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Behind the Scenes if the OHL: Facility Renewal

It seems this is the season of facility renewal within the OHL.
With teams like the Owen Sound Attack and the Niagara Ice Dogs barely able to squeeze in 3000 fans into their buildings, teams such as the London Knights can regularly fill 9000 seats. However, there are changes going on throughout the OHL to upgrade arenas to not only compete on the ice, but also to compete financially. The Erie Otters revamped their line up this year with the arrival of rookie phenom Connor McDavid but they also managed to upgrade their facilities with the completion of a $42 million renovation.
The Ottawa 67s took a risk this year by moving their team to Kanata, relocating to the Scotiabank Place where the Senators of the NHL play. The timing couldn’t be any better for the 67s as their arrival coincided with the NHL lockout and they don’t need to share the facilities or the fans with the pro team. While there was some concern they might lose their fan base during the two year renovation process, the reward will be a return to an updated modern Ottawa Civic Centre.

The first home game for the Kitchener Rangers was pushed back until October 19th. After starting the season with eight away games, the Rangers were able to return to a newly refurbished Memorial Auditorium after $10 million has been spent to provide a third-level concourse, a fourth-level media room and loft style suites, renovated team space, including dressing rooms, player services and retail areas. The expansion added almost 1,000 seats to the Aud’s seating capacity which means there will be a reduction to the current season ticket wait list of 1,300 names.

Six years ago when the Burke family purchased the Mississauga Ice Dogs and relocated the team to St. Catharines, it was with the understanding a new arena would be built within five years. The decision to build a new arena was a contentious issue for the City of St. Catharines, many citizens expressing concern the current economic climate was not ideal for the city to be spending $45 million on what some detractors are calling a puck palace. While the Niagara Ice Dogs have inked a deal to become the anchor tenant, the city is banking the new facility will also serve as a recreation and entertainment centre for all residents of St. Catharines. While they didn’t quite make the five year deadline, the shovel will hit the ground in a few weeks for the Ice Dogs to start the 2015 hockey season in a new modern facility.

The St. Catharines Standard reports Ice Dog owners Bill and Denise Burke have signed a 20-year lease with the city getting a percentage of gross ticket sales and a surcharge on every ticket sold. The city also keeps any cash from naming rights and parking, as well as an equitable share of profits from in-house ads, suites, club seats and concession sales.
Currently the Ice Dogs are regularly selling out in a very cramped Jack Gatecliff arena with a capacity of 3145. “If it’s a full house, it’s more revenue, obviously, for the city,” said Bill Burke. He called the 10% figure “a very fair number for a 20-year lease….I’d like to think that we could be 4,000, 4,500 every night.”
In the mean time the Niagara Ice Dogs will continue to play in the quaint old barn of the “Jack”, clearly the oldest arena in the Ontario Hockey League. While there is a limited source of revenue for the owners and a tight squeeze for the fans, the players have always enjoyed playing in the Jack where the roar of the fans inspire the home team and can intimidate opponents. The Ice Dogs also use the smaller ice surface to their advantage.
With Niagara fans excited their new arena will finally be built, it was the Brampton Battalion which made the news throughout the OHL this week. The Battalion has been unable to fill the Powerade Centre since their arrival in Brampton. In the final year of a 15 year lease, team owner Scott Abbot made the decision to pull the team out of Brampton and make a move to North Bay. Perhaps Abbott was inspired by the success of the Burkes moving a team to a smaller community which will spiritedly embrace an OHL team even if the facilities are in need of improvement.
The city of North Bay has already committed to a $12 million renovation which will  include expanding seating capacity to about 4,300, increasing the size of the ice surface to a more standard 200 by 85 feet, a large team dressing room/fitness area/administrative centre and new heating and cooling system. The city is wholeheartedly supporting this move as North Bay mayor Al McDonald reported to Yahoo Sport the team has “sold 100 season tickets within 2 hrs of their office opening & they haven't even started a ticket drive.”

Fan Kevin Jordan can claim he has been to all 20 OHL arenas and has created an on-line guide describing the individual personalities of each facility.
A brief outline of each arena is posted below (if the facts of Wickipedia can be trusted)
Barrie Colts: Molson Centre built in 1995 for $13 million with a capacity of 4195.
Belleville Bulls: Yardmen Arena built in 1978 with a capacity of 3257. It has the largest ice surface in the OHL (200 ft x 100 ft)
Brampton Battalion: Powerade Centre built in 1998 for $26.5 million with a capacity of 4800
Kingston Frontenacs: KROCK Centre built in 2008 for $46.5 million with a capacity of 5700.
Mississauga Steelheads: Hershey Centre built in 1998 for $22 million with a capacity of 5800.
Niagara Ice Dogs: Gatorade Garden City Complex, formerly The Jack Gatecliff Arena (the Jack) built in 1938 for $105,000 with a capacity of 3145 including standing room. (By far the oldest in the OHL and the smallest ice surface at 190 ft x 80 ft)
Oshawa Generals: GM Centre built in 2006 for $45 million with a capacity of 6107.
Ottawa 67s: Ottawa Civic Centre built in 1967 for $9.5 million with a current capacity of 9862 (currently under renovation with the 67s playing out of the Scotiabank centre until the 2 year renovation is completed)
Peterborough Petes: Memorial Centre built in 1956, renovated in 2003 with a capacity of 4329.
Sudbury Wolves: Community Arena built in 1951, renovated in 2007 with a capacity of 5100.
Erie Otters: Erie Insurance Centre built in 1983 for $9.3 million with a $42 million renovation almost complete. Capacity is 6500.
Guelph Storm: Sleeman Centre built in 2000 for $21 million with a capacity of 4195.
Kitchener Rangers: Memorial Auditorium built in 1951 with a capacity of 7800. With current renovations complete the capacity is close to 9000.
London Knights: Budweiser Gardens (formerly John Labatt Centre) built in 2002 for $52 million with a capacity of 9100.
Owen Sound Attack: Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre/JD McArthur Arena built in 1983 with a capacity of 3500.
Plymouth Whalers: Compuware Arena built in 1996 with a capacity of 4500.
Sarnia Sting: RBC Centre built in 1998 for $15 million with a capacity of 5500.
Saginaw Spirit: Dow Event Center built in 2006 fro $25 million with a capacity of 5527.
Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds: Essar Centre built in 2006 for $25 million with a capacity of 5000.
Windsor Spitfires: WFCU Centre built in 2008 for $71 milllion with a capacity of 6500.
A crowd shot from "the Jack" back in 1938.

The Niagara Ice Dogs is a Family Business

With the announcement back in the summer of 2007 the Mississauga Ice Dogs had been sold and new owners were relocating the team to the Niagara area, Niagara hockey fans were excited about the opportunity to see OHL caliber hockey, as well as future NHL stars mature right here in Niagara. What most fans didn’t realize at the time was the move not only meant a relocation of a hockey team but also relocation of a family.

Team owners Bill and Denise Burke, having recently sold their Aurora based family printing business, decided to make a major leap and purchase a Major Junior A hockey franchise. The younger generation, sons Billy Jr. and Joey, dug right into the family business as well.

Joey has been the assistant general manger full-time for the past two seasons. He lists off wide ranging duties which fill his day. For example, iIn preparation for last month’s training camp he contacted draft picks, set up itineraries, ensured player eligibility, secured visas for European players, league registrations, and U.S. health insurance.  Joey is even the go to guy when someone needs picking up at the airport. Joey sums his role up by saying his primary job is to do the entire behind the scenes stuff so head coach and GM Marty Williamson can concentrate on the hockey stuff.

