With the Mustangs men's hockey team out of the playoffs, goaltender Greg Dodds has moved on quickly in his hockey career. Earlier this week, he signed an amateur tryout contract with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL, North American pro hockey's third tier.
Dodds has been Western's starting goalie for the last three years, backstopping his team last year to an appearance at the University Cup in Halifax. In 68 career appearances for the Mustangs, he posted a .915 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against average.
This season was a tough one for the Mustangs, missing the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. Still, Dodds managed to maintain a .905 save percentage through 20 games.
"It was a disappointing senior season, no doubt about that," said Dodds. "But I felt confident in my abilities all year, that never wavered. I felt like every night I was giving us a chance to win."
The Jackals, an affiliate of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, were looking to add a goalie last weekend when there was a chance that starter Jason Kasdorf would be called up to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
An amateur tryout means Dodds will be with Elmira for 10 days, hoping to make an impression on the western New York club.
"Your whole life you put a lot of time and effort into the game of hockey," said Dodds. "I think just to be able to say you're a pro is a huge accomplishment."
Dodds was brought in by Jackals coach Mike Duco, whose brother Johnny — coach of the OUA's Ryerson Rams — had seen him play several times.
Committed to giving Dodds a fair shot at the pro level, Duco gave him the start in Friday night's game against the Norfolk Admirals. Dodds made 23 saves in the Jackals' 5-2 loss.
"I had good reports on Greg [Dodds]," said Duco. "I figured we would give him an opportunity to see what he's got."
Dodds has shifted his focus toward the future now that his career with Western has come to a close. If he performs well in Elmira, he could potentially find a permanent role somewhere, either in the ECHL or in Europe.
The Elmira Jackals have had a tough season, slated to miss the playoffs with an 11-37-7-1 record. They sit last in the ECHL's North Division. So the pressure is off for competing this season and they're free to give young players like Dodds a chance.
"I'd love to stick around here or maybe even move up eventually," said Dodds. "Once you get in here, doors can open for you. You never know."
Dodds is technically playing for an NHL affiliate. From a certain point of view, there are only six goalies ahead of him in the Buffalo Sabres' system.
Regardless of where he goes from here, getting a foot in the door with a professional team will significantly advance Dodds' post-Western career.