teammates and had a real chance of looking at winning our league and even going further. To get that stripped, is a kick in the ass.”
Passero will miss everything about being a Meteor.
“We haven’t had a lot of success in my years here but I’ve met some of my best friends and had some of the best times here.”
Marco Lariccia, Malachi Albrecht, Jacob Hearne, Dante Masse, Anthony Gigliotti, Daylon Groulx and Matthew Maidens also saw their junior careers come to an end without playing a game due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t know if there is a word to describe it. It’s not a great feeling to go out not getting to play your last year but there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Lariccia, a 20-year-old Port Colborne resident, who was slated to be the Mets’ captain this season.
Lariccia, who is employed at Bill’s Collision and Glass Auto Body in Fort Erie, had high hopes the Meteors could make a run at a title this season.
“That’s the worst past about it,” he said. “This is one of the strongest teams I’ve had since we’ve been here in four years and going through pre-season and having some great games and really gelling.”
Lariccia held out hope some type of schedule could be played, but saw the writing on the wall when Ontario went into a lockdown after Christmas.
“I think once January came around and we were still in lockdown and then it was extended again, I think I knew that was it,” he said.
Masse, a 20-year-old Niagara Falls native, was in his second stint with the Meteors after also playing for the Welland Junior Canadians and Thorold Blackhawks.
“It is tough, absolutely. It’s not good,” he said.
Masse, who is majoring in psychology at Brock, will miss the daily regimen of playing junior.
“It’s going to be tough walking away,” said Masse, who is considering playing for the Niagara Whalers next year. “Going to the rink and seeing the boys. Just the routine of playing hockey every day and everything around that.”
Gigliotti finishes his junior career after stops in Pelham and Thorold before spending the last two seasons in Fort Erie.
Groulx, son of former Meteors coach Wayne Groulx, had re-joined the Meteors after an Ontario Hockey League career in hopes of getting in some ice time after signing a pro deal in Austria.
Maidens, a 20-year old Niagara Falls native, joined the Mets after stints in Thorold, Niagara Falls and Welland.
Hearne spent three seasons with the Meteors and will move on to Plattsburgh State University next season while Albrecht never had a chance to suit up for Fort Erie after joining the organization from the United States Premier Hockey League.
Meteors head coach/general manager Nik Passero feels for his graduates.
“Terrible. I can’t even explain it,” he said. “The worst part is how dedicated they were in everything we did this year. They never missed a 10-person skate. I was waiting for a 20-year-old to tell me he was done. They were here for every practice. Every time this room was open they were here. That’s what hurts.
“They were dedicated to what was being done here. I feel for them in that aspect for sure.”
Passero plans to work with minor hockey players during the summer and then hopefully get things in order for training camp.
“It sets everyone back a year. It sets organizations back a year,” he said. “It’s going to put a lot people out of hockey. There will be a lot of kids that don’t come back. It’s going to be more than 12 months when we pick this thing up again.”
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