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Devin Shore, Brett Ritchie reunited with Stars

Ontario natives go from lacrosse buddies to impact players with Dallas

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

DALLAS -- Devin Shore often looks like a lacrosse player on ice.

The Dallas Stars rookie center angles his body to protect the puck from defenders. He has good hands around the net, and doesn't have any qualms about shaking off hits below the goal line. 

"A lot of stuff from the blue line down come from lacrosse," Stars right wing Brett Ritchie said. "Protecting the puck; even those guys that aren't that big seem to have a knack for using their body to get to the net. Lacrosse is a game where it's easier to protect the ball, but to get in tight and score you're going to be taking a lot of crosschecks and have to use your body."

Ritchie should know. He has watched and played against Shore since they played minor lacrosse growing up in the Toronto area. Shore, 22, played for the Whitby Warriors, and Ritchie, 23, played for the Orangeville Northmen. Because Ritchie is a year older, head-to-head matchups were limited to every other year.

"The age groups were split so each year he'd be playing against me or my younger brother [Anaheim Ducks left wing] Nick," Ritchie said. "And we'd always see each other at tournaments. So I got to know his family real well."

There's even photo proof; a picture from 2006 that Shore's mother, Andrea, has of Shore and Ritchie sitting on a couch back in Ontario during a gathering after a lacrosse tournament. A decade later, Ritchie and Shore are playing in the NHL with the Stars.

"We've become closer since we've both been here," Shore said. "We each took our own paths to Dallas, but to be here playing with him after that is pretty cool."

Ritchie's route went through Sarnia and Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League, and he made his NHL debut during the 2014-15 season. Shore played three years of college hockey at Maine before playing his first NHL game last season. He earned a full-time role at training camp last month. 

Video: DAL@COL: Ritchie hammers a one-timer past Varlamov

Those paths momentarily crossed again when they attended the Hill Academy, an independent high school for student-athletes in Toronto.

"When [Shore] got drafted we were going to the same high school," Ritchie said. "When that happens, someone you go to school with gets drafted by the same NHL team, you'd hope you both make it there at some point."

Ritchie and Shore have made an impact for the Stars, who have been hit hard by injuries at forward. In seven games, Shore has a goal and five assists; Ritchie has two goals and an assist.

Each ultimately chose hockey when he was 16, but could have had a future in lacrosse.

"No question about it," said Derek Keenan, who coached Shore in Whitby and now coaches the Saskatchewan Rush in the National Lacrosse League. "He was always our best player and captain. If he wanted to be a pro in lacrosse, he easily could have done it."

The same goes for Ritchie.

"Brett could have been one of the best players to come out of Ontario," Shore said. "And not just for our age group. He could be a dominant, very dominant player in the NLL if he chose lacrosse."

Before he went to the OHL, Ritchie did play one year in the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League as a 15-year-old.

"It's the equivalent of a 15-year-old playing against 20- and 21-year-olds in the OHL," said Matt Sawyer, who coached Ritchie that season and now coaches the NLL's Toronto Rock. "He was a strong offensive player, someone who didn't back down and was in your face, even as a 15-year-old. He could have rode his stick to a nice lacrosse career if he wanted to."

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