The AJHL announced the season will resume, and the Dragons will be back on the ice this Saturday to take on the Okotoks Oilers.
The league announced new two-team cohort groups and game schedule for the next two weeks of competition under the AJHL Return to Play Plan. The Dragons will be hosting the Oilers on April 24, and then hit the road to face them on Sunday afternoon in Okotoks.
“We got eight games under our belt and we are looking to get to 10 through the end of April,” said Dragons coach Kevin Hasselberg. “There is potential for us to play for another four weeks after these two weeks, but that remains to be determined by Mr. COVID.”
He says the players are grateful to get a chance to play, even under these conditions.
“When something strips you from the opportunity to play the game, like this, it is really hard on the guys, the staff, and the people who are invested in the games,” he said. “I guess more than anything you are grateful and appreciate the things that are provided to you and you get an understanding of how quickly they can be taken away.”
Throughout the first eight games this spring the Dragons are playing .500 hockey and seeing progress.
“The fact we are a week away from playing two more games is pretty exciting for the guys… but we have to prepare one day at a time,” he said.
For senior players, the challenge also comes when planning the next step of their career.
“The challenges that existed before were at one level, and now the NCAA has made eligibility rule changes and giving the opportunity for seniors to come back for a fifth-year who would have lost that year of eligibility and the opportunity to play,” he said. ‘It is just a trickle-down effect from top to bottom and everyone has to absorb a little bit.”
“They have to really push themselves right now to give themselves a chance.”
He adds beyond the NCAA there are many opportunities for players.
“There are other options and certainly we have had a lot of players who have had success at the ACAC level and the university sport level throughout Canada. I think the opportunity to walk away with an education is really at the forefront, and when players look back at it they will be thankful to have those opportunities,” said Hasselberg.
With two games slated this week, Hasselberg feels they are lucky to have the opportunity.
“The sacrifices everyone has made, it is truly amazing for us to play. We have a ton of people to thank for this opportunity. We certainly don’t want to overlook the challenges people have faced through the pandemic,” he said. ‘We are just very thankful we get to play the game and will take whatever is given.”