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Senior hockey offers new challenge for Cats’ Circelli

Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts' import forward Collin Circelli tries to push the puck between the skates of Gander Flyers’ defenceman Zack Firlotte during a Central-West Senior Hockey League game at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium earlier this season. Circelli is second on the team and league in scoring with 26 points. <br /><br />
Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts' import forward Collin Circelli tries to push the puck between the skates of Gander Flyers’ defenceman Zack Firlotte during a Central-West Senior Hockey League game at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium earlier this season. Circelli is second on the team and league in scoring with 26 points. <br /><br />

Collin Circelli was ready for something new.    After seven seasons of pro hockey split between the Central Hockey League and a couple of European circuits, the 33-year-old had enough of life on the road, away from his wife, Chantel, and son, Noah.

“I had been there, done that and gone as far as I could level-wise, so I was ready for something new, a new beginning,” said Circelli, who lives in his wife’s hometown of Shediac, N.B., outside Moncton. “I thought about it and I did have some options, but with a family, it gets harder with all the travel.”

In over 200 CHL games between 2007 and 2010, the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts import player piled up 85 goals and 85 assists with the Odessa, Tex., Jackalopes and the Rapid City, S.D., Rush. In between, he put up a respectable 40 points in 37 games with Karlskrona, a Tier I Swedish team

Over the summer, Circelli, fresh off two seasons with Gap Rapaces of the French league, signed a contract with the CHL’s Missouri Mavericks for the 2014-15 season. When the CHL and ECHL merged just ahead of this season, with the Mavericks one of seven teams set to be absorbed into the AA league, it didn’t matter to Circelli. He’d already made up his mind.

“I wasn’t up for another year.”

In late September, Brian Casey, the Cataracts’ director of hockey operations, reached out to Circelli to gauge his interest in joining the team.

“I have some buddies who I went to school with who have been in that league for a while and I had heard nothing but good things about it,” Circelli said of former St. Francis Xavier University teammates Ryan Desrosiers and Dustin Russell, members of the Clarenville Caribous.

After a job prospect in New Brunswick fell through, Circelli signed on with the Cats.

“I felt it was a good opportunity for me to come down and still play a pretty good level of hockey.”

His first introduction to the fervent nature of senior hockey fans in Newfoundland, particularly the steadfast Cataracts’ supporters, came shortly after arriving in Grand Falls-Windsor for a late practice prior to the season-opener in Gander.

“We got in late and we were having a practice on a Friday night. It was 10:30 and there was like 50 people watching. I couldn’t believe it. Right away, I knew how much they love their team.”

Through the first two-thirds of the season, that love affair no doubt now includes Circelli, who is second on the team and league in scoring with 26 points through 18 games (teammate and often linemate Cam Fergus leads the Central West Senior Hockey League with 28 points).

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Cataracts’ coach Shane Lukinchuk says Circelli has looked increasingly comfortable as the season has progressed. Moreover, the former Moncton Wildcat Quebec major junior player has proven to be quite versatile.

“How well he plays in our zone being a centreman is such an important part of our team. I think it gets a little overshadowed by what he has done so far offensively,” said Lukinchuk. “He does all the little things that a lot of people don’t see.”

In short, Circelli has been more than ample return on the loss of 2013-14 regular season MVP and leading scorer Rob Hennigar, who retired from the competitive game to take up a coaching position at the University of New Brunswick.

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“We had to bring in a guy who was going to replace the offense we lost with Rob, knowing at the same time that we’re probably not going to find a guy to give us close to 50 points that Rob was close to having,” says the third-year coach. “But Collin has come in steadily gotten better every weekend. We’re very happy with him.”

Casey and the Cataracts are known for being quite particular about the players they invite into their dressing room, especially when it comes to imports.

“The last thing you want is a guy who thinks he’s better than everybody else, who feels like he shouldn’t be here. If you come into this league with that mentality, you’re not going to have any success,” insists Lukinchuk.

“He came in with the right frame of mind and it shows in his play statistically, and everybody with out team have nothing but great things to say about him.”

