CEDAR RAPIDS — Captains and assistant captains haven’t been officially named, yet, for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
We’re just five games into the United States Hockey League season, and head coach Mark Carlson usually isn’t in a big hurry with naming them. They come via team vote, by the way, with the coaching staff having some veto power.
But if you had to guess, Jack O’Leary will be part of that leadership group, just because of where his stall is in the team’s locker room at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. It’s smack dab in the middle, right next to Grant Silianoff, another prime captain or assistant captain candidate.
Those two did a good job of “holding court,” if you will, last Saturday night after the Riders beat the United States National Team Development Program’s 17-U team to improve their record to 4-0. Let’s just say dancing is one of their fortes.
Cedar Rapids hosted rival Waterloo on Friday night.
“I’m a big locker room guy,” O’Leary said with a laugh. “I like to get the boys going.”
O’Leary has gotten his team going early with three goals and a pair of assists in his first four games. The diminutive forward is only 5-foot-6 and 158 pounds, but he plays with some edge.
The Cornell University commit from St. James, N.Y., seems poised for a big season.
“Jack really personifies the way we want to play,” Carlson said. “He has a lot of juice, a lot of energy. He is an unbelievable team guy. He has really grown over the last year. I think he’s going to be a real leader for our team.”
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“I’m excited to be back here, for sure,” O’Leary said. “I really try not to think about (personal goals) too much. It’s like I try to play the same. I don’t really know, I just want to win. I’ve been thinking about last year and losing in the second round. So I really just want to win, I want to go far in the playoffs with this team. We just want to dig in together, get to work and see what we can do.”
O’Leary mentioned the depth of the forward lines, defense pairings and goaltending duo as a reason for his club’s hot early start. The RoughRiders went into Friday night’s game having yet to trail in a game and outscoring their opponents by a 23-8 margin.
Another key has been the chemistry that already has been developed, he said.
“That’s up to the second-year guys, really,” said O’Leary, who had seven goals and 15 assists in 45 games last season. “Most of what we do is to help the guys get out of their shells and make them feel at home right away. That’s a big part of it. But, I mean, most of the guys in there (the locker room) are great characters. We’ve got some really good characters in there. They definitely come out of their shells on their own because that’s the kind of people they are.”
The RoughRiders have a rare Saturday night off, competing in a home-and-home next weekend against Omaha.
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