Amherstburg resident selected in OHL draft by Spitfires



By Ron Giofu


Amherstburg is already well represented on the Windsor Spitfires thanks to Michael DiPietro and could be again thanks to Stefan Dobrich.

Dobrich, a defenseman with both the Sun County Panthers and General Amherst Bulldogs, was selected 183rd overall by the Spitfires in the recent Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection. The son of former owner Peter Dobrich also had interest from the Erie Otters and Flint Firebirds.

“It’s an awesome experience. I worked hard to get to where I am. It’s definitely something to be proud of,” said Dobrich.

Dobrich said he plans on proving himself and showing that his talent and determination got him to where he is thus far.

Stefan Dobrich

Stefan Dobrich

“There’s always something to prove. You have to prove you belong there,” he said. “You’ve always got to prove you belong there.”

Noting he was happy to be drafted, Dobrich said it didn’t matter to him what round he went in. He was at home with his family when he got the news and they celebrated once the word came.

Describing himself as a defensive defenseman who shuts opposition players down and kills penalties, the General Amherst student said he is keeping all career avenues open and hopes to play junior next season to get exposure to a higher level of hockey.

“I am going to try and make a living playing hockey when I’m older. That’s definitely my goal,” he said. “I’m relieved to get drafted.”

Although he has accomplished one objective by getting drafted, Dobrich knows there is still a long road ahead.

“There’s definitely a lot of work (to do),” he said. “I got there, now I have to stay there.”

Dobrich has already attended one mini-camp with the Spitfires and he and his trainer are awaiting word from the OHL club on what kind of off-season conditioning program they want him to do. He also thanks his parents for all of their support over the years.

“It’s been a lot of driving up the highways,” he said. “I’d like to thank them the most.”

General Amherst head coach Pat Garrett said Dobrich is the second Amherst player to be drafted in the 11 years he has coached the program. The other was Kyle Shaw, a fifth-round selection by Sudbury in 2009. Garrett said he was happy Dobrich was drafted by Windsor, as it keeps him local where family and friends can see him play.

“He’s not only a great hockey player, he’s also a great student and a great kid,” said Garrett, of Dobrich.

Garrett praised Dobrich’s work ethic and said while he is sometimes quiet, he’s also “a fun kid to be around.” He added it is an honour to have another player that played at General Amherst be selected by an OHL team.

Local goaltending star hoping for bigger things on junior and national scales



By Ron Giofu


It was an impressive first year for a local goalie and he is hoping for even bigger things in the future.

Michael DiPietro of Amherstburg recently completed his first year with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires and he also earned a spot on Canada’s team in the recent Under-18 World Championships. With that under his belt, he is ready to work and accomplish even more.

“It was better than I thought my first year would be,” DiPietro said of his rookie year in the OHL.

While it was “a lot of fun,” he said he learned a lot about hockey both on and off the ice. The year had its ups and downs, he said, but he added that he will focus on the positives and use them to help his game and help his team.

“You are always learning, especially as a rookie,” DiPietro explained.

DiPietro said teammates helped him act more professionally and said he learned from both the coaches and his teammates alike. He plans to continue working hard on the little things as that will help him get better in the long run.

One teammate he said helped him a lot was Bradley Latour, with Latour now having played his last year of major junior hockey.

“He taught me a lot about how to be a professional. He won with Oshawa and he and I still talk. He was a major influence on me for sure,” said DiPietro. “Seeing him go was rough.”

DiPietro was the first Spitfire to win the F.W. “Dinty” Moore Award, a trophy that goes to the first-year goalie with the lowest goals against average. While he was “very humbled” to capture that award, he quickly gives credit to his teammates and family as well.

Windsor Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro is hoping to build on his first year in the OHL and also hopes to compete internationally. The Amherstburg native enters his NHL draft year in 2016-17.

Windsor Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro is hoping to build on his first year in the OHL and also hopes to compete internationally. The Amherstburg native enters his NHL draft year in 2016-17.

“I couldn’t have done it without the guys in front of me or the people behind the scenes,” said DiPietro. “To them I’d like to say thank you.”

DiPietro’s berth on the U-18 team at the World Championships wasn’t notable for his on-ice performance – he didn’t get into a game – but for the fact he was a year younger than his teammates yet was chosen for the team anyway. He said he learned how to be a good teammate and picked his teammates brains on various issues while there.

“Obviously, it was a great honour,” said DiPietro. “Anytime you don that jersey, it’s a great honour. It was a great learning experience for me. They wanted me to soak in the experience for next year.”

DiPietro, who was born in 1999, played with 1998 players at the World Championships but now entering his U-18 year, he hopes to be in goal for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic later this summer. He heads for training camp July 29.

The 2016-17 hockey season could be big for DiPietro for other reasons as well. Windsor hosts the 2017 Memorial Cup and DiPietro will also be eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft. Hosting the Memorial Cup is “obviously pretty cool” and that it provides extra motivation to get better. However, DiPietro is concentrating on building on the year he already has put into the league and doesn’t want to look too far ahead. He has already spoken with a few NHL teams but said he has to keep working hard.