His older brother Billy Jr. has the role of assistant coach. As an OHL alumnus, Billy has a good idea of what pressures the young hockey players are under. Not just parental and coaching pressures, but the pressure the athlete puts upon himself. He acknowledges the OHL is a 12 month commitment; there is no taking the summers off for the athlete. If a player chooses to slack off during the summer there will be another player who kept training and is ready to take his spot.

I asked Billy and Joey if the poor facilities at the Jack Gatecliff arena was a deterrent in recruiting players to Niagara, and they both insisted the “Jack” was actually a major attraction. They credit their parents with ensuring the dressing room and other necessities are available for the team but they feel it is the fans suffering with poor spectator accommodation. Billy believes Niagara fans are the main attraction for getting players to come to Niagara. Bringing a draft pick to a play-off game to see the fans in action seals the deal. Billy acknowledges “the fans in this region are as knowledgeable as any fans in the league.”

The brothers are excited about this year’s team. Like last year when the Ice Dogs had to juggle line-ups with four players away with various Team Canada duties, the line-up this year may need to be juggled again depending on the length of the NHL lock-out. It is expected Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome will end up with their respective NHL teams. 

Billy Jr. admits expectations this season are perhaps not as high as last season’s Eastern Conference Championship team. “I would love to be back in the finals, I don’t think that will happen this year. Each player has to over achieve. Missing the play-offs is unacceptable. Anything can happen. If the guys all buy in and the stars all align, who knows? We are optimist for the season. We kept all of the young players like Carter Verhaeghe and Broderick Kelly, the young guys who will become the future of this team. It has set us up for success in the future… (They will) build confidence, have room to make mistakes, less pressure because we don’t have to win every game. We will regroup. By the time the new rink comes along (in two years) we will be knocking at the door again.”

Joey thinks the Ice Dogs will finish in the top half of the conference and go on a run. “Maybe going  a couple rounds deep in the play-offs, keeping it exciting for the fans and maybe surprise a few people by winning a trophy……I think we are young but we are also very talented. We are still going to have a good team, if we stay healthy and (have)  a little bit of luck.”

However the Ice Dogs do this season, both Burke brothers acknowledge they work hard for the fans, for the community.  Billy says “This is more than a job for us. This is our whole life. Our life revolves around this team. I love it here; this is an opportunity of a life time. We are all Ice Dogs.”

McDavid Makes His OHL Debut

Connor McDavid made his OHL debut on Thursday evening facing the Niagara Ice Dogs. Sixteen seconds into the game he was welcomed into the big leagues with a major hit from Boston Bruins draft pick Dougie Hamilton. It was a clear statement from the Ice Dogs they were not going to treat this fifteen year old with kid gloves but rather show him what to expect as he embarks his career in the OHL. Hamilton was on McDavid throughout most of the game and kept him off the score sheet. With a 4-2 loss to the Ice Dogs, McDavid admitted he was disappointed with the results. “(The game) definitely could have gone a bit better. It sucks to give up the two points. Losing is something that doesn’t sit very well with me.”

Landing at the bottom of the OHL standings last year the Erie Otters were able to select McDavid first over-all in the 2012 OHL priority draft. Many have asked McDavid if he must become the saviour of the Otters.  “I don’t feel too much pressure….I try not to focus on me, try to focus on the team game. There are 22 of us out there.”

McDavid believes he is ready to make the jump from midget hockey to the Major Junior “A” league. “I feel pretty comfortable out there, (but) it’s not fully there yet.” McDavid acknowledges he needs to continue improving the defensive side of the game as well as face-offs.
Following the Ice Dog loss the soft-spoken McDavid appeared shaken by the barrage of hits from the Team Canada alumni Hamilton. “It was certainly unexpected and I was not prepared. (Hamilton) might be the best player in the entire league. It’s good to get that under my belt.”

For a young teen, McDavid has been under a number of changes in the last few weeks; a new hockey club, first time away from home, living with a billet family, a new school, not only a new city but a new country. It is understandable if there is an adjustment period for this hockey phenom.

With his second outing in the league, McDavid was able to score his first OHL points with a goal and an assist against last year’s OHL champions the London Knights. While a milestone for McDavid, it was another team loss as the Knights outscored the Otters 8-2. All eyes will continue to be on McDavid throughout the season.

On-Ice Product Shored Up; 67's Need New Marketing Ploy

by Alex Quevillon
In a two-day span, fans of the Ottawa 67's suffering from withdrawal in the off-season received news worth getting excited over. With that being said, while all is well with the on-ice product, the most recent announcement causes a lot of off-ice concerns for the hockey club.

Early Wednesday, the Barberpoles headed into the CHL's import draft and did exactly what they were expected to do -- shore up their wingers. With the 51st selection, Ottawa selected diminutive left winger Ladislav Zikmund, who plays in the same system in Karlovy Vary as ex-67 netminder Lukas Mensator. Their second pick, at 54, was used to draft an ex-teammate of Michal Cajkovsky, 6'2 right winger Richard Mraz (not to be confused with Petr Mrazek, who joins Cajkovsky as a 67 grad).

All seems set in motion for the 67's to have a strong rebuilding campaign on the ice. However, less than 24-hours later, the Ontario Hockey League released their schedule for the 2012-13 season. Exciting news? Yes. A cause for concern in Ottawa? Absolutely.

As was confirmed three weeks ago when the 67's officially moved their headquarters to Kanata, Ontario, the team will officially play out the next two or three seasons at Scotiabank Place. Their new so-to-speak roommate, the NHL's Ottawa Senators, released a schedule around the same time that left Ottawa's Junior team in a bind.

Typically, the 67's have had the entirety of their home matchups scheduled for Friday nights and Sunday afternoons with the rare exception being made for a Saturday afternoon or Holiday Monday game. Sharing a building with an NHL team has effectively put an end to this, though. The Senators, competing with six other Canadian NHL markets, have started their own habit of hosting teams on Friday nights. As such, with the pro team taking precedence, the 67's had to work with what they were given.

As we found out, the 67's home schedule sees them playing just eight home games on their usual Friday nights. They play host to four Saturday afternoon games and seven Sunday afternoon games. During the week, fans will have to make the trek out to Kanata for three Monday games, four Tuesday games, five Wednesday games and three Thursday games.

To get fans to the games, the team is going to be forced to market Junior hockey better than they have in the past half-decade. If anyone can do it, team owner Jeff Hunt has proven that he is capable.

After taking over the franchise in 1998, Hunt's bold marketing tactics and advertising campaigns didn't go unnoticed. In fact, it helped sell so many tickets that the 67's were able to host the Memorial Cup, as their new owner had audaciously guaranteed.

From 1999 to 2005, the 67's took part in three third Memorial Cup tournaments and attendances were soaring. Every Friday night game was either sold out or nearly sold out, the team rarely plunged below 8,000 fans for a Friday night. Sundays never seemed like a chore to put people in the seats. But since their last visit to the Mem Cup, things have taken a bit of a nosedive.

With the exception of games against key teams, teams with high-end prospects, or simply games where a lot of seats were given away, Ottawa rarely found themselves eclipsing 6,000 fans. This isn't a bad hockey team, either, this is a team that hasn't missed the playoffs since the birth of their first import draftee from Wednesday and has won three divisional titles in a row. Imagine if this team falls into the lower echelon of the Eastern Conference.

