Written By: Bill Potrecz
When Brad DiTillio decided to return to the Golden Horseshoe for his final season of junior eligibility, one of the first calls he made was to Fort Erie Meteors coach/general manager Nik Passero.
DiTillio began his junior career with the Thorold Blackhawks before moving to the Ontario Junior Hockey League for two seasons but wanted to play closer to his native St. Catharines after enrolling in the business program at Brock.
“I saw how Fort Erie was on the rise and playing well,” said DiTillio, who played minor hockey with the Meteors Josh DiFrancesco and Thomas Gualtieri. “Nik treats his guys like his own kids.
“It’s been great here.”
DiTillio also took into account the Meteors’ success last season that saw them come within one game of qualifying for the Golden Horseshoe finals.
“When I was looking at my options, it was definitely important to win,” he said. “Last year I lost in finals and it was something that left a feeling with me that I want to win now.
“The way Nik handles things and how they’re always striving to succeed, they always want to win. I know there’s a couple of junior B teams out there that only practise twice a week but here Nik really wants to win and is doing all the right things.”
Passero was thrilled to be contacted by the rugged winger.
“He reached out to me and said he wanted to play for us which doesn’t happen too often,” Passero said. “The word spread from a good year last year and he wanted to come home and after that is was pretty easy.”
Passero knew of DiTillio, but had never seen him play in person.
“I knew he was a local kid who played in the OJ and you always circle those on your list for possible returns,” Passero said.
DiTillio has been everything the Mets have hoped for. He’s third on the team in scoring with 18 goals and 39 points in 36 games and was recently named an assistant captain.
“He’s a quiet kid that just does what he has to do,” Passero said. “He joined our leadership group, very deserving. He has a calm, quiet demeanour who takes care of guys and works his butt off.
“His numbers have been really good but there’s more to him than just numbers. We knew where he would slot in and he’s been exactly where we thought he’d be. It couldn’t have worked out any better. He’s met all expectations.”
The Meteors have 13 games remaining in the regular season and have pretty much locked down third spot with a solid 24-9-4 record.
“We’re just focusing on finding our game,” Passero said. “We probably played our best game of the year against Caledonia and were real good against Hamilton too. We’ve had two good ones. Ever since we got back I think we’ve been pretty good. We just have to be a little more consistent and do things the right way.”
The Mets trail the St. Catharines Falcons by six points for second, although they have played three more games. Hamilton leads the conference with 59 points.
“We have to try and chase Hamilton and St. Catharines and get ready for March,” Passero said. “We’re 12-2 at home and won out last eight at home. I hope Fort Erie starts to realize what we’re doing and it gets crazy like it did last year.”
DiTillio is eager for the playoffs where he has high expectations for the Meteors.
“This is a special group here and I think we have the ability to take over this league if we’re playing the right way,” he said. “It’s been good. I’ve been lucky because there’s such an amazing core here and such a good group of guys to play with. It makes it easy to put up points.”
The Meteors visit Pelham Friday and host the Panthers Saturday before travelling to St. Catharines Tuesday.
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