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Ford settles in after trade to Chatham

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Tillsonburg's Gus Ford didn't want to be a big fish in a small pond anymore.

After averaging more than two points per game last season in Junior C hockey, he hungered for a larger stage.

"This year I said to myself, 'I'm a lot better than Junior C. I've got to start playing at a higher level,'" said the newly acquired Chatham Maroons centre.

The move to Junior B hasn't slowed him. The 19-year-old centre is still scoring at an impressive clip with 62 points in 41 games. He's eighth in scoring in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.

The 19-year-old from Tillsonburg hasn't missed a beat since being acquired from the Brantford 99ers for cash at the trade deadline in January. He has 11 points in seven games with the Maroons.

"I felt the transition was quick and easy," he said. "It's a lot of fun playing here. I like playing in front of a lot of fans, so I like it here."

The Maroons picked him up at the 11th hour when Michael Verboom unexpectedly left for Mercyhurst University. Ford replaced the departed captain on the No. 1 line between Brennan Feasey and Trevor Richardson.

"It's fun playing with those guys," Ford said. "They have a lot of speed and a lot of skill. We work well together. Finding them on the ice is easy."

Ford considers himself more playmaker than scorer.

"I like to move the puck and get it back and see if my teammates are open," he said. "I'd rather get an assist than a goal."

Maroons head coach Tyler Roeszler is a big fan of the five-foot-eight, 170-pound Ford, who has 30 goals and 32 assists.

"Awesome. Great kid," Roeszler said. "He came in and said, 'What can I do to help out the team?' He clicked right away with Trevor and Feasey."

The Maroons coach is impressed by Ford's poise and creativity.

"He's helped our power play immensely," Roeszler said. "A lot of the plays we run are through him. He has great vision and can see the play."

Ford is in his third junior season, but his first full campaign at the Junior B level.

He debuted with the Junior C Norwich Merchants in 2012-13, getting 43 points in 36 games. He began last season with the St. Thomas Stars but played only nine games before returning to Junior C, where he piled up 43 points in 21 regular-season games for the Dorchester Dolphins.

Moving up to Brantford this season worked out well for him personally, but the 99ers were stuck in last place in the Midwestern Conference. Their general manager asked last month if he was open to a trade.

"At first, I didn't want to go," Ford said. "I wanted to stay in Brantford and finish the year with the team I started with. But I thought to myself, 'My future is more important and Brantford's not going to make the playoffs. I want to go to a team that's going to go. And I want to go to a team that's going to go far in the playoffs.' And I think that's what we have here."

A long playoff run will give Ford more exposure to college scouts. He wants an NCAA scholarship and hopes to play in the U.S. after one more season in Chatham.

mark.malone@sunmedia.ca

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