CEDAR RAPIDS — Daily 2 p.m. practice begins, and Marc McLaughlin assumes his usual position at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. It’s in a chair above center ice at one of the media tables.
Hard to imagine there’s a kid in the United States Hockey League who has had more misfortune this season than the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders captain.
“Obviously I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries, and that’s been tough,” McLaughlin said. “I think just remaining positive (has been important). My teammates have picked me up when I’ve been down and stuff a lot of times. Just remaining positive has a huge impact on your outlook and everything.”
McLaughlin’s rash of bad luck actually began in the preseason when he injured his shoulder thanks to a collision with a Dubuque Fighting Saints player. Ironically, that player was Kyle Looft, who the RoughRiders ended up trading for before the regular season began.
McLaughlin recovered and got into his first game Nov. 3. In his eighth game, against Waterloo, he suffered a concussion on a play along the boards.
That was another three weeks of inactivity. McLaughlin scored goals in back-to-back games against Youngstown upon his return in mid-December and was averaging a point a game when he incurred a high-ankle sprain while getting tangled up with teammate and goaltender Jiri Patera in a late January practice.
The Boston College signee hasn’t played again and won’t.
The RoughRiders have a huge weekend with a game Friday night at Dubuque and another Saturday night at home against Chicago. They are three standings points behind the Steel for the final available playoff spot in the USHL’s Eastern Conference and are six back of Dubuque.
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“Sometimes being in the stands, you see the game a different way,” McLaughlin said. “Versus being on the ice. I think I’ve just been trying to use my leadership as best I can.”
And that’s the thing with the 18-year-old from North Billerica, Mass. RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson calls him easily one of the top captains he ever has had in 19 years in Cedar Rapids.
That’s despite him not being able to play. It says a ton about McLaughlin’s character.
“He has always put the team first,” Carlson said. “Off the ice, he has a good presence about him. He takes care of himself, he’s in good shape, he has worked hard on his off-ice training. He has the maturity to speak in the (locker) room and handle the room, per se. And he has had tremendous challenges this year, with everything that has gone on with this team all season. Really, since the summertime. Our guys have stayed positive and battled. To me, he is a major, major reason why, even though he has only played 20 games the whole season. His influence has been here every day.”
McLaughlin was flattered when informed that Carlson has him on the Mount Rushmore of RoughRiders captains over the years.
“Very humbling for your coach to say that,” McLaughlin said. “I just try to work hard and have tried to help the team win as much as we can.”
—— The RoughRiders had three of their graduates sign contracts this week with National Hockey League teams. Forward Adam Gaudette signed with the Vancouver Canucks and was expected to be in their lineup Thursday night against Edmonton. Gaudette, who played three years at Northeastern University, was a fifth-round draft pick of the Canucks in 2015. He is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey’s top player.
Defenseman Mitch Reinke signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues. He played two seasons at Michigan Tech.
Forward Erik Foley also signed with St. Louis. He played three years at Providence. Foley was a third-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2015 and was acquired by the Blues in a trade earlier this month.
Gaudette, Reinke and Foley all played on the same 2014-15 RoughRiders team.
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