Along for the ride
Bronson Ride is a classic diamond in the rough.
The 6-foot-6 defenceman for the Niagara IceDogs is a strong skater who is mobile and can also move the puck.
“With the way he moves out there — there’s not many big guys who can skate like that and be able to handle the puck — a lot of those guys are in the NHL once they’re a little older,” IceDogs coach Ryan Kuwabara said. “Obviously that’s the trajectory we’d like to see for him. Continue to get better every time he’s on the ice and play with confidence and play with a little edge.
“It’s always tough to play against those things. It’s a good combination.”
Ride was acquired earlier this month from the Windsor Spitfires along with winger Chris O’Flaherty and two draft picks (Ottawa 6 2024 and Windsor 2 2026) for winger Aidan Castle and defenceman Rodwin Dionicio and was quickly thrown right into the fire by the IceDogs.
“Windsor was doing great. I think they wanted guys with a little more experience who were older to really have a chance to go for it this year,” Ride said. “It’s hard when you’re leaving all the guys and we were doing so well but it’s a new opportunity here so I’m just going to take it and see what I can do with it.
“I love it. I’m getting a good opportunity and I’m trying to take it and use it.”
With his size, Ride is well aware more is expected of him physically.
“People always say to add that to my game and I’ve been adding it,” he said. “I don’t think it was as natural as I would have liked it to be but it’s becoming more natural every season I’ve played.”
Ride, an 18-year-old Oakville native, said he was always one of the bigger players on his team but his growth spurt really began to show in his early years of high school.
“I didn’t know I was going to shoot up this tall, to be honest. I thought it was going to stop earlier, to be honest, but it kept on going,” he said. “Obviously there are some advantages with the size and power and stuff but we have to do everything harder than the little guys or we look slower and not as quick.”
Kuwabara feels the sky is the limit for Ride once he gets more seasoning.
“I think confidence is his biggest hurdle right now, just believing in himself,” Kuwabara said. “As a staff, we believe in him, for sure. I think he’s made great strides since he’s been here.
“He’s played a lot of minutes. He’s starting to be good on the offence and the defensive side. It’s just something he has to keep improving. He’s a young guy who hasn’t had a lot of ice up until now but he’s getting the opportunity and he’s making the most of it.”
Ride, who was Windsor’s second-round selection in the 2020 Ontario Hockey League draft, has a goal and assist in his 10 games since joining Niagara to go along with a respectable-1 rating.
His arrival has coincided with a 10-game losing streak for the IceDogs who have yet to taste victory in 2023, but Ride said the club is undeterred.
“You just have to keep playing every game like there’s a chance; we can’t give up,” he said. “Keep playing every game and hopefully the first one (victory) comes and then there’s a few more after that.
“There’s 20 teams and the same team can’t win it every year so you just have to think about the future years. We have a bunch of young guys and I think we can do a lot of good things in a few years.”
Ride is eligible for the NHL draft this summer.
“I try not to think about it with all the lists and everyone talking about it. I don’t want it to get into my head but obviously it’s something in the back of my mind and hopefully it happens.”
The IceDogs, 8-25-6-1, host Erie Thursday, North Bay Saturday and visit the Otters Sunday afternoon.
Goaltender Charlie Burns, defenceman Gabe Runco and forward William Stewart have been signed to help fill out the roster with injuries to goaltender Owen Flores, defencemen Landon Cato and Gerard Keane and forwards Juan Copeland and Anthony Agositnelli.
“You hope the therapy and the healing goes quickly,” Kuwabara said of the injuries. “We’re still waiting on final diagnosis for a lot of stuff.”
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