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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)

ECSF Preview: #2 Ottawa 67's vs. #3 Barrie Colts

by Alex Quevillon
After receiving a scare from the seventh-seeded Belleville Bulls, the Ottawa 67’s prevailed, taking their first round series in six games. Immediately after Ottawa’s 2-1 triumph in game six concluded, Anthony Camara finished off a 2-on-1 rush in another Eastern Conference game six, this game decided in overtime, giving the Barrie Colts a second round playoff berth and a matchup with the 67’s in round two.

Season Series

The Colts got the better of Ottawa this season, although the season series can be taken with a grain of salt. Barrie won the first meeting at the J. Benson Cartage Centre this campaign in a 4-on-4 overtime, and their second trip to the Nation’s Capital in a shootout, neither being circumstances that will decide a playoff game. The teams split their two matchups at the Barrie Molson Center.

Playoff History

The last time these two teams played was in the first round in 2005. The Colts, the third seed as they are this year, were the first team to get knocked out of contention by the underdog 67's, who went all the way to the finals that year and despite losing to London, got into the Memorial Cup as the OHL representative.

Since that run, the 67's had only won one playoff series heading into this year's playoffs. Barrie, meanwhile, had their own run to the finals just two years ago, losing to the Windsor Spitfires. Last year was a rough year for the Colts, finishing last in the league, but their young core has shown some promise for the future this season. And, in all fairness, the Colts and 67's have won the exact same number of playoff games in the last two years, to this point.

These two teams have only played one other series against each other in their history, a five-game win for Ottawa in the second round of the 1997 playoffs.


In Round One, Malcolm Subban made some miraculous saves for Belleville. He helped hold the Bulls in the series with Ottawa but in the end, the pressure in the Belleville end became too much for the goaltender who isn’t old enough to be an NHL draft pick yet. Subban was visibly annoyed in games five and six. Now, Ottawa has to do the same to another young netminder.

The tenderfoot tandem of Mathias Niederberger and Alex Fotinos has to be promising for Barrie fans. At the same time, however, an inexperienced pair of goaltenders rarely lead their teams on long playoff runs unless the team in front of them is stacked to the rafters. Barrie has firepower, but they aren’t a powerhouse by any means.

By that same token, Petr Mrazek has to be as sharp as he was in game six against Belleville to hold his team in it. Both teams are going to score a lot in this series, that’s almost a given. Ottawa’s goaltender needs to cut down on the number of goals he allows from far out. Belleville’s second win came as a result of a longshot eluding Mrazek, and Barrie exploited one of the faults in the Czech’s game the two times they played against him this season, scoring 10 goals in two games.

Scoring: Expect Lots Of It

Just like last series against the Belleville Bulls, Ottawa finds themselves in another showdown with a run-and-gun, north-south team. Barrie played against a very defencive-minded Mississauga team and as such, they are probably excited to see a team that's far more loose defencively in round two.

Colin Behenna and Mark Scheifele are a dangerous one-two punch down the middle for Barrie. They are, however, missing their leading scorer Tanner Pearson who is out for the season, and with that, the Colts lose 91 points of production. Ottawa also has a key, indefinite injury up front of their own, with John McFarland out for the year.

While Ottawa players have been accused by fans of "only putting in a 20-minute effort", amongst other similiar knocks, you can't overlook the ability of their quick-strike offence. Any team that can come back from a 3-0 deficit in a matter of seven minutes in a playoff game has to gain some credibility.

With all this about stacked offences being said, however, don't underestimate Barrie's defencive ability. They did play a defencive-minded team in round one, but they were able to hold the Majors to less than two goals per game in round one. Defenceman Aaron Ekblad was named Rookie Of The Year the day before the series opener, too, so clearly something's going right on the back end in Barrie.

Prediction: Ottawa in 7

Game one goes Friday night in Ottawa, a 7:00 start time as the game will be on Rogers Sportsnet. Game two is played Sunday before the teams head to Barrie for games three and four on Tuesday and Thursday night respectively.

London Knights (1) vs. Saginaw Spirit (5) Playoff Preview


Regular Season Series Results (London wins 4-0)

September 23rd – Saginaw 0 @ London 8
December 2nd – Saginaw 0 @ London 6
January 14th – London 5 @ Saginaw 4
January 28th – London 6 @ Saginaw 3

Playoff Tracker: The Road Here
  • The London Knights defeated the eighth seeded Windsor Spitfires in a four-game sweep. 
  • The Saginaw Spirit defeated the fourth seeded Sarnia Sting in an up-and-down six-game series.