“You’ve got to separate yourself from the hype,” he said. “You’ve got to let your play do the talking for you.”

DiPietro is training five days a week in the gym and is working his way back onto the ice after giving his body a rest. He wants to work on his patience and his speed as well as his footwork and stickhandling. He added he wants to give thanks to his family for the success he has had including his parents and his aunts Betty and Lia and his goalie coach Brian Spearing.

“The work is not done yet,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work yet, for sure.”

“Excited” DiPietro looking forward to proving himself to Spitfires


Amherstburg's Michael DiPietro was selected 23rd overall by the Windsor Spitfires in the April 11 Ontario Hockey League draft.

Amherstburg’s Michael DiPietro was selected 23rd overall by the Windsor Spitfires in the April 11 Ontario Hockey League draft.

By Ron Giofu


Michael DiPietro has been selected in the Ontario Hockey League draft and he won’t have to travel very far to play for the team that selected him.

DiPietro, 15, was selected by the Windsor Spitfires with the 23rd overall selection, which was the first pick of the second round. DiPietro was the first goaltender selected in the OHL draft.

“I’m excited to get picked,” he said. “You never see this coming.”

Being drafted by the Spitfires is something he believes will assist him as his hockey career progresses.

“It’s a good organization to go to,” said DiPietro.

The Amherstburg native and St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School student believes the Spitfires will help him develop as a goalie and allow his game to progress. However, DiPietro knows nothing will be handed to him.

“The work just begins now,” he said.

DiPietro said he had an idea the Spitfires needed a goalie and “luckily I had the privilege to get picked by an organization like Windsor.” Prior to the draft, DiPietro said the Spitfires had been in contact with his agent but were not in direct contact with him.

“I don’t think they are going to guarantee me anything right away,” he said of his role with the team, but added he plans on proving himself to his new club.

DiPietro watched the draft unfold on television and said his family and friends were ecstatic when his name was called. He added that he was going to enjoy the day Saturday but planned to get back to work early this week training, including getting on the ice and in the gym.

“I’m really, really excited to be part of the Spitfires organization,” he emphasized, adding that he watched the Spitfires and players like Taylor Hall when he was younger.

“Hopefully, I can be on the exact same team.”

It would also be “awesome” to be playing so close to home, he added, with family and friends nearby.

“A lot are going to be in the stands Thursday nights,” he said. “Nothing is better than family and friends watching you play for the team you watched as a kid.”

DiPietro golden at Canada Winter Games, now eyes OHL draft



By Ron Giofu


With a gold medal now in his possession, 15-year-old goaltender Michael DiPietro is now hoping to ply his trade in the Ontario Hockey League.

Team Ontario gold medalist Michael DiPietro

Team Ontario gold medalist Michael DiPietro

The Amherstburg youth was part of the gold medal winning Team Ontario Under-16 hockey team at the Canada Winter Games late last month in Prince George, British Columbia. Now that he has returned, he has got the April 11 OHL draft in mind and hopes he is one of the players chosen.

DiPietro’s Team Ontario experience saw him start four of the six games they played, including the quarterfinal, semi-final and final games. In all, he allowed just three goals in four games and recorded shutouts in each of his first two starts.

In the semi-final game, Team Ontario fell behind 2-0 in the first period against a strong Quebec team but rallied to pick up a 5-2 win. DiPietro was informed shortly after that game he would be starting the finals.

“The guys wanted me to start the final,” he said. “They were really happy for me when I got the opportunity to start.”

The confidence ended up being well-founded, as DiPietro and Team Ontario picked up the goal medal with a 3-1 win over Team Alberta. While acknowledging it was a good tournament for himself personally, DiPietro was also quick to point out it was a complete team effort.

“Nobody is bigger than the team,” he said. “It was a great experience.”

The experience was his number one accomplishment in hockey to this point, he added. Playing in front of the large number of fans was an experience as well.

“It was awesome,” said DiPietro. “It was so cool. It will be something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Game days saw DiPietro and his teammates go for team walks in the morning, have video sessions and meals together before getting some down time. They arrived at the rink a little over two hours before game time, played and then received 15-20 minutes to spend with their parents before going to a late dinner then back to the dorms.

The coaches and facilities were nice, he said, but although it was a different experience, it wasn’t overwhelming. The fact he wasn’t overwhelmed is something DiPietro believes worked in his favor. He added that a number of people from Hockey Canada also were on hand at the tournament watching the action.

Upon his return, he has not only received a lot of support from his friends and family, but the community at large as well. He said random people on the street have been stopping and congratulating him.

“When they come up to you, it’s really nice. It takes you by surprise,” he said. “Not many people know you when you leave but a lot of people know you when you get back.”

The season is over for him but DiPietro said he is still in the gym three times per week and on the ice at least two or three times a week, including sessions with goalie coach Brian Spearing. He has received letters from junior clubs indicating interest but DiPietro knows the journey only starts if he is drafted.

“It’s in my mind for sure,” he said of the April 11 draft. “I don’t want to be too cocky but I don’t want to sell myself short either. I want to see how April 11 plays out.”