Furthermore, consider the poor attendances that generally come with playoff games in Ottawa. Not used to weekday games, they only managed to sell 6,500 tickets for the deciding seventh game vs. Barrie. That was Ottawa's highest attendance for a weekday home game in the post-season. Are those numbers good in comparison to a number of OHL teams? They are, but it causes concern for what we may see next season.

If travel and the number of weekday games aren't enough of a worry, consider that the Senators are also re-vamping their marketing schemes and, in some cases, are actually selling tickets that would be cheaper than their Junior counterpart. Senators CEO Cyril Leeder is tired of visiting fans taking over 'The Bank', and is willing to lose profits to sell cheaper season's seats to Ottawa fans who will drown out opposing supporters. How far is Leeder willing to budge in order to sell his team's product to hometown fans? Down to the point where you can buy seats for $15.

Granted, very few tickets for the professional squad will be sold at the eye-opening low rate of $15, but there will still be some available to the public. By comparison, the cheapest ticket you can buy for a 67's game currently goes at $18.

If you don't think that the Senators brass is serious about their plan, consider personal experience as proof. In my family's household, there is not a single Senators fan. However, having used Capital Tickets (owned by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk) we received a letter asking if we'd like to become Senators season ticket holders, the offer of "tickets as low as $15/game" still intact. These same afformentioned family member who have been 67's season ticket holders for decades received nothing more than a long, drawn-out "please come back, we need you next season" from the Barberpoles front office.

Unable to obtain official numbers, I have heard from a number of people that the 67's renewal rate amongst season ticket holders from the 2012 season had dropped to as low as 23% as of the May 8th Early Bird deadline. Playing in a suburb, it will be hard enough to get any sort of a walk-up or casual crowd. When an approximated 77% of diehard fans aren't willing to make the trip, who is?

Furthermore, OC Transpo has now come out and said that unless the 67's sell an average of 5,000 seats per game, they will cut bus service to the games. With the price of parking already hiked up from last year's rate, bus service is crucial. It's a chain reaction if the team doesn't draw large attendances early on. If they lose bus service, it goes even further downhill.

For a team that couldn't sell 5,000 tickets for a weekday playoff game, the Ottawa 67's are going to have to come up with a brilliant marketing ploy to continue getting respectable attendances. Perhaps this starts and ends by using Cody Ceci as a selling point -- the hometown defender was drafted 15th overall by the Senators last week and is expected by many to return to the Barberpoles and likely Captain the team. Either way, with the pre-season starting on September 7th and the 67's home opener in their new stomping grounds being played September 20th, the team's front office has a lot of work to do in a very short time.

OHL championship Series Even

The consensus is the 2012 OHL championship series is going to be a long one.

The first two games were as predicted; split one win each for the London Knights and the Niagara Ice Dogs. The surprise was the wins were in the opponents’ rink.

Thursday evening saw the opening game of the series go into double overtime at the John Labatt Centre in London. The game was decided on a Dougie Hamilton shot to win the game 3-2 for the Niagara Ice Dogs.

Controversy about the win arose the next day when according to the London Free Press “The league admitted Friday the IceDogs should've been awarded (a penalty shot) in the first overtime period after the London Knights were called on a delay of game infraction for knocking the net off its moorings…According to Rule 63.5, a penalty shot is to be awarded for deliberately displacing a goal post within the final two minutes of regular playing time and in overtime.” While it appears with the Ice Dog eventual win this refereeing mistake was no harm no foul, London forward Vladislav Namestnikov suggested the London’s penalty kill perhaps contributed to the Knights tiring and Niagara’s ultimate win. Knights’ Michael Houser, named the league’s top goal tender, laughed it off and said a penalty shot in over-time would not be his preference. “I'd rather have the two-minute penalty to kill.”

As the series went to St. Catharines Saturday evening, many felt the Ice Dogs had the edge at their home arena as they are used to the unique corners and the small ice surface of the Jack Gatecliff arena. In spite of a hat trick from team captain Andrew Agozzino and out shooting the Knights 42-24 (15-5 in the 3rd period), London was able to hang on to a 5-3 win with an empty net goal from Ryan Rupert in the dying seconds of the game. Coincidentally the empty net goal made it a hat trick for Rupert as well.

Rupert appears to do well in Niagara as he has scored six goals in his last three visits. Rupert says he does enjoy the barn like atmosphere but “it’s play-off hockey – that’s where I thrive.”

The series returns to London on Monday evening with game four back at “the Jack” on Wednesday. The fifth game at the John Labatt centre will be televised by Sportsnet. While national televised coverage is great for CHL fans across the country, will the extra TV-time-outs be a blessing or a hindrance to the teams? The extra breaks are a great opportunity for players to catch their breath and coaches to refocus the team, however, the extra interruptions can disrupt the flow of the game and any momentum a team might have.

One thing is for sure, this series so far has been great hockey for OHL hockey fans. Knight coach/GM agrees “it couldn’t be any closer out there.”

SCORING SUMMARY Game 1 @ John Labatt Centre, London
1. NIAG M. Theoret, (4) (B. Ritchie, D. Hamilton), 4:01   
1. LDN M. Domi, (3) (S. Harrington, G. McKegg), 17:15   
2. NIAG A. Agozzino, (8) (A. Friesen, D. Hamilton), 18:23   
3. LDN S. Griffith, (9) (V. Namestnikov), 3:00   
OT2. NIAG D. Hamilton, (5) (T. Kuhnhackl, F. Hamilton), 9:03

SCORING SUMMARY Game 2 @ Jack Gatecliff, St. Catharines
1. NIAG A. Agozzino, (9) (R. Strome, F. Hamilton), 5:14 (PP)  
1. NIAG A. Agozzino, (10) (D. Hamilton, R. Strome), 16:09 (PP)  
1. LDN J. Tinordi, (3) (S. Griffith, V. Namestnikov), 17:59   
2. LDN R. Rupert, (6) , 1:46   
2. LDN R. Rupert, (7) (M. Rupert), 4:28   
2. LDN O. Maatta, (6) (M. Domi, J. Knight), 13:31 (PP)  
2. NIAG A. Agozzino, (11) (D. Pacan, B. Beukeboom), 16:26   
3. LDN R. Rupert, (8) (G. McKegg), 19:52 (EN)

Dog Bytes:
·        The double over time game in London on Thursday was the longest game in the Niagara Ice Dogs’ history.
·        Following Agozzino’s third goal there was a delay in game while arena staff cleared away a torrent of green painting hats and towels both sponsor give aways for the evening.
·        During the game, the St. Catharines Jr. B Falcons were loudly congratulated by the fans for their Sutherland Cup win the night before. This was their first championship in the team’s 44 years of existence.
·        The Jr B team also benefitted once again to a large 50-50 draw – over $3200.00

Niagara Ice Dogs: OHL Eastern Conference Champions

It was another sell out at the Jack Gatecliff arena again Friday night. With the Bobby Orr trophy waiting in the wings it was a must win game for the Ottawa 67s facing elimination by the Niagara Ice Dogs. While the 67s gave it a valiant effort right up to the final second of the game, it was the Ice Dogs prevailing with a 3-2 win. Niagara has now earned a trip to the OHL finals against the awaiting London Knights.

Ryan Strome opened the scoring early with a power play goal at just past the two minute mark of the first period. Ottawa quickly responded a minute later with a goal from Sean Monahan also on a power play. Freddie Hamilton on a pass from brother Dougie scored to give the Ice Dogs the lead at 15:49. Alex Friesen gave Niagara a 3-1 edge nearing the middle of the second.

