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Play Off Time in Niagara!

Upon arrival at the Jack Gatecliff Arena Thursday night it took only one step into the arena to verify play off time had arrived. I entered the side doors and was immediately greeted by a new player riding the bike pre-game- Bozo the Clown!

Upon closer inspection it was none other than Mitch Theoret!

The top half of his head was sheared cleaned with the little tassel of hair left behind dyed red. I had to speak with the artist behind this new do, none other than In the O Radio twitter updater @Barberwill.

With Blackbeards Barber Shop located right around the corner from the Jack it is frequented by many Ice Dog players throughout the year. But it is prior to playoff time where it becomes the go to place. In the week leading up to their opening game the Dogs come in small groups before or after practice and do their hard core play off preparation.

“The veterans decide what the rookies get,” says Barber Will. The hairstyles range from Mark Visentin’s trim and hot-towel shave to mohawks and mullets. Theoret definitely achieved his desire to be the most outrageous. Will goes on to explain when the Dogs arrive they take over the shop checking out the Ice Dog memorabilia on display.

Back in the Jack the fans have prepared for play-offs as well. With most donning new “Black the Jack” play-off T-shirts it was a sea of black in the arena. Through-out the season the Jack has been packed with most games a sell out and the crowd loud and proud. Many thought it was not possible for the crowd to getter louder, but louder they did get as the play-offs began. The fact pre-game parties have returned to the arena parking lot with music, food and drink being served starting two hours pre-game might have intensified the enthusiasm. The Laura Secord High School Drum Band also added to the noise and hype.

Another factor in the fan hype was the return of Lucas Lessio on the opposing Oshawa Generals. The Ice Dogs fans have long memories and have not and will not forgive or forget Lessio’s snub. Every time the Generals defenseman touched the puck the home town crowd booed heavily.

As the Ice Dog’s first round draft pick in 2009, Lessio (7th over-all) refused to sign for Niagara and subsequently signed for the Oshawa Generals. During last year’s play-offs Lessio decided to take on Niagara’s defenceman Simon Gronvaldt. When Gronvaldt would not reciprocate, Lessio ended up with a double minor of roughing and a ten- minute misconduct. As Lessio was leaving the ice he dramatically gave the home crowd a two-handed, one finger salute. That game ended with the Ice Dogs celebrating their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in five games.

And the Ice Dogs are well on their way to doing the same again this year with a 8-2 trouncing of the Generals at home on Thursday evening and a 6-1 win again in Oshawa Friday. As the Dogs lead the series 2-0, the Jack is sure to be Black and Boisterous again Sunday night.

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