Ceci plays on — in prac­tice

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE

Cole Ceci is “stuck in a hockey limbo.” His words.

When the Hamilton Bull­dogs ac­quired a third goalie, Daw­son Carty, in late De­cem­ber, the 18-year-old from Ot­tawa was ex­pected to be as­signed to the team’s Jr. B af­fil­i­ate in An­caster, where he shone last sea­son.

But weeks went by, and his name never ma­te­ri­al­ized on the Avalanche ros­ter. Why? In or­der for Ceci to play in An­caster, he had to clear waivers. And that, said Bull­dogs pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager Steve Staios, didn’t hap­pen.

An­other team — he won’t say who — claimed him first.

So Staios had a de­ci­sion to make. Let Ceci go or re­claim him in Hamilton, where — bar­ring in­jury or some other dis­as­ter — he likely wouldn’t see any game ac­tion for the rest of the sea­son. He chose the lat­ter. “With him be­ing such a char­ac­ter kid, we had no is­sue keep­ing three goal­tenders around,” he ex­plained. Plus, with Carty fin­ish­ing up his fi­nal OHL cam­paign, the Bull­dogs see him in their plans for next year.

For the 6-foot-2, 168-pound Ceci, the sit­u­a­tion isn’t ideal. But it’s not bad, ei­ther.

“I still prac­tise with the guys in the morn­ings,” he said. “The morn­ings are a lit­tle more fast-paced and they have more time for goalies. “It could be worse.” John Gru­den, the Bull­dogs head coach, said he feels bad about the sit­u­a­tion, but thinks Ceci has han­dled it well. He also said it’s been good for him to skate with the older play­ers and work with goalie coach Nick Grainger in the morn­ings (rather than col­lect­ing dust as a third puck­stop­per at the reg­u­lar team prac­tices he runs in the af­ter­noons).

“Cole is a lit­tle fresh, you know, and he kind of re­lies too much on ath­leti­cism,” he said. “Maybe if he could set­tle down a bit, and that’s some­thing Nick is work­ing on with him. Po­si­tional, and then let his ath­leti­cism take over from there.”

Af­ter post­ing ex­cep­tional num­bers in An­caster last sea­son, Ceci got off to a “rocky start” — again, his words — in his first OHL cam­paign.

He was yanked af­ter 20 min­utes and five goals in his de­but against Owen Sound in Septem­ber and again dur­ing his most re­cent ap­pear­ance against Sault Ste. Marie.

In nine games, he posted a 3.84 goal­sagainst aver­age, a 0.880 save per­cent­age and two wins.

To add in­sult to in­jury, the OHL 10throunder frac­tured his thumb in prac­tice shortly af­ter that mid-De­cem­ber loss to the Grey­hounds. The break wasn’t bad — it only side­lined him for a cou­ple of weeks — but the tim­ing was. The Bull­dogs were in the mid­dle of a los­ing skid with the trade dead­line fast ap­proach­ing, which is why nab­bing Carty, a 21-year-old in his over­age sea­son, made sense. It light­ened the load for Kaden Fulcher, who, like Ceci, is only 18, and gave the team more depth and sta­bil­ity in the crease.

“It’s not like we haven’t been pleased with both Kaden and Cole, but they’re two ’98borns with a heavy work­load,” Staios said at the time. “I think for both of their de­vel­op­ment, to bring in a vet­eran pres­ence is go­ing to be help­ful.”

The Bull­dogs face Mis­sis­sauga and Wind­sor back-to-back this week­end. Here’s a look at what they’re up against: At Mis­sis­sauga Fri­day, 7 p.m. The sto­ry­line: The Steel­heads go into the week­end atop the Cen­tral Di­vi­sion and with just a sin­gle reg­u­la­tion loss in their past 10 games

Player to watch: For­ward Owen Tip­pett has four goals and seven points in his last three out­ings and had a pair of goals — in­clud­ing the game win­ner — against Hamilton the last time around

Notable alumni: Zac Ri­naldo, De­vante Smith-Pelly, Casey Cizikas (as St. Michael’s Ma­jors)

Hamilton con­nec­tion: For­ward Trent Fox led the Bull­dogs with 28 goals last sea­son and has six points since be­ing dealt to Mis­sis­sauga in Jan­uary Wind­sor Satur­day, 7 p.m., FirstOn­tario Cen­tre The sto­ry­line: The in­jury-plagued Spit­fires have wins in three of their past five games head­ing into Thurs­day’s tilt with Mis­sis­sauga, in­clud­ing a 5-3 de­ci­sion against the Bull­dogs

Player to watch: For­ward Gabe Vi­lardi, the top-rated OHLer for the up­com­ing NHL draft, has two goals and four points in his last three ap­pear­ances

Notable alumni: Ryan El­lis, Ja­son Spezza, Cory Still­man

Hamilton con­nec­tion: For­ward Cris­tiano DiGiac­into comes from Hamilton, de­fence­man Austin McE­neny comes from Wa­ter­down and for­ward Adam Laishram was an al­ter­nate cap­tain for the Bull­dogs be­fore be­ing traded to the Wind­sor Spit­fires last month

Lis­ten up: The Spectator’s Teri Pecoskie and Scott Radley talk goal­tend­ing, the team’s re­cent trou­bles and more in the lat­est edi­tion of the Bull­dogs Paw’dcast.

Stream it on e2e.thes­pec.com or down­load it on iTunes.

JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

Cole Ceci keeps his eye on the puck as Oshawa’s Danil An­tropov gets ready for a shot dur­ing a De­cem­ber game.

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