The Niagara machine really got rolling in the second period as they dominated the play outshooting the 67s. However, during the third period Ottawa started playing their desperation style hockey. This was successful in their last series as they came back from three games to one to defeat the Barrie Colts to earn their spot in the Eastern Conference finals. It appeared the 67s were poised to do it again when Jake Cardwell made it 3-2 with a power-play goal at 10:14 of the third. Ottawa continued to put the pressure on Niagara for the rest of the period right up to the final seconds outshooting their opponents 13-8. It was all to no avail however as the Ice Dogs kept finding ways to keep the puck out of the net.

With the final buzzer the Ice Dogs became Eastern Conference Champions. OHL Commissioner David Branch was on hand to present the Bobby Orr trophy to Niagara captain Andrew Agozzino.  There was a very brief mini-lap of the rink as the team showed off the hardware to their loyal fans.

Following the game there were two contrasting press conferences. The first was with Ottawa 67 Coach Chris Byrne and defenseman Jake Cardwell. A local boy from near by Niagara Falls, Cardwell had lots of friends and family in attendance to support him as he dealt with the loss. With red eyes Cardwell held his composure as he expressed his disappointment in the sudden end to the series. “Next year we will make a run at it again.”

When asked if fatigue was a factor in the Ottawa loss coach Byrne, usually a rather stoic presence, cracked he wasn’t tired at all. He then went on to say “it’s our 18th (play-off) game…we played a couple of tough series, tight series before this one, and for sure you could see some of our guys were getting fatigued.” Byrne did give credit to the strength of the Ice Dog team. “They are a good team, they are deep. We had every chance to get that third goal and they did a great job at finding a way to keep pucks out.”

Expecting a more upbeat press conference from Niagara representation it was a surprisingly subdued coach Marty Williamson “It’s a great accomplishment and we have a lot of respect for the Bobby Orr Trophy, but there’s another two steps for us.”

Freddie Hamilton, wearing his new Eastern Conference Championship cap, agreed the job is not yet done. The Ice Dogs are now focused on the next task, facing the London Knights for the OHL championship and then on to Shawinigan for the Memorial Cup. “We’re not satisfied with this. We’re really excited for the next round.”

Dog Bytes:
  • Ryan Strome and Tyler Toffoli went at it in an uncharacteristic fight during the first period
  • Many Niagara fans booed David Branch as he presented the Bobby Orr trophy. Perhaps still bad feelings from decisions regarding severe suspensions during the regular season (Kuhnhackl and D. Hamilton -20 games each)
  • There was a delay of 16 minutes in the first period because of a problem with a penalty box door.
  • 50-50 prize keeps rising with each Niagara home game. Friday’s take - $3500.00
  • OHL Championship series begins Thursday in London with game two in St. Catharines on Saturday

Ottawa-Niagara Series Tied Up

The Ottawa 67s have evened up the series by soundly defeating the Niagara Ice Dogs 7-4.

Niagara coach Marty Williamson knew immediately what looked outwardly as a good start for the Ice Dogs was nothing but. Within the first few minutes the Ice Dogs outshot the visiting 67s 9-0. “We were way too pretty, over passing pucks but we weren’t fundamentally sound.” And he was right because at the 10:00 mark of the first period the onslaught began.

Nicholas Foglia opened up the scoring for Ottawa. This was his second goal of the series as Foglia scored the only Ottawa goal in the opening game of the conference finals on Friday evening. Then began a flurry of scoring with goals by Cody Ceci, Dalton Smith, Shane Prince making it 4-0. Alex Friesen finally got a shot past Ottawa goal tender Petr Mrazek.

The second period opened with a Brett Ritchie power play goal for the Ice Dogs and for a brief moment a Dougie Hamilton goal from the point brought the Ice Dogs within one goal. However the momentum was quickly lost as Mike Cazzola scored a fifth goal for Ottawa a minute later.

A sixth Ottawa goal from Sean Monahan finally chased Niagara goalie Mark Visentin from the net. He has had an outstanding season since returning from the World Juniors in January but Sunday was definitely not his night. Chris Festarini took his place in net and did an admirable job keeping the Ottawa blitz of goals down to just one more from Jake Cardwell.

David Pacan scored a goal for the Ice Dogs in the dying seconds of the game. However there was no celebration of the goal as the Dogs knew the game was ending with a 7-4 loss.

Following the game both teams got on their respective buses and headed north to prepare for game three of the Eastern Conference finals in Ottawa. When asked if Visentin will be back in the net for game three tomorrow night, Williamson’s quick reply was “Absolutely!”

Dog Bytes:
  • Six is the most goals Mark Visentin has given up all season.
  • The Ice Dogs out shot Ottawa 48-35
  • Ottawa went 3-for-5 on the power play with one short-handed goal
  • Niagara’s power play  was 2-for-6
  • Ottawa captain Marc Zanetti has been suspended indefinitely until a decision is made on discipline following a kick to the head of Niagara’s Tom Kuhnhackl during Friday’s series opening game.
  • It was another sell out at “the Jack” with 3145 in attendance
  • The 50-50 draw was once again over $3000.00

Niagara Needs OT to Defeat Ottawa in Game One


It was another sell out crowd at the Jack Gatecliff arena Friday evening as the Niagara Ice Dogs defeated the visiting Ottawa 67s 2-1 in the opening game of the OHL Eastern Conference finals. It would take an overtime goal by Niagara’s Mitchell Theoret to determine the outcome. The game turned into a goal tending dual with Niagara’s Mark Visentin keeping out all but 1 of 42 shots while Petr Mrazek defended the Ottawa net playing perhaps his best game of the play-offs stopping 49 of 51 Niagara shots.

With a four game sweep of the Brampton Battalion, the Niagara Ice Dogs had a week-long break while waiting for Ottawa 67s to defeat the Barrie Colts in what would take a game seven over time win. Many felt Niagara would have the upper hand being well rested but instead of rested they looked a little rusty in the first period. The Ice Dogs persevered and by the second period were back in their game which Ice Dog coach Marty Williamson describes as “staying patient and waiting for opportunities.”

The local Cogeco crew extended their rest on Friday evening as Sports Net came to Niagara to nationally televise the game. While Williamson noted the national attention “pumps the guys up and was a lot of fun for the community” he also expressed his concern about the additional commercial breaks taking the momentum away from the team. Williamson credits the loud fans doing “a great job getting us back into it with their GO DOGS GO.”

The television cameras were also able to catch a skirmish behind the net following Niagara’s first goal by Tom Kuhnhackl at 7:04 of the third period. Williamson was blunt saying Ottawa’s Marc Zanetti “kicked Kuhnuckle in the back of the head. I don’t understand the mentality of a player going in and kicking another player when is lying on the ice.” While Williamson admits the refs can’t see everything, the Sportsnet broadcast was able to clearly record the infraction and Williamson is confident the league will look after it. Zannetti, an over-ager and captain of the team, is familiar with how the OHL handles discipline. In round one of the play-offs against Belleville Zannetti was suspended for five games for intentionally spearing Bull’s captain Luke Judson during the pre-game warm up.

Zannetti quickly followed up the Kuhnhackl kick with an assist on a Nocholas Foglia shot from behind the goal-line allowing the 67s to tie up the game which led into over-time. Theoret scored his self-proclaimed biggest goal of his life at 5:10 of the OT period for the Ice Dogs to take game one of the series.

