Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
When the Ontario government’s restrictions are lifted Monday, the Quinte Red Devils McInroy Maines Construction U18 Red Devils players will start to make up for lost time.
They’ll see lots of ice this with two practices followed by three games in four days.
“It’s a huge year for these kids,” said head coach Jeff Culhane. “With what happened last year with COVID, a lot of kids did not get the opportunity to showcase their abilities and now with the (OHL) U18 draft there’s that second opportunity to get looked at. Even more importantly outside of the U18 draft, just the opportunity to get noticed by junior A and junior B scouts around the province is huge for these kids.”
Quinte’s U18 Red Devils return to action at home Thursday night against the Whitby Wildcats. Game time is 8:30 p.m. at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre’s Mackay Insurance Pad.
This is Culhane’s third year at the helm of the U18 team. The staff also includes assistant coaches Jeff Diamond and Kaelan Fraser, goaltending coach Max Proulx, trainers Robert Horgan and Hugo Delisle and manager Tanya Carr.
“What we’ve tried to do here the last three years that we’ve been with the program is really just try to create an opportunity for the kids to truly develop and then we really try to advocate for them and give them opportunities to be seen by scouts at the next level and I think what you’re seeing this year is that paying off,” Culhane said.
“The kids that could’ve left, almost all of them stayed and we had many kids from a lot of different centres want to play in Quinte. We actually had about 40 kids at our tryouts, which is an unbelievable number for U18. Typically you see about 25 to 28, somewhere in that range. We cut I think eight goalies and all of them could’ve played triple-A so we were very fortunate in that regard.”
Comprising this year’s roster are captain Kellen Dostaler, alternate captains Kyle Ramsperger, Bailey Pipe and Liam Reid as well as Aiden Haller-Brady, Spencer Horgan, Carter McKee, Justin Murdoch, Cooper Kellar, Ethan Osborne, Ryan Turney, Alexandre Delisle, Keenan Wiles, Trent Williams, Tyson Carr, Jack Lowry, Joey Coates, Jack Dever and goaltenders Brady Spry and Brayden Friedrich.
“This group really, really gets along well. They have all bought in to the message that we’re trying to send them as a coaching staff,” Culhane said. “We have great leadership. Our captain Kellen Dostaler, the kids really look up to him and the guys that wear the A’s. They’re quiet leaders, just go about their business, have a really positive tone and vibe.”
Dever, a fourth round draft pick of the Ottawa 67’s in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection, was a new addition to the roster prior to the shutdown. He played 21 games for the junior A Pickering Panthers, four for the 67’s and one now as an affiliated player for the Wellington Dukes as well. He has two goals and two assists in four games with the Red Devils.
“Another really good player to fit into our program,” Culhane said. “On top of the high skill level he brings, just the effort and energy, just a great kid, quiet, goes to work. He just fits in with demeanour and the character on our team. It’s been a really seamless transition for him and for our team.”
A number of players are affiliated with local junior A and C teams in the area this season.
In OMHA Eastern Triple-A league play, the U18 Red Devils have put together an impressive 14-4-4 record and will look to build on that when the schedule resumes this week.
“They’re super-coachable, they give you 110 per cent every practice, every game. The kids are being rewarded for their hard work and their commitment and effort,” Culhane said.
“We have kids that want to play here and have parents that want their players to develop here and that in itself is worth its weight in gold.”