Meteors raring to go
Rob Hubbert promises some surprises from the Fort Erie Meteors this season.
Hubbert, who was named head coach of the Golden Horseshoe franchise last month, can’t wait to get the season underway and hinted the Meteors may have a trick or two up their sleeve this year.
“We’re doing things a little different and that will be the secret to the Fort Erie Meteors this year,” Hubbert said.
Pressed for details, Hubbert said one big change is going to be the way things are done at training camp.
“It’s going to be totally different. We’re going to run it like an NHL (National Hockey League) camp or an OHL (Ontario Hockey League) camp,” Hubbert said. “We’re not having the big tryouts.”
Hubbert has worked with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs since 2016 and is modelling the Meteors camp after what he observed in St. Catharines.
“Just being at the major junior A level the last four years, you take some stuff from what you’ve learned up there and bring it here,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’ve had great success with that. The kids have responded to it.”
Hubbert also said the Meteors have been as aggressive as ever seeking out players, rather than simply taking the leftovers from other organizations.
“Our recruiting was fantastic this year,” he said. “I think we hit a home run with a lot of the kids. If we’re sitting at the draft table and this was the draft, I would be ecstatic with the kids we signed.
“With the kids coming back, we’re so exciting to get the season started.”
The Meteors have nine players eligible to return including goaltender Jacob Hearn and forwards Cail Cirillo (9-14-23), Mario Lariccia (16-19-45) and Drew Passero (9-28-37).
“There’s four pretty good ones,” Hubbert said.
Among the notable newcomers are: Nick Paone, Austen Lucas, Blake Hall, Riley Benevento and goaltender Dalton McBride.
“We’ll have a few surprises. We’re no Caledonia, or Niagara Falls or St. Catharines, but we will be able to go get our guys that we feel will make us competitive,” Hubbert said. “It’s a competitive league and we’ll be competitive this year. I would be very disappointed if we weren’t competitive.”
Having said that, the Meteors have always been about player development and Hubbert doesn’t plan to stray from that.
“Our mandate is we want you to come play for us and we’ll move you along,” he said. “We’re not going to hoard guys or make it hard to leave. We want them to come and develop and if we move them along, so be it. Our program looks so much better when we do that.
“My last year of coaching (2015/16) we had five 16-year-olds and all five went to the OHL the next year. That development says it all. We’re attracting some high-end 16-year-olds because they know we’re going to play them. We’re not going to sit them on the bench. They are going to play and develop.”
Hubbert has compiled his coaching staff of former Meteors Carson Johnstone, Liam Conway and Ryan Cirillo, along with St. Catharines native R.D. Lacroix. Joe Fazio will remain as president and Mark Sauder as assistant general manager.
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