The week off between series was an opportunity for arena staff to redo the ice surface at the Jack Gatecliff arena and add the Eastern Conference finals logo. However, it was a warm night in Niagara and the new surfacing did not create ideal ice but rather a bouncy surface. With the weather cooling off, the surface should be improved for an even faster paced game two on Sunday.

ECF Preview: #1 Niagara Ice Dogs vs. #2 Ottawa 67's

by Alex Quevillon
The Ottawa 67’s will meet the Niagara Ice Dogs in the Eastern Conference Finals, and while these two teams finished right next to each other in the standings, their paths to get to the third round couldn’t be any more different.

Niagara made quick work of the Bramtpon Battalion in a four-game sweep, while the 67’s allowed the Barrie Colts to tie the seventh and deciding game of their series with eight seconds left in regulation, before Brett Gustavsen put the series away for good with an overtime winner.

The struggles that Ottawa faced playing lower seeds (although Barrie wasn’t far behind), mixed with their poor record against the Ice Dogs this year, make OHL fans believe that this will be a very short series in Niagara’s favour.

For Ottawa to win:

As tired as the 67’s may be, they have to try and catch the well-rested Ice Dogs flat-footed and get to Mark Visentin early on – something they’ve had no trouble doing this season.

In the Ice Dogs’ two visits to the Nation’s Capital this season, Visentin allowed goals on four of the first nine shots he faced. He was pulled in November in a 5-2 loss, while he recovered nicely in the second game and helped hand Ottawa a 5-1 loss.

(See: Is Mark Visentin Ready to Fall? - Brandon Sudeyko)

The 67’s are going to have to flex their physical muscles in this series. In their lone win on the year, they played their most physical game of the season and that, combined with Visentin’s poor performance at the time, the then-visiting Ice Dogs were out of the game early.

For Niagara to win:

Niagara needs to pepper Petr Mrazek, keep the 67’s to the perimeter and get under their skin. With the Ice Dogs’ offencive ability, a stacked defence with guys like Jamie Oleksiak, Dougie Hamilton and Brock Beukeboom, and the styles of play employed by the likes of Andrew Agozzino and Alex Friesen, none of those should be any problem for the one-seed.

Mrazek was highly criticized for the number of goals he has allowed from long-range so far in the postseason but when he was called upon in high pressure situations, he did somewhat step up to the plate. We’ll see how well he does against a team that sends shots his way all game, not to mention get in his face on numerous occasions. Ottawa’s netminder doesn’t shy away from scrums, but Niagara could use that to get him off his game.

Much like the 67's had to try to avoid in the first two rounds, Niagara can't get into any bad habits early in the series. They were pretty dominant in their first two series wins against Oshawa and Brampton, and won the season series 3-1 with 18 goals for and 10 against, so the Ice Dogs should be set.

Bad Blood:

Niagara has been a hated team in Ottawa since a game last March where Thomas Nesbitt and Shane Prince were knocked out of the 67’s lineup via unnecessary cheapshots from Myles Doan and Tim Billingsley respectively. The first re-match between these two teams here in Ottawa this season was a heated one, but not as nasty as last year’s event.

With this history and the aformentioned antagonizing skills of a pair of Ice Dogs, mixed with the boatloads of toughness these two teams possess, we may be in for a physical and perhaps even nasty third round. Am I predicting that this series will re-enact the Flyers and Penguins? Not quite. But it should be more hostile than the second round for these two squads.

Another Makeshift Asylum:

Well, Barrie’s attempt to mock our asylum was laughable to say the least. Now, the 67’s get to put up with another group of wannabe hooligans. The drummer in Niagara doesn't even bother with a real drum, electing instead to bang straight on the glass (an infraction that would have you escorted out of the J. Benson Cartage Centre). Even still, you won't see Chris Byrne ask the refs for them to stop (See: Hawerchuk, Dale)

Prediction: Niagara in Six

Game one goes Friday night in St. Catharines, with game two going on Sunday. The series heads to Ottawa on Monday and Wednesday.

Game 7 Review OTT-BAR

by Alex Quevillon
In what was quite clearly the biggest game of Junior Hockey in the Nation's Capital in two years, the Ottawa 67's and Barrie Colts didn't disappoint. In a series that went down to the wire, it was very denotative that even after the 67's took a 3-2 lead with 25 seconds left, Barrie would stil have an answer.

Sean Monahan's sixth marker of the postseason, the first powerplay marker in three games in the series, appeared to be the nail in the coffin that was the Colts season. Mark Scheifele, the most dominant player for either team through the seven games, batted home a rebound to tie the game with eight seconds to to.

The 67's wouldn't let their season be ruined by a bizarre, last-second tying goal, however. Just over two minutes into the first overtime period, Brett Gustavsen intercepted a pass from Mathias Niederberger and beat him five-hole with a quick shot from a sharp angle, sending Ottawa to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2005 (also, the last time they played Barrie in the playoffs) with a 4-3 win.

Niederberger didn't stand on his head as much as he had in past games, but he still made 40 stops. Petr Mrazek made 28 saves, with only one save needed in overtime (Niederberger faced three shots in the extra frame).

In hindsight, I don't think any 67's fans or impartial fans will be upset with the ending to this game. It would have been terrible had the 67's come eight seconds away from a series win only to lose. But if Barrie hadn't knotted the game, it would have been terrible to see Barrie's season end on a too many men penalty.

With 65 seconds left in the third period, Greg Sutch headed to the box as Barrie was caught with six men on the ice. The penalty didn't have to be called, especially at that time in the game. Monahan's goal came less than a minute later.

Colin Behenna was the Colt who centered the puck, knows all about Ottawa's late collapses. In the team's first meeting of the season, Behenna tied the game with less than a second to go in the third period. The winner that night was scored by Tanner Pearson, who missed the entirety of the playoffs.

Greg Sutch beat Mrazek with a high shot from the faceoff circle early in the first period, and it wasn't until a long stretch of play in the Barrie end in the middle stanza that the 67's broke the German goaltender's shutout bid. Dalton Smith buried a centering pass from the game's eventual first star, Tyler Graovac.

Josh MacDonald put the Colts ahead for the second time on the night with yet another longshot on Mrazek. Cody Ceci's blast from the point was deflected in by Steven Janes with six minutes left to tie the game once again.

For Barrie, this is a hard end to their year. Having improved by 51 points from last year's last-place finish, it's quite impressive that they came one goal from a berth in the Conference Finals. Ivan Telegin, who had a tremendous series, joined the Colts already sidelined after leaving with a leg injury at the first intermission. The 67's will be the team to go to the third round to face the top-seeded Niagara Ice Dogs. Game One goes Friday night.

Game 6 Review BAR vs. OTT

by Alex Quevillon
The Barrie Colts made Game Six interesting, perhaps too close to comfort for the Ottawa 67’s, but the visitors ultimately prevailed at the Barrie Molson Center on Sunday evening and these two teams will head back to the Nation’s Capital to play the seventh game of this series on Tuesday.

The win brought amongst a heavy sigh of relief from the 67’s faithful who are, in fairness, used to seeing their team blow leads such as this one. But the Barberpoles have shown enough resiliency to hold onto two late leads in back-to-back games to level this series at three games apiece.

Can We Decline the Penalties?

In what may have been the NHL’s game of the year on the afternoon of the 15th, the Philadelphia Flyers’ powerplay put on a clinic, going four for seven against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game between the 67’s and Colts that followed saw the complete opposite as the two combined for no powerplay goals on ten opportunities.

