Pat Payton, Gazette Sports editor
Practice makes perfect. Stratford Cullitons’ captain Andrew Barton says it’s the little things that add up to good defensive play. Cullitons allowed just two goals against in two Midwestern Conference victories this past weekend.
“In the past couple of weeks at practice, we’ve been working on little things and systems, and making sure everybody is in the right spot,” the hard-working centre told the Gazette. “It all adds up to good defensive play all-round.”
Barton noted that Stratford’s Joey Hishon and Clinton native Ryan O’Reilly, both members of the Colorado Avalanche organization, have been helping out at Cullitons’ practices for the past month.
“It helps when guys like Hishon and O’Reilly come to practice and they kind of set the pace for us,” he said. “Having guys like that who play at a higher level can only help us.
“It really helps our guys because trying to keep up to those two is something else,” he added with a smile.
Coach Phil Westman points out where the 21-year-old O’Reilly has been the biggest help to him at workouts.
“The little things and the attention to detail,” Westman noted. “Things like penalty-killing and his tenacity on the puck. It’s the difference between a pro hockey player and a Jr. B player. It really shows.
“When you have two professional hockey players out there, who are first-round NHL draft choices, it picks up the pace of your hockey team at practice,” the coach added with a laugh.
“We’re certainly not the Colorado Avalanche, but our practices are high-tempo and we go at it pretty good.”
• Kitchener Dutchmen have shown a significant improvement this season, and sit with a .500 record (11-11-2) after weekend action.
“We did a lot of recruiting over the summer,” Kitchener head coach Brad Lund said. “We brought in some guys who have made us stronger overall. We’re still quite a young team, and we’re learning as the season goes on. It’s a work in progress.”
Lund noted that he doesn’t have a defenceman older than 18. Dutchmen have eight to nine returnees from last year’s club.
• Former Cullitons forward Ray Huether (2010-12) has two goals, three points and two penalty minutes in 20 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves. The 18-year-old from the Seaforth area had 39 goals with Cullitons a year ago.
Wolves goalie Taylor Dupuis, a teammate of Huether’s last season in Stratford, has a 2-2-1 record after this past weekend with a 3.53 goals-against average in seven starts. The 18-year-old New Liskeard native was 20-2 with Cullitons as a back-up last season.