Through the majority of the regular season, the London Knights’ squad was the elite team of the Ontario Hockey League.  As with most junior aged players, London experienced a stretch of hockey that had them struggling to score goals and while the Knights were dissecting their problems, another team – ahem, Saginaw, was rolling along quite nicely. In the final weeks of regular season play, the Saginaw Spirit were one of the Ontario Hockey League’s hottest teams finishing with six wins and two loses in the month of March forcing their way into the fifth seed in the Western Conference standings.  Saginaw’s season was rejuvenated when ownership decided to clean house back in December firing General Manager and Head Coach Todd Watson and replacing him with the experienced Greg Gilbert.  The change resulted in the Saginaw Spirit going 22-16 with their new bench boss after starting the season a dismal 11-17-2. 

The Battle of Playoff Statistics
  • Goals For:                   Knights (17)               vs.       Spirit (25)      
  • Goals Against:            Knights (7)                 vs.       Spirit (17)
  • Penalty Minutes:        Knights (74)               vs.       Spirit (81)
  • Power Play:                Knights (30.5%; 4th) vs.       Spirit (19.2%; 6th)
  • Penalty Kill:               Knights (85.7%; 5th)  vs.       Spirit (82.8%; 10th)
  • Top Playoff Scorer:    Griffith (6 points)       vs.       Saad (12th)

The London Knights swept the season series with four wins outscoring the Spirit 25-7 in those contests including two shutouts at the John Labatt Centre in London.  Despite their regular season dominance over the Saginaw Spirit, London is well aware of the dangers this team can present on the ice especially after Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect Brandon Saad, more or less, single-handedly knocked off the Sarnia Sting in six games in the opening series.  Saad, playing with overage forwards Michael Fine and Joshua Shalla (Nashville Predators prospect), combined for 11 of Saginaw’s 24 goals in the Sarnia series.  Brandon Saad’s dominance was downright filthy as he bullied his way around the ice untouched and was also a key contributor on the defensive side of the puck. 

It is no secret that London’s main priority will be to shut down the Saad line and with a much larger and more experienced defense core than Sarnia, the Knights should have more success containing Saad – but it will not be easy. Scott Harrington (Pittsburgh Penguins), Jared Tinordi (Montreal Canadiens) and Finnish sensation Olli Määttä will be leaned on heavily by the defense coaching staff to limit Saginaw’s top line.  Last week, Mark Hunter and his coaching staff were spotted scouting the Saginaw- Sarnia series as they waited for their next opponents and it should come as no surprise that the Knights will emphasize physicality in hopes of wearing down the opposition.

Saginaw will travel 300 kilometers directly east to the JLC Friday night and they will be looking to score their first goal in London’s this season, a task that has proved difficult for many teams this season. If Saginaw is able to penetrate London’s zone their offensive attack needs to solve Knights’ goaltender Michael Houser.  The overage netminder has been one of the OHL’s most consistent and valuable players this season eluding confidence in the crease.  Houser enters the Western Conference semi-final series ranked second in goals against (1.52) and first in save percentage (.947).  The Pennsylvanian will need to remain sharp to halt the red hot Spirit attack. 

Two hundred feet at the opposite end of the rink sits OHL sophomore puck-stopper Jake Paterson ready to challenge the offensive assault of the London Knights.  In Paterson’s first OHL playoff series, the freshman was nothing short of clutch coming up with timely highlight-reel saves against Sarnia’s potent forwards.  Overshadowed by teammate Brandon Saad’s opening series performance, Paterson was equally as valuable in their success over Sarnia.  Paterson was able to shutdown the likes of Ryan Spooner, Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk and built confidence doing so along the way.  The Saginaw Spirit will require another stellar performance from the native of Mississauga to advance passed the Western Conference number one seeded team.

Keys to Success:

London Knights (1)

Offensively, the underrated Seth Griffith and draft-eligible defenseman Olli Määttä led the way scoring six and five points, respectively, versus the Windsor Spitfires roster in their opening series.  London features a deep offensive attack with four lines capable of sniping goals.  Coach Mark Hunter has the luxury of calling on a number of individuals and can roll with the hottest player as Greg McKegg (Maple Leafs), Vladislav Namestnikov (Lightning), Austin Watson (Predators) and Jared Knight (Bruins) offer plenty of experience.  Rookies Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Josh Anderson and have shown that they belong in this league and can contribute offensively as well.  The Rupert twins (Ryan and Matt), Chris Tierney, and Andreas Athanasiou round out the offensive options for London as these four look to impress NHL scouts as they look to impress scouts for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Max Domi (9P), Seth Griffith (8P) and Vladislav Namestnikov (7P) have been a nightmare for the Saginaw Spirit this season leading the way in scoring.

Defensively, London should look to implement a strong forecheck and physical game against the Saginaw Spirit in an attempt to deplete a relatively shallow roster.  Saginaw tends to lean on only two forward lines and a handful of defenseman leaving Hunter with an opportunity to exploit this tendency.

