After a blowout road loss to start the season against the Peterborough Petes, the Niagara IceDogs were looking to rebound on home ice Thursday night.
A chorus of cowbells showed that the hometown crowd was ready to watch a team pegged to go deep in the playoffs this season. With high NHL draft picks like Mark Visentin (Phoenix) and Dougie Hamilton (Boston) in the lineup, there is plenty of reason for hope.
The game started with lots of speed and intensity. Johnson Andrews and Jamie Wise dropped the gloves two minutes into the game, with the IceDogs’ Andrews landing a few quick shots and Wise scoring the takedown.
JP Anderson, who started in goal for the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, held off a persistent attack and was rewarded with three quick goals from the Majors. Wise finished off a nice tick-tack-toe play at the nine minute mark, while Riley Brace scored his first of the night off an IceDogs giveaway, and Junior Harris batted in a rebound, baseball style, two minutes later.
Joel Wigle got the IceDogs on the board a minute later after a strong forecheck led to a point shot and a wide open net for Wigle to convert the rebound. Two minutes later, Visentin’s hesitation playing the puck led to a shorthanded goal from Brace.
The second period opened with two quick goals. After a failed IceDogs power play, Brace continued his dominance and got the hat-trick. Thirty seconds later the IceDogs answered with another rebound goal, this time from winger David Pacan. The IceDogs closed the gap a bit more when Wigle got his second of the night four minutes later.
Despite three power play opportunities and continuing to outshoot the Majors, the IceDogs went into the intermission down by two.
The Majors extended their lead seven minutes into the third when a scramble in front put a sprawling Visentin out of position and left an empty net for Jordan Mayer. With six minutes left in the game, Steven Shipley brought the IceDogs back within two, but it was two little too late and the Majors came away with a 6-4 win despite being outshot 32-28.
The IceDogs ultimately beat themselves with continued giveaways. Almost every Majors’ goal was the direct result of an IceDogs’ giveaway. Although they had 32 shots, many were easy for Anderson to handle. Some of the best opportunities for the IceDogs didn’t result in a shot because of one too many passes.
The Majors did very well to generate odd man rushes and limit the effectiveness of the IceDogs’ power play, which went zero for five. The Majors’ defensive structure frustrated the IceDogs’ attack and kept them to the outside for much of the third.
Despite the loss, Dougie Hamilton was a force to be reckoned with for much of the game. He was on the ice in every situation and had no hesitation in throwing his weight around. Several rushes and forechecks into the Majors’ end demonstrated his offensive abilities and speed, as he was back in position before the Majors were able to start a breakout.
Brace was the standout performer all night and earned the first star if the game. He was consistently in the right spot at the right time, but it was never by accident. He was left unchecked on several occasions, and almost each time it resulted in a goal.
The announce crowd of 2811 was left disappointed, but the common theme while filtering out of the Gatorade Garden City Complex was “it’s only the second game of the season”. There is still a ton of hope that the IceDogs are going to be a dominant team in the OHL this season.
If nothing else, the second intermission minor hockey shootout competition, with more than a few nice moves and spin-o-ramas, gave everyone hope for even more high NHL draft picks out of the Niagara region in the future.