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