IceDogs forward commits to York
Lucas Theriault is a study in perseverance.
The 20-year-old forward for the Niagara IceDogs wouldn’t take no for an answer despite being cut from training camp three straight seasons.
Theriault finally cracked the lineup last year as a 19-year-old rookie and has parlayed that into a spot with the York Lions this fall.
“After a couple of training camps of not making it I just felt I had to keep working hard,” Theriault said. “Anything can happen. If it wasn’t an OHL opportunity, it could have been somewhere else.
“Obviously, I got lucky enough to get the opportunity to play in the OHL and I took that chance.”
Theriault was selected in the 12th round (224th) overall of the 2016 Ontario Hockey League draft.
“When Lucas first arrived at training camp when he was 16, we didn’t know what to expect,” IceDogs coach Billy Burke said. “He was an undersized, later round draft pick, who, to be totally honest, was a long shot to ever play in the OHL.”
Theriault was able to keep his OHL dream alive by continuing to progress with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“It would have been easy for Lucas to have just settled for a lower level but he bet on himself and it paid off,” Burke said. “Lucas had a great 18-year-old season in the NOJHL and (general manager) Joey (Burke) always followed his progress.”
Theriault is thrilled to be able to continue his career at the next level while studying kinesiology.
“They reached out at the start of January and we’ve been talking pretty constantly ever since,” he said. “I thought it was a great fit for me. From the people who reached out to me I felt York was the most interested and York offered the best programs for me.”
Theriault is also grateful to have his future mapped out despite the uncertainty of sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was definitely fortunate to get a couple of looks at right off the bat,” he said. “I do feel really bad for some players, not even in the OHL, junior A and junior B, who are having a tough time, especially the guys who are in their last year of eligibility.”
IceDogs coach Billy Burke is happy to see Theriault get rewarded.
“We are very proud of Lucas and his commitment to York University to not only continue his hockey career at an elite level, but get a world-class university education as well,” Burke said. “Knowing the kind of person Lucas is, there isn’t a doubt in my mind he will be successful at York in the classroom and on the ice.”
Theriault collected five goals and 11 points last season and provided a young IceDogs squad with veteran stability. He realizes he will have to make adjustments as he moves to the university level.
“Going from junior hockey, you’re playing against guys — the youngest guys there are 21— so it’s definitely a huge jump. There are grown men playing the game at that level and you just have to be ready for it,” he said.
Theriault is working out on and off the ice at home waiting for word if the OHL will be able to play some type of season.
“It’s my last year so I want to get on the ice somehow and play a little more junior hockey. Any way to do it would be awesome,” he said. “Playing in front of all those fans (at the Meridian Centre) is fantastic, I loved every second of it. Obviously I miss the hockey part of it and being with the guys. Not sitting in the house all day would definitely be better than that.”
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