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Hats Off to Ryan Strome

"The season starts tonight” was a phrase heard all through the Jack Gatecliff arena Thursday evening. While the season for the Niagara Ice Dogs has been well under way for some weeks now, Thursday’s game against the Belleville Bulls marked the healthy return of goalie Mark Visentin, the first home game of the season for NHL/AHL returnee Alex Friesen and the debut of recent trade from Sudbury Frank Schumacher. However, the excitement about the homecoming of so many key players was over shadowed by the surprise return of Ryan Strome.

Strome was told early Thursday morning he was being sent home from the New York Islander organization and he immediately requested the first flight back. Within a few hours he arrived in St. Catharines ready for his first OHL game of the year. While the fans may be anxious for the team to start racking up some wins, Strome did not feel the pressure to do so lay with him. Strome reported Coach Williamson told him “we don’t expect too much out of the first week-end here. Get your feet under you and get back into the swing of things.”

But it didn’t take long for Strome to get back into the swing of things. With two goals in the first period and another in the third he skated away from his season debut with a hat trick.

While enjoying his experiences in New York, Strome said he is happy to be back with “the boys….we’re really close, we’ve got that comfort with each other, and I think it’s going to go a long way.” Strome acknowledges his Islander tenure gave him “a lot of things to improve on” but his return to Niagara is “a good spot to continue (his) development.”

The Ice Dogs fans were treated to the cohesive team Strome spoke about on Thursday as they defeated the Bulls 5-0. A shut out by Visentin, two goals by Dougie Hamilton and out-shooting the Bulls 53-25 gave the fans a show of what was expected during the pre-season hype.

There was a collective sigh of relief in the Jack Thursday evening as the Ice Dogs got a win and finally saw the winning team they have been anticipating since last spring. Strome heard the cheers of the fans Thursday night but when asked if he was disappointed only one hat was thrown on the ice to show appreciation of his hat trick, Strome laughed and said “hats are expensive these days, I wouldn’t be throwing mine out there!”

Dog Bytes:

  • Newly acquired defenceman Schumacher only lasted the first half of the game as he suffered from knee ligament injury
  • Defenceman Brock Beukeboom is going for x-rays this week and hoping to rejoin the team on-ice soon
  • Friday night the Ice Dogs winning streak was short lived as they lost to the Whalers 6-3
  • Saturday night, after down 3-0 four and half minutes into the game, they came back to tie it up only to eventually lose to Saginaw 6-4 with an empty net goal in the last ten seconds (Dougie Hamilton had two goals and one assist in the effort)

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