Will Cullen is confident old friend Mark Cooper’s advice will work again after he followed him to the Belfast Giants.

Belfast Giants winger Mark Cooper has managed Will Cullen correctly once in his career, so the defender is confident he has been given the right advice again this time.

They had known each other for the better part of five years, training together at Bowling Green State University during the summer in preparation for the new season, and forming a close friendship, although although both represented the Falcons, it was never at the same time. .

It was Cooper who convinced Cullen that Bowling Green was the right place for him back in 2017, which turned out to be a very wise estimate as a college career earned Defensive Player of the Year honors and a first-team All-Star team. the call will continue to show.

So, five years later, when Cullen sat down to evaluate his options for the summer to see where he would play his hockey next season and saw the Giants were interested, it was only natural that his old buddy got the call.

“Then he led me right, and I believe he will help me again this time,” Cullen says from his home in New York.

“He’s also quite a character so I’m excited to see him again and play with him for once! He is a good player. He has a lot of respect from the guys we both went to college with, so that says a lot. about him.”

The Giants’ reputation tends to go ahead of them too, especially after a season where they have won two trophies and have been in the game since finishing a Grand Slam. The chance to play in the Champions Hockey League was easily sold to Cullen as well.

The conversation between the two players actually revolved mostly around head coach Adam Keefe and his approach to the game, and what Cullen already suspected was confirmed by Cooper.

“I talked to him about it and he said he had a great relationship with Coach Keefe and how he got the most out of his players and made them the best they could be,” continues the 26-year-old.

“We went back and forth, me and Coop. I asked him a lot of questions about Keefe as a coach and as a person and he only had good things to say. hands, and there is a large community behind the team in Belfast.

“I felt like I could bring something to help and I just wanted to be a part of it.”

What Cullen brings is an elite resume that has already made Giants fans smile from ear to ear.

The 6-foot guard scored 17 goals and 55 points in 96 NCAA games for the Falcons between 2018 and 2021 and, as mentioned, was named both Defensive Player of the Year and WCHA Conference First All-Star in the 2020–2020 season. 21. .

After starting last season at the University of Miami at Ohio, Cullen turned pro after playing just seven games for the Redhawks and spent the season split between the AHL, playing three games for the Bridgeport Islanders and the ECHL.

The right-back played 32 games in the ECHL between the Worcester Railers, where he was a teammate of former Giants forward Jordan Smotherman, and the Idaho Steelheads, scoring 10 goals and 19 points.

Indeed, Cooper isn’t Cullen’s only familiar face in Belfast, as he will be reunited with center Colby McAuley, who assisted his first goal in Idaho, a partnership they hope they can replicate many times over for the Giants.

“It was in my first game against Toledo, he was one of the first guys I met on the team,” Cullen smiles. him again.”

With his ability to score points, Cullen will likely rely on both a five-on-five offensive weapon and a key part of one of the game’s units in the majority, which he enjoys in the Elite League.

As to why now is a good time to move to Europe and also get the chance to travel outside of North America for the first time, Cullen thinks his game is better suited to the big ice sheet on this side of the pond, having already tried it during his junior hockey days. days.

“I just think my game is better on the big ice. You have more time and space, and I play from east to west, not from north to south,” he emphasizes.

“I’m going to use my nimble speed to my advantage. I’m not that physical, my game is more technical, but I can handle the physical demands.

“I love being part of the attack, jumping up and down in a hurry and being that fourth striker. I’m a defender with the puck, I can skate well, but I’m always looking for that pass-first mentality – my playing and passing ability is better than my shooting, so I’m trying to put my teammates in good positions.”

For what it’s worth, his former Giants teammate and fan favorite Smotherman believes the team hired a gem in Cullen, especially after Keefe started working with him in training camp.

“He’s a great guy and has a ton of talent,” the current head coach and general manager of the Reilers praised in a text. “Very attacking and I think Kiefer will be very good to develop his defensive game.”

If Keefe can work his magic on a player who already has the Defensive Player of the Year title, then the Giants have something special on their hands, but on Cullen’s part, he’s just keen to get stuck and work on the silver prize.

“The organization had previous success, so once you get there, you follow the guys who were there last year and see what made them successful. ” He says.

“Many teams don’t have that opportunity to win, so I’m very happy to be on a team that will be fighting for trophies and I’m going to do my best to help make that a reality. ”