The officiating was highly questionable throughout the night, the final miscue coming in the final minute when Ottawa’s Sean Monahan was sent to the box for a phantom hook on Josh McDonald, who innocently tripped on his own. But with how pitiful both teams were with the man advantage, along with the fact that Ottawa was able to ice the puck as a result, perhaps it worked in the 67’s favour after all. Whoever moves on to play Niagara will need a quick fix for their powerplay, otherwise it may be another short series in the Ice Dogs’ favour.

Missed It By That Much:

Barrie forward Erik Bradford has to be kicking himself for what should have been the equalizer early in the third period. For a 15-minute span at the end of the second period and start of the third, the Colts caught Ottawa on their heels. Gregg Sutch got Barrie on the board with just a minute and a half to play in the middle frame while a longshot from Alex Lepkowski brought the home side within one. Shortly thereafter, Bradford had a wide open net after putting together a perfect 2-on-1 rush, but couldn’t tie the game up.

Full Team Effort by Ottawa:

Steven Janes and Shane Prince may still be ragged on by Ottawa fans, but there’s no doubting the important role they played in sending this series the distance. Prince beautifully set up Janes on a breakaway as Janes was coming out of the penalty box; the 6’4 Etobicoke native scoring on his third shot in tight on the break to give the 67’s a 2-0 lead.

Tyler Toffoli had set up that situation by hitting double digits in goals with 10, a longshot past Mathias Niederberger that looked awfully familiar to Lepkowski’s goal in the third. The 67’s scoring was rounded out by Tyler Graovac, finishing a 2-on-1 with Ryan Van Stralen to put his team ahead 3-0 early in the second.

Despite a bit of a late collapse, Petr Mrazek helped his team stay in it, making six saves in the third period and 25 on the night. Niederberger made 27 at the other end.

Gloves Come Off:

In his rookie year with the 67's, I noticed a lot of similiarities in the games of Dalton Smith and Barrie tough guy Stefan Della Rovere. Despite the difference in age, I wanted the two heavyweights to go at it once, it would surely have been a great tilt. This wish never came to fruition, but Colts fans did get to see the skill that Smith possesses with his gloves off. He laid a beating on Anthony Camara during the second period of Game Six.

Heading Back To Ottawa:

As mentioned, the seventh and final game goes here in Ottawa on Tuesday night. Barrie is hoping that they can join their first round opponent Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and their potential third-round opponent Niagara Ice Dogs as teams that have defeated Ottawa in Seventh Games on home ice, with those two teams having done it in 2010 and 2009 respectively.

Final Assessment:

During Sunday’s broadcast from Barrie, the Colts’ commentators falsely claimed that the 67’s PA announcer guaranteed a Game Seven after winning Game Five. The actual quote heard at the JBCC on Friday was “we hope we can see you back here on Tuesday for Game Seven if necessary.” No more ‘if necessary’. The Colts and 67’s, much alike the Plymouth Whalers and Kitchener Rangers in the West, have one game left to decide this best-of-seven conference semi-final.

Game 4/5 Review BAR vs. OTT

by Alex Quevillon
Last time I wrote about the second-round playoff matchup between the Barrie Colts and Ottawa 67's, Barrie had taken a one-game lead. Now, that's still the case, although the Colts have pushed Ottawa to the brink of elimination, winning Game Five 3-2 before the 67's won on Friday night, keeping their season alive with a 2-1 win.

With the Niagara Ice Dogs sweeping the Brampton Battalion in the other Eastern Conference Semi Final, the stage is set for whoever comes out of this one. For Barrie, perhaps the potential third-round opponent adds even more inspiration to close this out. They'd be enough of a feel-good story having gone from dead last in the league to the Conference Finals in just a year, imagine if they had the chance to stick it to their old bench boss Marty Williamson while they were at it. At the same time, 67's fans are hoping they haven't seen the last game in the classic Ottawa Civic Center, with the team slated to move to Kanata, Ontario next season.

Longshots Destroying 67's:

Same song and dance. For whatever reason, as well as Petr Mrazek's played in allowing only four goals in the last two games, he seems to have an issue with the longshots. The most deflating goal from far out came 20 seconds into the third period of Game Four, a quick wrister from Aaron Ekblad that should have easily been handled. Last night, he only allowed one goal, off the stick of Daniel Erlich from just inside the line.

It would appear that Ottawa's defencive tactic of sitting back and giving the other team the shot by keeping them to the perimeter simply isn't working. In fact, it hasn't been working for a long time in the Nation's Capital. Sean Callaghan (+1) and Michal Cajkovsky (+5) lead the team in playoff +/- in the postseason and are the two guys on the back end who constantly try to stand the opposition up at the blueline and use their long reach to deflect perimeter shots - perhaps the rest of the team should follow suit.

Goaltender Interference?

The winning goal on Friday night caused a bit of an uproar for Colts fans. After being pushed on top of Barrie netminder Mathias Niederberger, Dalton Smith remained there as Tyler Toffoli slid home a rebound in the final ten seconds of the middle frame. Niederberger, once again, refused to come onto the ice when presented with one of the three stars. Frustration? Nobody's really sure.

Swap Smith & Prince?

Aside from the controversial role he played for the winning goal, Dalton Smith hasn't been the best fit for Ottawa's top line. Meanwhile, Shane Prince continues to draw criticism from 67's supporters, being held off the scoresheet and becoming a -5 on the series. Perhaps it's time to re-unite Prince with Toffoli and Sean Monahan.

Stars Getting Physical:

These past two games never saw the gloves come off, but a number of heated scrums broke out. I'm not sure which team favours this matchup - the OHL's leading playoff goalscorer (tied with Kitchener's Tobias Rieder) in Toffoli? Or the best player in this series, Barrie's Mark Scheifele. The two were tangled up for a good minute after the final buzzer on Friday night, setting a physical tone for Sunday.

Final Word:

What a difference a week can make. Seven days ago, Ottawa was fresh off a Game One win. Now, they need another strong performance just to keep the season alive. In order to stay alive, the 67's will need to overcome their poor road record in this postseason. But, remember, their only road win of the playoffs did come in the last Game Six they played. It's Junior Hockey at it's best, and anything can happen.

It's Not Tense for the Ice Dogs

The past, the future and the present came into the arena and things got tense!

Things have been anything but tense for Ice Dog fans these past few days as the past, future and present are all positive.

The Past:

Andrew Agozzino was recognized for his hard work this past season as he was selected as the OHL over age player of the year. With 40 goals and 48 assists during the regular season, Agozzino’s numbers are impressive. However it is not the stats which stand out for Agozzino, it is his work ethic and leadership which are noted by coaches, players and fans.

Agozzino won the award by one vote over Owen Sound Attack Mike Halmo. Both undrafted, the pair of over-agers have definitely been impact players on their respective teams this year. While Agozzino takes home the hardware, Halmo was rewarded with a NHL entry level contract with the New York Islanders. Being undrafted had its advantages as Halmo was able to field many offers and make the decision where to sign. Perhaps an NHL contract is in Agozzino’s future?

Speaking of the future…….

Ice Dog coach Marty Williamson was very busy recently in his dual role as coach and general manager. During Saturday’s OHL Priority draft Williamson was straddling positions while he led a team practice in between selecting draft picks for the future. At Tuesday’s home game three of the fourteen draft picks were introduced to the fans pre-game. (pictured above) Given a loud welcome was centre-man Brook Hiddink, a second-round choice, left winger Matt Gillard, taken in the fourth round, and right winger Brendan Dunning, a 10th-round pick.

