Meteors Solid in Goal

By: Bill Potrecz

When Dave Marrone took over as head coach of the Fort Erie Meteors, he quickly determined goaltending wasn’t going to be a concern.

Jacob Hearne and Dalton McBride didn’t have overly impressive goals-against averages, but numbers don’t tell the whole story on a team which struggled from the outset this season.

“I heard they were good, but I didn’t realize how good they were,” Marrone said. “This tandem is as good as any we had in Thorold, or as good as I’ve seen for that matter.”

Marrone has given both a chance to play since stepping behind the bench earlier this month.

“We’ve been back and forth lately and one guy (Hearne) is 19 so he gets a little more time, but McBride has really come on and is playing great,” said Marrone, who is being assisted by Chris Risi, Steve Dol and Joe Fazio. “He’s been outstanding his last couple of outings for us. 

“I have nothing but good things to say about their attitudes as individuals too. They’re phenomenal. We have to do everything we can to move them along to the next level. They’re great guys and great goalies.”

Marrone feels Hearne and McBride’s play has been a big reason the Meteors have begun to turn things around — Fort Erie topped Niagara Falls 2-1 last week — and have climbed into seventh place in the standings.

“(They are) major. If we can control what we can control and play discipled hockey and be the hardest working team, we have a chance to win every night,” Marrone said. “We’re going to win a 2-1 or 3-2 game most nights. If we can keep the goals against down, we’ve got a good shot. We’re not going to win a run and gun game.”

Hearne has a 3.76 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 20 games so far this season.

“It’s been a tough season for me because I was hurt for seven weeks with a sprained ankle,” said Hearne, a native of Ennismore.  “I was out for a while but since I came back my ankle is starting to fell 100 per cent now and I feel more confident.

“I think this last half will be pretty good.”

Hearne feels he has progressed since joining the Meteors three years ago, partly due to the abundance of shots he has faced over the years.

“It’s a lot of development as a goalie. It may be a blessing in disguise. Facing 50 shots a night is just preparing me and making me better. I’ve seen a dramatic increase from my first year to now in the way I play.”

He is also enjoying playing for the new regime.

“I think it’s made a culture change,” he said. “It’s a new page for us so we can start fresh and everyone is committed with that drive to be better every day. The coaches have done a good job being on a personal level as well as a professional level so we are more confident on the ice and off it.”

McBride is in his first season at the junior B level after playing junior C in Dunnville last year.

“I knew I could play here,” said McBride, an 18-year-old Grimsby native. “It was just getting used to it and getting up to pace with the speed and how fast it is.”

McBride has been in net for five of the Mets nine wins this season, including last week’s victory over the Canucks.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot more confident and we’ve been playing a lot better defensively and as a team too,” he said. “We’ve been playing a lot better and the guys are happier. 

“We’re playing better and it shows.”

McBride, who was selected in the fifth round (97th overall) by the Kitchener Rangers in the 2018 Ontario Hockey League draft, hopes to continue to climb the hockey ladder.

“We’ll see how the season ends and hopefully make the jump up to the next level, whatever that is,” he said. “Even from the beginning of the season, I’ve gotten a lot better.”

McBride said he enjoys battling with Hearne for playing time.

“It’s helped a lot for development,” he said. “It’s a lot of competition. It’s good. It’s a good, healthy battle. I like it.

“It makes you play well and think about what you’re doing.”

The Meteors are in Welland Thursday, home to St. Catharines Saturday and in Pelham Sunday.


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