Mike Aikens summed up Cody Reagle the hockey player and Cody Reagle the person in one short sentence.
“He’s a guy who does what everybody else doesn’t want to do,” Aikens, the Rochester Grizzlies’ third-year assistant coach, said.
That mindset has made Reagle an invaluable part of a Grizzlies team that has its sights set on winning a national championship.
The Grizzlies may have the deepest team in the North American 3 Hockey League. They’re loaded with fast, physical, skilled players and the league’s best goalie, Shane Soderwall. So Reagle — in his second season with the team — realized he had to find his niche, find his role. He’s done exactly that.
“When Cody’s doing Cody, he’s exactly what we need,” Grizzlies head coach Chris Ratzloff said. “He’ll go out and blow somebody up if that’s what we need. He’s going to spark energy with our guys by winning a battle, blocking a shot or getting to the front of the net. … When we get away from doing things right, he does things right and he’s a good example for the guys. We’ll tell them ‘do what Cody does.’”
The 20-year-old, 6-foot, 185-pound Reagle has played his role to perfection again this week, alongside linemates Joey Malugani and Teppei Ueno at the Fraser Cup championship, the NA3HL’s postseason championship tournament, being held in St. Peters, Missouri, in suburban St. Louis.
The Grizzlies won their opener on Thursday, 4-3 against the Texas Brahmas. They'll face the Oklahoma City Blazers at 7 p.m. tonight in their final round-robin game. A Grizzlies win would lock up a spot in the national semifinals for them.
“I think playing with those guys, (Malugani) with his speed, he’s always making plays,” said Reagle, a Bay City, Mich., native. “Then we have Teppei with his skill … I think the three of us work pretty well together. We just try to get the puck to the net, get a bunch of shots on net and get some rebounds in the dirty areas.
“We’re more like the grind line. We go out there and make sure we’re being physical and leading the team that way.”
Reagle and his linemates played a key role in helping the Grizzlies get to the Fraser Cup for the first time in the franchise’s brief three-year history. That trio generated energy and points in last week’s victory against rival Peoria in the Central Division Finals. Peoria won Game 1 on its home ice on April 7, but the Grizzlies bounced back to sweep Games 2 and 3 in Rochester on April 9 and 10.
Reagle’s line scored twice in the decisive Game 3 victory, a 5-0 Grizzlies win.
“Cody’s a guy we need in the lineup,” Ratzloff said. “Joe and Teppei weren’t moving the puck, so we put Cody with those two, then all of a sudden they figured out -- Joe and Teppei are two of the fastest guys on the team -- Cody gives them a little space because he’ll go in and wreck someone and create traffic in front of the net.
“All of a sudden they started playing off each other and now you can’t take them apart.”
Reagle joined the Grizzlies a little more than a month into the 2019-20 season. And though it took him some time to get his conditioning to the point where he could be a regular in the lineup, he became an important part of the Grizzlies run to a regular-season division championship, finishing the season with seven goals and 17 points.
“He’s a tough kid, so he was winning battles all the time,” Ratzloff said about the Grizzlies’ initial impressions of Reagle. “Then all of a sudden he makes a move, dangles a kid and scores and gets play of the week.”
Reagle doesn’t attempt to be a flashy scorer, though. He has scored four times and has 21 points this season. He knows his value to the Grizzlies comes in other ways.
“He’s a character in the locker room,” Aikens said. “He keeps it loose in there. He’s a huge asset to us. He accepts his role and does it to the best of his ability.”