Roberts wonders what if?
Elijah Roberts would have loved to see the Niagara IceDogs get a chance to make the playoffs.
The 21-year-old over-age defenceman felt the experience would have be vital to the development of the team’s younger players moving forward.
The IceDogs, of course, never got that chance after the Ontario Hockey League last week cancelled the rest of the regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the club tied for the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
“We were all home and told to wait and that there might be a chance to play a play-in game,” Roberts said. “Once we found out we were officially out, it pissed me off a little bit.
“For sure, everyone was disappointed. The one thing we stressed during the season was how much fun it was in the playoffs and we wanted to make the playoffs for the younger guys to have that experience going forward It was so important.”
The point became moot earlier this week as the Canadian Hockey League cancelled the playoffs and Memorial Cup as well.
Still, Roberts can’t help but wonder what might have been.
“It’s been really difficult,” he said. “Coming down the stretch, we thought we had a pretty good chance of making it into the playoffs and once you get there anything can happen.
“I think we were going to grab that last playoff spot and to not have a chance to fight for it is kind of disappointing. The fact it was just kind of all ended like that was pretty crazy and was a hard pill to swallow.”
Roberts, who plans to play at the university level next season, said the team has remained in contact with each other since the season was cancelled.
“We were really down about it but we’ve been talking a lot about how it was a great year and a fun year and a little bit about what guys are doing next year and in the summer,” he said. “It’s been a little bit better than at first.”
Roberts joined the IceDogs three years ago after being acquired from the Kitchener Rangers for three draft picks.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into but I knew Jonesy (Ben Jones) and a couple of the other guys and they all said they loved it there,” he said. “Once I came here, everything they said . . . from (owners) Bill and Denise (Burke) to (coach) Billy (Burke) and (general manager) Joey (Burke), they’ve all been great right from the start. They really treat everyone like a family. I know sometimes they get some flak but it’s really great.
“There is an emphasis on having a close team and doing team events and going out to eat together. I just think the fact that is enforced a lot helps us stay close as a team and made it feel like a family.”
Roberts feels the fan support the IceDogs receive is another plus.
“Coming from Kitchener, they had a ton of fans. When I came to Niagara I figured that it would be a little quieter, but it was just as loud and sometimes louder. There were a lot of kids screaming at the top of their lungs and older people getting season tickets regardless of whether the team was in first or last place. Every night playing in front of those fans made it extra special.”
Roberts said of all the people he came into contact with in Niagara, he will miss locker room attendant Greg McPherson the most.
“Coming to the rink, he just put a smile on my face. You can lose 8-0 and I would be pretty upset and not want to talk to anyone and then you would see Greg and kind of smile right away and he was always giving me hugs. I’m definitely going to miss that.”
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