Saginaw Spirit (5)

The success of the Spirit lies with the effectiveness of the SFS (Shalla-Fine-Saad) line.  Saginaw will need other forwards to step-up and contribute offensively to match the depth of London’s offensive attack. Vincent Trocheck (Florida Panthers) will need to step up his game a notch to provide scoring chances as Saginaw will need more than one line clicking to defeat the London Knights.  Likewise, Greg Gilbert will be seeking production from youngsters Justin Kea and Eric Locke to provide secondary scoring as the SFS line can only carry this team so far.  Garret Ross will be called upon to ramp up his agitating game and provide grit to the forward group.  With Saginaw’s Ross and London’s Rupert twins, it would not be farfetched to see these three players exchanging “friendly” hockey banter throughout the series. Saginaw is a much different team in April than they were earlier in the season when these teams faced off but the lack of scoring in games against the Knights has to be a bit concerning.  Joshua Shalla leads the team in the season series with three goals and five points.

Key Matchups:
Michael Houser vs. Jake Paterson
Saginaw will need Paterson to be better than “good” and Houser cannot falter now especially against Saginaw – a team entering the series playing their best hockey. 

Brandon Saad vs. London Defense
Can Mark Hunter and his staff find a way to contain, or even slow down, this big powerful winger? Saad has had limited success (2 assists in 3 games) when facing the London Knights this season and it will be interesting to see if he can continue his recent OHL dominance.

Rookie Sensation vs. Saginaw Defense
In four games this season, rookie Max Domi has recorded 7 goals and 9 points versus the Saginaw Spirit in his first season leading all London Knights’ skaters. 

Saginaw Spirit vs. JLC
Being shut out twice and recording two losses at the John Labatt Centre this season does not provide much confidence for Saginaw entering game one.  Can the Saginaw Spirit earn their first win versus the Western Conference’s top seeded team? 

Head-to-Head Regular Season Player Statistics

London Knights
Max Domi:                             7G-2A-9P
Seth Griffith:                          5G-3A-8P
Vladislav Namestnikov:         0G-7A-7P
Ryan Rupert:                          3G-3A-6P
Jared Knight:                          1G-5A-6P
Greg McKegg:                        1G-4A-5P

Saginaw Spirit
Josh Shalla:                            3G-2A-5P
Michael Fine:                         1G-1A-2p
Brandon Saad:                        0G-2A-2P
Vincent Trocheck:                  0G-2A-2P
Eric Locke:                             1G-0A-1P

Western Conference Semi-Final Series Schedule

Game One:    @ London                   Friday, April 6 @ 7:00 pm
Game Two:     @ Saginaw                  Sunday, April 8 @ 7:11 pm
Game Three:   @ London                   Monday, April 9 @ 7:00 pm
Game Four:     @ Saginaw                  Wednesday, April 11 @ 7:11 pm
Game Five:     @ London                   Friday, April 13 @ 7:30 pm
Game Six:       @ Saginaw                  Saturday, April 14 @ 7:11 pm
Game Seven:  @ London                   Monday, April 16 @ 7:00 pm

Dogs Win Round One With Deep Bench

The Niagara Ice Dogs have progressed to round two of the OHL play-offs by defeating the Oshawa Generals four games to two. The series started out with the Ice Dogs dominating the Generals with a two game pounding. The Generals came back winning games three and four astounding the fans as well as many OHL prognosticators.

The back to back losses to the eighth place Generals caused Coach Marty Williamson to make a few line changes. Game 5 of the Oshawa-Ice-Dog series saw the reunification of over-agers Pacan-Friesen and Agozzino on the first line.

Game five also saw a reappearance of Carter Verhaeghe. A Waterdown native, the rookie Verhaeghe worked hard this year to earn a spot in the line up most nights on a roster filled with big names like Team Canada members Strome, Visintin, the Hamilton brothers and trade dead-line Ice Dog addition Oleksiak. Deemed a healthy scratch in game four, Williamson returned Verhaeghe to the line-up- which proved to be a great decision.

Verhaeghe scored his first play-off goal Saturday night which ultimately became the tying goal of the game. When the final whistle blew, the Ice Dogs pulled ahead 3-2 in the series with their 5-3 win over the Generals. Verhaeghe was named first star.

Reuniting David Pacan with his over-age team mates made all the difference. The Florida Panthers prospect scored the first goal in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Oshawa Generals in St. Catharines and then netted the winning and insurance goal in the third period Sunday.

While the big names on the Ice Dog roster have received lots of press throughout the season, it is the depth of the Ice Dog bench like Pacan and Verhaeghe that very well might take the team deep into the play-offs.

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