The band is back together
From left: Lucas Gualtieri, Thomas Gualtieri, Josh DiFrancesco, Dom DiFrancesco. Photo: BILL POTRECZ.
Growing up in St. Catharines, Josh and Dom DiFrancesco would often get together with Thomas and Luke Gualtieri for a game of street hockey.
“We all live right down by each other,” Josh DiFrancesco remembered. “We’d be playing road hockey on the streets two on two against each other, with each other.”
Josh DiFrancesco and Thomas Gualtieri, both 20-year-old Brock students, also played together for several years at the AAA level with the Niagara North Stars and even for a season with the Welland Junior Canadians before joining the Fort Erie Meteors.
Luke Gualtieri joined the mix with the Meteors last season and this year rookie Dom DiFrancesco has completed the brotherly foursome.
“It’s nice to bring that out here to junior B,” Josh DiFrancesco said.
Thomas Gualtieri agrees.
“It’s definitely very special to be able to play with my brother for a second year and play with some of my very good friends too for multiple years at a time,” he said. “It’s awesome because it’s the first time since I’ve been in this league that we have a legitimate shot to do something.
“It’s definitely exciting.”
Luke Gualtieri, an 18-year-old Brock student, is also enjoying the experience.
“It’s definitely realty fun being together with my friends and older brother,” he said. “It’s something I really didn’t see coming. We all grew up together and we’d see each other around the rink and go to each other’s games.
“It’s a really cool experience.”
Dom DiFrancesco, a 16-year-old rookie who attends Denis Morris, was the last to arrive and may be the best of the bunch, averaging a point per game so far this season.
“Playing as a 16-year-old, it was difficult at the start but I’ve been able to move past it and even though some of the guys are older, it doesn’t make that much of a difference,” said Dom DiFrancesco, who was drafted in the 14th round of the 2022 Ontario Hockey League draft by the Flint Generals.
The younger DiFrancesco appreciates being able to play with his older brother for the first time.
“It’s been good,” he said. “He’s taken me under his wing. He’s shown me around. If there’s even a scrum he’s always there for me. He’s been that leader for the team and for me.”
Josh DiFrancesco couldn’t think of a better way to finish out his junior career than as a mentor to his younger brother.
“We’re four years apart so you can’t do that in minor hockey,” he said. “I’m not trying to go anywhere in hockey. I’m more trying to win and I’m trying to help Dom advance to the next level so I’m trying to play my heart out for him and the team.”
Fort Erie general manager/coach Nik Passero loves the chemistry the sets of brothers bring to the Meteors.
“I think talent comes first, you have to be able to play. After that, you have to be a good guy and the guys have to trust you,” Passero said. “I don’t think anyone trusts anyone more than their brother.”
The Meteors are off to a strong start with an impressive 11-4-3 record and are only two points out of first place.
“I’m proud of the guys and happy where we are — it doesn’t mean I’m satisfied —but we’re happy,” Passero said. “We’re excited for what’s to come. If you would have asked me in August and told me we’re gong to go 11-4-3, I would have jumped on it.
“I often maybe sound not happy, but that’s not the case. I’m just not satisfied. They know how good they are and that the ceiling is very, very high.”
The Meteors have a light schedule this week with only one game, a road affair Sunday afternoon in Pelham.
The Mets will host St. Andrews Saints of the Prep Hockey Conference Saturday at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game Passero is looking forward to.
“It’s great test. They are very good, high skilled,” he said. “They have a good program and they’re so well run. It’s good for us as a league to connect with programs like that.
“We’re going to approach it like a normal game. We are going to try some different stuff but we’re not sitting anyone or anything like that. We’re going to play as hard as we can.”
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