Meteors Add Veteran Presence

The Fort Erie Meteors went for experience and depth at the trading deadline, adding a pair of useful character players to their roster.

The Meteors picked up forwards Owin Hendsbee and Liam Loftus and Meteors coach/general manager Nik Passero said the deals were made with a purpose. 

“Last year those are the guys that won us the playoff games, that really stepped it up in the playoffs, so we knew in order to win that’s what we had to bring in,” Passero said. “Our bottom six is a little bit younger so we thought we would get some older guys in there to make sure we were ready.”

Passero wasn’t the least bit concerned about bringing in new faces into a tight-knit lockeroom.

“I wasn’t worried about that. Our leadership group is good. They make sure they feel part of it,” he said. “We have 25 players who are always here. We have a great group.”

Hendsbee, a 21-year-old St. Catharines native, was someone Passero had his eye on for some time.

“He’s a guy we almost picked up last year from both Thorold and Welland at different times, it just never worked out,” Passero said. “He’s been great. He’s been doing everything we ask of him.”

Hendsbee scored in his first game as a Meteor and has a pair of goals in five games so far.

“It was a big relief definitely scoring in my first game. I hope to keep it coming and see what we do in playoffs,” Hendsbee said.

Hendsbee, who was recommended to Passero by fellow St. Catharines native Brad DiTillio, says he is willing to do whatever is asked of him.

“I’ve been one of those guys that can play anywhere. Just a good guy with lots of speed, an older guy who knows the league well,” he said.

He is also pumped to have a chance to go deep into the playoffs.

“Beating St. Catharines really shows what we can do and hopefully get past the rounds and go on to the Sutherland Cup,” he said.

Loftus, a 20-year-old native of Thornhill, gives the Mets more experience and depth down the middle. 

“We needed a little more grit defensively and Scott (Thorold general manager Barnes) had nothing but great things to say about him,” Passero said. “I had to pry him out of Scott’s hands. He didn’t want to get rid of him he’s such a good kid and such a good player.”

Loftus scored his first goal for the Meteors last week after collecting six goals and 17 points in his time in Thorold. 

“I didn’t feel like I was playing up to what I could with them,” Loftus said. “I felt I let them down how I was playing and was wondering if coming here if there was the potential to improve in the areas I wanted to improve. 

“So far, I feel I have been able to raise my game up a bit to the level where it’s more recognizable.”

Loftus admitted it was tough to change teams, speaking at length with his parents, Barnes and Hawks assistant coach Chris Goulet. 

“It was an interesting process, a difficult process,” he said. “I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do and try and understand what I wanted to get from the rest of the season with my own play.

“It had nothing to do with anything to do with they’re doing over there. Sometimes personally you just don’t have it. I just wasn’t playing up to my abilities and was definitely frustrated.”

Loftus, who is studying sports management at Brock, is well aware his junior career is coming to an end.

“You don’t know how much longer you get to play. You start counting down games and who knows when the final game will be? Whether it’s first round of the playoffs, second round, or the finals. You don’t know when the last game will come,” he said.

The Meteors topped the Welland Junior Canadians 4-0 Tuesday night at the Leisureplex.

Josh DiFrancesco had two goals while Loftus and Jaden Flora added singles.

Josh Smith made 29 saves for the shutout.

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