“They treated me like my own family”
Ivan Lodnia experienced his share of both highs and lows in his two seasons with the Niagara IceDogs.
The slick winger was part of a loaded squad last season that had their sights set on an Ontario Hockey League championship before coming back as an over-age player this season on a team in full rebuild mode.
Lodnia said he relished both roles.
“It wasn’t difficult at all,” he said on the line from his home in California. “You have to learn how to adapt and I feel that’s what players do and that’s what leaders do. You have to learn how to adapt for every game and your game plan has to change every day in practice and in games.
“To be a leader you have to know how to do that and show the young guys it’s not day in and day out doing the same thing. The game changes in so many ways and you have to learn how to adapt to those changes.”
Lodnia, who was selected in the third round of the National Hockey League draft by the Minnesota Wild in 2017, began this season in the American Hockey League before being returned to the IceDogs.
Instead of sulking, Lodnia quickly became a leader — he was named captain after Akil Thomas was traded — while leading the team in scoring with 27 goals and 62 points in 41 games.
“I think how I was raised on and off the ice, no matter what the situation is, you play your hardest,” he said. “If we’re up 7-0 or own 7-0, you never know when it’s your last shift.
“Just like this season, no one thought when lost against Ottawa (March 10) was going to be the last game of our OHL careers. We were planning on going to Mississauga (for their next game) so you never know.
“You have to wake up every day and put your best foot forward on and off the ice. That’s when you can live you life to the fullest.”
Like fellow over-agers Oliver Castleman and Elijah Roberts, Lodnia found it difficult when the OHL season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It not the way we wanted it to end because I feel we were definitely going to make the playoffs, but at this time obviously there are more important things than hockey so that’s all that matters,” he said.
Lodnia felt the IceDogs would have benefitted greatly from a playoff berth.
“I think the biggest thing was to get into playoffs,” he said. “Once you get in, you never know. Last year we thought we were the team to pretty much win it all and we played a very good Oshawa Generals team who beat us in the second round. It was pretty surprising. We wanted to be one of those teams this year, a young, hard-working team with great, talented players.
“Once you’re in it, it doesn’t really matter what seed you are.”
Lodnia, who joined the IceDogs from the Erie Otters in a deal for local product Danial Singer, loved his time in Niagara.
“The last two years I’ve been with this organization was the best time of my life,” he said. “With no disrespect to anyone else, I wish I was drafted by these guys. The way they treated me from the get-go was first class. From the staff in the office to the owners, they treated me like my own family.”
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