The Cataracts take to the road this weekend for the a two-game set against the second-place Corner Brook Royals at the Pepsi Centre. Game times are 7:30 tonight and 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon.

In other CWSHL play this weekend, the Gander Kelly Ford Flyers play host to the Clarenville Caribous at the Gander Community Centre. Today’s contest gets underway at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday’s rematch going at 1:30 p.m.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter@telykenn

“I had been there, done that and gone as far as I could level-wise, so I was ready for something new, a new beginning,” said Circelli, who lives in his wife’s hometown of Shediac, N.B., outside Moncton. “I thought about it and I did have some options, but with a family, it gets harder with all the travel.”

In over 200 CHL games between 2007 and 2010, the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts import player piled up 85 goals and 85 assists with the Odessa, Tex., Jackalopes and the Rapid City, S.D., Rush. In between, he put up a respectable 40 points in 37 games with Karlskrona, a Tier I Swedish team

Over the summer, Circelli, fresh off two seasons with Gap Rapaces of the French league, signed a contract with the CHL’s Missouri Mavericks for the 2014-15 season. When the CHL and ECHL merged just ahead of this season, with the Mavericks one of seven teams set to be absorbed into the AA league, it didn’t matter to Circelli. He’d already made up his mind.

“I wasn’t up for another year.”

In late September, Brian Casey, the Cataracts’ director of hockey operations, reached out to Circelli to gauge his interest in joining the team.

“I have some buddies who I went to school with who have been in that league for a while and I had heard nothing but good things about it,” Circelli said of former St. Francis Xavier University teammates Ryan Desrosiers and Dustin Russell, members of the Clarenville Caribous.

After a job prospect in New Brunswick fell through, Circelli signed on with the Cats.

“I felt it was a good opportunity for me to come down and still play a pretty good level of hockey.”

His first introduction to the fervent nature of senior hockey fans in Newfoundland, particularly the steadfast Cataracts’ supporters, came shortly after arriving in Grand Falls-Windsor for a late practice prior to the season-opener in Gander.

“We got in late and we were having a practice on a Friday night. It was 10:30 and there was like 50 people watching. I couldn’t believe it. Right away, I knew how much they love their team.”

Through the first two-thirds of the season, that love affair no doubt now includes Circelli, who is second on the team and league in scoring with 26 points through 18 games (teammate and often linemate Cam Fergus leads the Central West Senior Hockey League with 28 points).

Related story

Cats hold off Flyers' third period attack

Cataracts’ coach Shane Lukinchuk says Circelli has looked increasingly comfortable as the season has progressed. Moreover, the former Moncton Wildcat Quebec major junior player has proven to be quite versatile.

“How well he plays in our zone being a centreman is such an important part of our team. I think it gets a little overshadowed by what he has done so far offensively,” said Lukinchuk. “He does all the little things that a lot of people don’t see.”

In short, Circelli has been more than ample return on the loss of 2013-14 regular season MVP and leading scorer Rob Hennigar, who retired from the competitive game to take up a coaching position at the University of New Brunswick.

Related story

Hennigar has enjoyed a stellar hockey career

“We had to bring in a guy who was going to replace the offense we lost with Rob, knowing at the same time that we’re probably not going to find a guy to give us close to 50 points that Rob was close to having,” says the third-year coach. “But Collin has come in steadily gotten better every weekend. We’re very happy with him.”

Casey and the Cataracts are known for being quite particular about the players they invite into their dressing room, especially when it comes to imports.

“The last thing you want is a guy who thinks he’s better than everybody else, who feels like he shouldn’t be here. If you come into this league with that mentality, you’re not going to have any success,” insists Lukinchuk.

“He came in with the right frame of mind and it shows in his play statistically, and everybody with out team have nothing but great things to say about him.”

The Cataracts take to the road this weekend for the a two-game set against the second-place Corner Brook Royals at the Pepsi Centre. Game times are 7:30 tonight and 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon.

In other CWSHL play this weekend, the Gander Kelly Ford Flyers play host to the Clarenville Caribous at the Gander Community Centre. Today’s contest gets underway at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday’s rematch going at 1:30 p.m.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter@telykenn

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