North Xtra: Junior transfer finds niche for Butler

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When asked about Marcus McCall, Butler coach Mike Guentner usually tells the same story.

“We went to a preseason camp in Jamestown (N.Y.) and it was run by Brian Cerosimo, who used to coach the Pittsburgh Vengeance and now is helping the Jamestown Ironmen,” Guentner said. “After our first workout, he pointed to Marcus and said, ‘That’s probably the player on your roster with the most talent.’

“And he’s probably right. He sees the ice incredibly well; he just had to be comfortable at playing at a high speed. But he’s the whole package.”

McCall, a junior who started the season on defense before moving up to forward recently, scored seven goals in a two-game span in mid-December and has helped the Golden Tornado to a 6-5 record.

But it took a series of events for McCall to end up at Butler.

A student at Slippery Rock High School in 2012-13, McCall played hockey for Open Cup champion Ford City through a co-op agreement between the schools.

But when Ford City merged with Kittanning to form the Armstrong team in Class AA, McCall was left without a hockey team.

But prior to the 2013-14 school year, McCall moved to Butler to live with some relatives, making him eligible to play for Butler.

“It was tough at first,” McCall said of moving. “But I’m pretty used to it now.”

McCall started the season at defense for Butler, but moved up to forward after five games. After a few games of shuffling the pairings up front, Guentner placed McCall with Connor Scott and Matt Tomasovic before the team’s game against Norwin Dec. 10.

McCall, who entered the game with no goals and two assists, lit the lamp three times against the Knights and followed it with a four-goal, two-assist performance against Fox Chapel six days later.

“A lot of credit goes to my linemates,” McCall said. “They were the guys who made the plays happen.”

Another reason for the outburst may have been McCall finally getting adjusted to Class AAA hockey.

While there are very talented players at the Open Cup level, Class AAA is a cut above. For instance, Butler went 10-11 last season, but beat McCall’s Ford City team, 7-1, at the Belmont Cup.

“I think you can probably assume a top Open Cup team would be in the middle of the pack in Class AAA,” Guentner said. “Every Open Class team has one good line, but in Class AAA there’s much more depth.”

While McCall had to get used to a new level of competition, he won’t have to adjust to the experience of playing in the postseason should Butler qualify.

While he didn’t score, McCall played in all four Open Cup playoff games for Ford City last season, helping the Sabers take the title.

His teammates, meanwhile, got a taste of the Penguins Cup last season, as Butler made its first playoff appearance since the mid-2000s.

“We have a veteran team that returns most of the players who got a taste of the playoffs last season,” Guentner said. “Marcus’ experience of going all the way only raises our expectations.”

McCall has high expectations for how far the Tornado can go. However, no matter what transpires the rest of the season, McCall is happy at his new home.

“I really like it a lot here,” McCall said. “Our coaches are into player development and getting us to the next level. I feel like I’ve grown more as a player this year than any other year.”

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