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The Pieces are Coming Together for the Niagara Ice Dogs

The Niagara Ice Dogs are the hottest team in the OHL with a 9-1 record in the last ten games. With a perfect week-end defeating Barrie in a pair of home and away games as well as a 5-2 win over Sudbury, on Saturday evening they were leading the Central Division and tied for first place in the Eastern Conference. An indication of how close things are in the East, by Sunday evening they were back in third place.

Ranked number two in the CHL before hitting the ice in August, the Ice Dogs had an extremely slow start and were hailed as probably the most underachieving team in the league. It seems however coach/general manager Marty Williamson has finally put the pieces of the puzzle together.

The fanfare has been all about the return of the “Team Canada four” and the reinstatement of Tom Kuhnhackl from a 20 game suspension as well as the acquisition of Brett Ritchie from Sarnia and Jamie Oleksiak from Saginaw. But it is the quiet leadership and skill of team captain Andrew Agozzino keeping the team moving forward.

With the World Junior Tournament taking place out west, the OHL continued league play. While many were concerned the Ice Dogs would falter with four key players missing, Agozzino noted during the absence rookies who previously had little ice time as well as the regular veterans stepped it up. “We found our team game since those guys were gone and since they’ve returned we haven’t missed a beat. It’s exciting we now have the final pieces of the puzzle and have the group that we know will be here to the end.”

During December Agozzino was named the OHL player of the week. At a recent home game he was recognized by the franchise for having the most “stars” during the month of December. He has continued his efforts into January as he scored a winning shoot out goal against Owen Sound as well as a short-handed highlight reel goal to tie it up against Barrie on Thursday. He extended his 10 game point streak with an empty net goal in Sudbury Friday night.

In his fifth year with the team Agozzino has been with the Ice Dogs since their arrival in St. Catharines. He was the first ever pick in Niagara Ice Dogs’ franchise history, drafted 15th overall in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection. With 23 goals and 28 assists this season he is the leading scorer for the Ice Dogs and tenth over-all in the OHL.

At 5'10 and 187lbs Agozzino is not know for his stature particularly now he is surrounded by teammates like Oleksiak at 6’ 7”. When asked if size matters Agozzino laughs and says “it doesn’t matter how big you are, if you have a lot of battle and a lot of heart it doesn’t matter - but it’s great to have Jamie on the back end!”

Highlights of Thursday's Niagara vs. Barrie game including Agozzino's short handed goal.

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