It was also announced Anthony DiFruscia, selected in the 2011 draft, was signed by the Ice Dogs. A Thorold native, DiFruscia played this past season at Salisbury School in Connecticut where he averaged a point a game on the varsity team.

But thoughts of the future need to be set aside as the Ice Dogs right now must concentrate on the present – a solid play-off run.

The Present:

The Niagara Ice Dogs have swept the Brampton Battalion in the second series of the play-offs. Highlights have been a Dave Pacan over time goal in game one, a Freddie Hamilton hat trick in game three and a goal and six assists through-out the series from Ryan Strome. Mark Visentin in goal was incredible through out the series as uncharacteristic for the Ice Dogs they allowed Brampton to outshoot them in all but one game with the series shots 133-110 in Brampton’s favour.

The Ice Dogs now rest while they wait to see who wins the Barrie-Ottawa series to determine their opponent for the Eastern Conference finals.

OTT-BAR Game 3 Review

by Alex Quevillon
The series between the Ottawa 67’s and Barrie Colts could very easily have been a 2-0 lead for the 67’s heading into Barrie, if it weren’t for a deflating overtime loss in Game Two. Perhaps the loss was more deflating than originally expected; the Barberpoles were thoroughly outplayed in Game Three, looking flat-footed and dropping a 5-2 decision to the Colts on Tuesday night.

With this being Ottawa’s first regulation loss of the playoffs, the Colts are now halfway to an upset. There is plenty of concern in the Nation’s Capital but at the same time, this series is far from over.

No Answer for Scheifele, Telegin

The Colts' duo of Winnipeg Jets draft picks continue to run rampant on the 67's as Ivan Telegin and Mark Scheifele had two points each in the third game. As Ottawa looked like they were going to make things interesting, Scheifele fired home a one-timer, set up by Telegin, for Barrie's second powerplay goal of the night, giving the home side a 4-2 lead.

The duo combined to set up Josh MacDonald for the fifth and final goal with exactly five minutes to go, effectively taking away any hope Ottawa had of a comeback. Alex Lepowski and Daniel Erlich (2) rounded out the Barrie scoring.

Second Line Silenced for 57 minutes:

The line of Shane Prince, Mike Cazzola and Ryan Van Stralen has faced its share of criticism from the Ottawa faithful through the first nine postseason contests. Their first shift of the game was a dominant one that lead to a goal for Cazzola, his seventh career playoff goal. From that point on, it was downhill. The trio, although split up late in the third period, was stymied for the majority of the night.

Single Digit Shooting:

In the first two matchups of this series, Ottawa fired 12 pucks at Niederberger in the opening frame, before letting another barrage of shots go in the following periods. On Tuesday night, they combined for only 13 shots on goal in the first two combined. As frustrating as Barrie’s goaltender may be, the 67’s have to continue firing on him. Both goals (Cazzola from behind the net, Marc-Anthony Zanetti from the point and through traffic) came as a result of just sending the puck on net.

Makeshift Asylum:

I was hoping that my focus on the fans would no longer be brought up, but a trio of wild Colts fans were very audible in their attempts to mock the “asylum” in Ottawa behind the bench. Contrary to Ottawa’s superfans and their noisemakers, cymbals and a drum, the Barrie spectators armed themselves with a coca-cola box, water jug, cowbell and whistle, forming a makeshift asylum behind the 67’s bench to act as a distraction. Chris Byrne seemed to take it in stride, while some of the 67’s players didn’t seem to be in favour of the noisy bunch.

Final assessment:

Perhaps mentioning Game Five, even for something as minimal as fan antics, was looking too far ahead. Game Four goes tomorrow night in Barrie and Ottawa desperately needs to come home with a split in Barrie – even more so than Barrie needed a split in Ottawa.

Discipline has to be preached - Barrie went 2/4 on the powerplay and Steven Janes took his second ten-minute misconduct of the playoffs. Overall, this team needs to do a lot less standing around. More pucks on net and better forechecking - the basics. Force Niederberger to make more than 25 saves and give Petr Mrazek an easier workload than the 37 shots he faced on the night, and the 67's can get back in this series. Game Four goes Thursday at the Barrie Molson Center.

Game 2 Review: BAR vs. OTT

by Alex Quevillon
In Game One, the Ottawa 67’s clearly got to goaltender Mathias Niederberger. In Game Two, a completely different story. The left side of the scoreboard at J. Benson Cartage Centre read the number “67” twice on Easter Sunday; once for the team’s nickname and again for the amount of shots they fired at Niederberger. The Colts netminder turned aside 65 of those, as Colin Behenna put the marathon to an end in Double Overtime, beating Petr Mrazek with a long slapshot. For his efforts in “stealing” Game Two, Ottawa fans have labelled the Barrie goalie “the Niederburglar”.

Scheifele’s The Player To Watch:

Barrie forward Mark Scheifele has been hands down the best player on the ice for either squad in these first two games; he’s also been a target for the 67’s. He isn’t trying to take that target off of his back, either. He went at it with the smallest 67, Brett Gustavsen, a couple times on Sunday. Scheifele has to watch it, though. As good as Gustavsen’s been for Ottawa, I don’t think any 67’s fans mind that trade off if he goes to the box for off-setting penalties with the former 7th overall pick of the Winnipeg Jets. Scheifele did, however, score the first goal of the game and served up the second on a platter for Ivan Telegin.

Empty Tank:

Generally, I locate myself behind the net for 67’s games to get the best view of the ice. However, with a big deal being made out of Barrie head coach Dale Hawerchuk and his bickering to try and get the fans behind him to quiet down, I followed the story within the story, sitting a couple of rows behind the Colts bench for Game two.

As much as it may have been irrelevant, and I wouldn’t have noticed this any other game, I noticed that the Barrie Colts didn’t sit on the bench for the entire first two periods. The first player took their seat at the 13-minute mark of the first, but it wasn’t until the third period and then overtime that the entire bench was no longer on their feet. Was this to avoid the raucous fans behind the visitor’s bench? Maybe. Needless to say, I didn’t think the Colts would have anything left in the tank by the third period. Sure enough, that’s when Ottawa mounted their comeback, tying the game at two on the power of goals from Jake Cardwell and Tyler Toffoli.

Black and Blue in Barrie:

Was discussing this game with a Barrie fan who was quoted as saying “going into overtime makes me wish we weren't missing about 200 points to injury”. As it turns out, those points missing from the Colts lineup didn’t stop them from getting a split in the Nation’s Capital, but they could benefit from a possible returnee tonight; Ryan O’Connor is expected to be a game time decision.

Still out of the Colts lineup: Tanner Pearson (91 points), Zach Hall (59 points), Greg Sutch (21 points)

Out of the 67’s lineup: John McFarland (28 points)

The Three C’s Step Up on D:

With the return of Marc-Anthony Zanetti and Daniel Broussard, along with the shuffling of Mike Vlajkov and Ryan Shipley, a lot of the focus has shifted away from Ottawa’s three best defencemen thus far in the postseason.

Michal Cajkovsky has been tasked as a shutdown guy and he has done his job to a tee. He’s all over Ivan Telegin and Mark Scheifele, the two guys who are clearly Barrie’s best forwards right now. Sean Callaghan looks steadier with every game gone by. And Cody Ceci’s play is turning heads, not only for fans, but for scouts – his great play of late was rewarded on Monday when the Central Scouting Bureau listed him as the sixth ranked North American-based skater for the upcoming 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Final Assessment:

The 67’s still looked like the more convincing team in the first two games, but that’s going to happen when Barrie’s missing their top point-getters both up front and on the back end. A possible solution to beating Niederberger? Re-uniting Prince-Monahan-Toffoli. These three score at will when together and in the only meeting against Barrie this year where those three played together, Ottawa put up a five-spot on the board before losing in Overtime. The key to that game? Tanner Pearson’s six-point night. And yes, for those keeping track, Pearson is out for the year.

