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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

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