After a 7-0 thrashing of the Erie Otters Thursday night, Niagara Ice Dog fans can relax, the kids are alright.
With four key players out of the line up (Visentin, Strome and the Hamiltons with Team Canada) Ice Dogs fans were anticipating a rough ride over the next stretch of the schedule. Under the leadership of Captain Andrew Agozzino, the Dogs have proven they will be just fine.
Agozzino is in his fifth season as an Ice dog, third as team captain and according to Cogeco broadcaster Ed Burkholder is the “most loved Ice Dog of all time”. With the core of the Ice Dogs at Team Canada Agozzino’s leadership skills are being put to the test.
Agozzino admits he needed to adapt his role on and off the ice to accommodate for the addition of more inexperienced players. Prior to Thursday’s game Agozzino said it was his job to “keep guys that aren’t used to playing (in the OHL)…calm, (and) realize it’s just a game they have played their whole lives.”
Broderick Kelly, a regular call up from the Jr. B Falcons heeded Aggie’s advice which resulted in his first career OHL goal. As a St. Catharines native it was even more satisfying to have scored in front of his home town crowd. There is no doubt Kelly is now one of the boys as he was seen being initiated with shaving cream in the face on live TV during the end of game interview with Al Galloway of Cogeco.
Stepping out of the shadow of Team Canada goalie Mark Visentin was Christopher Fastarini. Acquired early in the season in a trade with the Otters, Festarini looked very confident, playing a steady game which resulted in his first career OHL shutout. He was also rewarded with the title of “hardest worker in the game” as well as the third star.
Fans were also amused/impressed with Falcon call up Adam DeSautels as he dropped the gloves against Otter’s McGuire. This was a replay of a fight during an exhibition match in September.
While the youngsters brought up from the Junior B Falcons held their own, Ice Dog fans were reminded Niagara does have depth in their roster. Aside from the four currently with Team Canada, the Ice Dogs also have an additional five players drafted by NHL teams, forwards Alex Friesen (Vancouver), David Pacan (Florida), Steven Shipley (Buffalo), Mitchell Theoret (New York Islanders), and defenceman Brock Beukeboom (St. Louis).
Agozzino acknowledged there was “extra pressure (and the) older guys have to step up…take control.” And take control they did with a second period barrage of six goals. Agozzino scored the seventh in the third just missing on duplicating a hat trick like the one earned the last time he faced the Otters.
Thursday also marked the return of Frank Schumacher after finally passing the concussion test. Schumacher did not need any easing into the line up as he provided strength on the blue line with no hesitation.
With the recent display of depth, along with the support of youngsters waiting in the wings, Agozzino may be right when he assures the team still plans to be in Shawinigan in the spring. “it’s a long season……doesn’t matter what you come in ranked it’s how you come out. " When asked about being in the Memorial Cup his quick response is “absolutely!”
The Ice Dogs head into the Christmas Break after defeating Sudbury 3-1 Saturday evening.
Brock Beukeboom scored his first goal as an Ice Dog and was named first star of the game as he faced his father as coach behind the opposing bench.
All 3 Ice Dogs goals were on the powerplay.