Pat Payton, Stratford Gazette sports editor
A Junior hockey GM once said that building a hockey team “is a process, one brick at a time, one player at a time.”
Stratford Cullitons’ roster for 2012-13 Midwestern Conference season grew by two players just recently with the addition of forwards Trevor MacDonald and Mitch Vandergunst. Both players attended the Tribe’s spring camp at the Rotary Complex over the Victoria Day long weekend.
MacDonald, 17, a left winger/centre, was a member of New Liskeard Midget Cubs this past season, while Vandergunst, an 18-year-old right winger, played for Exeter Hawks of the South Ontario Junior Hockey League (SOJHL).
“We signed those two out of our camp,” Jason Lott, the Cullitons’ director of hockey operations/GM, told the Gazette.
Lott describes MacDonald as a “skilled forward,” while Vandergunst brings a little size as a “power forward.”
The Midwest finalists were faced with a bit of a rebuilding job when 10 players graduated due to age (all were 20 years old playing their final season in Junior). But the addition of MacDonald and Vandergunst boosts the Tribe’s number of signings to 16 (10 forwards, five defencemen and a goaltender) heading into its main training camp, which starts Aug. 18.
In addition to the 10 overagers, at least three other players from last year’s Cullitons’ squad aren’t in the Cullitons’ plans at the present time. They include: forwards Ray Huether and Mac MacSorley, and goalie Taylor Dupuis. The 18-year-old Huether, a 39-goal scorer, will likely stick with Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, and the 17-year-old Dupuis – who won 20 games as a back-up – has signed with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves.
MacSorley, who doesn’t turn 17 until December, is joining Youngstown, Ohio of the United States Junior Hockey League. The Phantoms picked him in the 16th round of the recent USJHL draft.
“They drafted him and Mac has indicated to us that’s the road he’d like to pursue,” Lott said. “We wish him the best of luck. If it doesn’t work out for him, we’ll gladly have him back.”
Brad McClure, Cullitons’ 45-goal leading scorer and MVP from this past season, is still a question mark. McClure, who turns 19 in August, recently travelled to British Columbia to talk with some Provincial Tier II Jr. A teams.
“He’ll make a decision after that,” Lott said. “He’s told us that he’ll be back with us, or he’ll ask for a trade to a team in B.C. It would hurt us if Brad isn’t back, but if not, it’ll open up an opportunity for somebody else.
“If Brad wants to play at a higher level, then I’m going to make it happen for him. You have to look at the bigger picture for these kids,” the GM added.
• The Cullitons, meanwhile, are looking for boarding houses for a few of their out-of-town players for next season. For more information and to answer any questions, please call Jason Lott at 519-272-6515.
• In other Junior hockey news, St. Marys Lincolns have acquired two former members of the Owen Sound Greys – including Stratford native Nik McIver. Defenceman McIver and forward Brandon Lamothe, both 19, were obtained in cash deals. McIver played two years for the Greys. The feisty blue-liner had 17 points and 80 penalty minutes in 51 games this past season.
He joined Owen Sound after playing one year of Midget in the Huron-Perth Lakers ‘AAA’ system. Lamothe hails from Smooth Rock Falls. In his one and only season with the Greys, Lamothe had 14 goals, 25 points and 86 penalty minutes in 49 games.
The Greys’ ownership group recently moved the franchise to Brampton.
The majority of the 2011-12 Owen Sound team has been traded, as the Bombers have opted to stock their team with Toronto and area players.