The key for Niederberger is to keep his cool. He's going to stop a lot of pucks and he's still going to allow goals - that's how strong Ottawa's offence is. Belleville's Malcolm Subban looked frustrated by the end of Ottawa's first round series, Niederberger can't let that happen.

Another Intra-League Prediction:

Before the first round of the playoffs, I predicted that the 67’s would outlast their nearby QMJHL counterpart Gatineau Olympiques. Sure enough, I was right in assuming that, but as I explain in this article, it was a pretty safe bet to make. Now, I’m putting my money where my mouth is once again by predicting that another nearby team will be gone before the 67's; Kanata, Ontario's Ottawa Senators.

This prediction is a little more bold; the Senators don't play Game Four against the New York Rangers until April 18th, the day after Game Seven (if neccessary) between the 67's and Colts, so Ottawa's Junior team will have to win theiur series, that's how confident I am in the 67's this round. I'm calling 67's in 7 games, NY Rangers in 5 games.

BAR @ OTT Game 1 in Review

by Alex Quevillon
The Barrie Colts looked to be playing a perfect road game through the first 20 minutes on Friday night, holding Ottawa to shots from the perimeter and taking the crowd out of it. By the end of the second period, a complete 180. While the 67’s put up four goals to Barrie’s one in the middle frame, the home crowd did its part as well. Fans were heckling Barrie goaltender Mathias Niederberger relentlessly while Head Coach Dale Hawerchuk was more pre-occupied complaining about the noise level than the game itself.

This all came after a first-period that, by looking at the scoreboard seemed like an even game, but in reality, Barrie was taking the play to Ottawa. The shots were tied 12-12 after one, the game still deadlocked in a scoreless tie thanks in large part to the stellar goaltending of Petr Mrazek. Without him, Barrie could have put this one away early.

The two teams traded goals to start the second, but that’s when things came unraveled for the visiting Colts. Shane Prince netted a pair of goals, his second coming off a deflection that Niederberger never saw. With the score now 3-1, the fans gave Ottawa a real home ice advantage. While Niederberger was being taunted, Hawerchuk was completely thrown off at the Barrie bench, spending TV timeouts to speak to the refs and complain about the noise level rather than speaking to his players.

Tyler Graovac extended the lead before the end of the second and Remy Giftopoulos rounded out the scoring with 20 seconds left in the third, leading Ottawa to a 5-1 lead. The goals by Graovac and Giftopoulos, as well as the first goal of the game from Tyler Toffoli, were all powerplay markers, a part of Ottawa’s game that struggled for the better part of the season and first round of the playoffs. Mark Scheifele answered for Barrie.

Mrazek, despite his busy first period, only ended up having to make 21 stops to Niederberger’s 34. These two teams play again on Easter Sunday at 2:00 in Ottawa.

For those who are interested in discussing this game or other future Ottawa-Barrie games, ITO’s Anthony Nicholson ( N24Nicholson) will be discussing the games via Twitter, using the hashtag #ITORound2.

The Drama Continues at the Jack

In a season filled with many distractions, the drama continued Friday for the Niagara Ice Dogs. When the players arrived for their game-day morning skate they discovered yet another break-in. This time however, it wasn’t the usual concession stock missing, it was Ice Dog player equipment. Two dozen sticks, helmets, elbow pads and shoulder pads from Freddie Hamilton, Andrew Agozzino and Steven Shipley were reported stolen along with the all important goalie pads belonging to Mark Visentin.

Team owner Bill Burke was furious as break-ins continue to be an on-going problem at the Jack. Team President Denise Burke expressed her concern for the players noting “the boys are creatures of habit” but praised team equipment manager Garry “Bucky” Buxton for being able to quickly replace the missing equipment. Coach Williamson assured everyone the event was not going to cause the team to lose focus. “We’re kind of a mature hockey team. Stuff happens,” he said. “There really isn’t any distraction. More is being made out it than it is.”

The stolen pads were two games old. Visentin wore them in Games 5 and 6 of the first-round series against Oshawa. Visentin was quoted in the St. Catharines Standard saying he has two extra sets of pad “so it wasn’t too big of a deal…but it’s frustrating when you get a new pair of pads and they get stolen. It is what it is and hopefully they show up.”

The drama continued onto the ice Friday evening as the second round play-off series against the Brampton Battalion began. The Battalion played a strong game stopping the Ice Dogs from their usual offensive game. The Ice Dogs are known for out shooting their opponents by large numbers and yet the Battalion was able to keep the Ice Dogs down to 33 shots and had 46 shots of their own on Visentin. At the end of three periods it was a tie game causing the Ice Dogs to play their first over-time game of this play-off season.

A major scramble in front of the Battalion net at about fourteen minutes into OT saw a Brampton player put his hand on the puck in the crease. This resulted in a penalty shot for Ice Dogs Brett Ritchie. Battalion goal tender Matej Machovsky was able to keep Ritchie’s shot out of the net, but he was not so lucky several seconds later when over ager David Pacan scored the game winning goal.

Pacan scored on a five-hole shot from the slot but sheepishly admitted he was aiming for the top corner. “Agozzino made a great pass. When he got the puck he kept his head up and found me in the middle ....I knew I just had to get a shot on net because that’s what you’re looking for in overtime.”

The line reunification of over-agers Pacan, Agozzino and Alex Friesen has worked well for Pacan. He not only scored Friday’s game winner but also contributed in the elimination of the Oshawa Generals in series one with the tying and winning goal in game six.

Pacan says it is “awesome” being reunited with Agozzino and Friesen. “Those guys create so much space for you. They are really smart players. We’ve been together all of last year and part of this year. We know each other like the back of our hand.”

With the ordeal of stolen equipment now in the past, the Ice Dogs hope future drama remains on the ice.

Dog Bytes:

  • Pacan has self-proclaimed “best flo in the O.”

  • Bruin prospect Dougie Hamilton was named OHL Player of the Month for March with 17 points in 14 games

  • Don Cherry was in Niagara this week commenting to the local paper the Niagara Ice Dogs are one of the favourites to win the Canadian Hockey League championship and he hopes they do. Cherry, was a part-owner of the team when the Ice Dogs were in Mississauga, and said with the way goalie Mark Visentin plays, the team can win it all, as long as they stay healthy.

  • During Friday’s game, on the eve of the OHL priority selection draft, the Ice Dogs acknowledged the hard work of the Ice Dog scouting staff who “rarely get to see an Ice Dog game” because of the thousands of games throughout North America they attend in their search for future prospects.

  • Prior to each play-off game the Ice Dog fans are treated to “Drive It Home” a pep rally song written and performed specifically for the Ice Dogs by Angela Siracus an award winning Nashville recording artist.

  • The St. Catharines Jr. B Falcons who saw their attendance plummet with the arrival of the Ice Dogs are still financially viable through their 50-50 ticket sales at each Ice Dog home game. Friday night’s take was worth $3291.00.

  • Stars selected for game one of series two:

3rd Star: Matej Machovsky (Bramptom Battalion-goalie )

2nd Star: Mark Visentin (Niagara Ice Dogs-goalie)

1st Star: David Pacan (Niagara Ice Dogs-game winning goal)

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