Corneil ready to lend a hand
IceDogs captain Johnny Corneil is slated to be back in action this weekend. PHOTO BY: TERRY WILSON/OHL IMAGES
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Johnny Corneil.
Not only has the captain of the Niagara IceDogs been forced to the sidelines with a freak finger injury, but he’s had to watch as his teammates struggled through their first real slump of the season.
Corneil was injured when he took a clearing shot off the tip of his left ring finger in a home game versus Oshawa.
“I can’t express how frustrating it’s been,” the 20-year-old native of Lindsay said. “It’s really tough sitting out games because of something as simple as a finger. It’s tough but it’s something I had to take care of. I just couldn’t throw a glove on and carry on.
“It’s healed as well as I could hope and I’m just excited to get back.”
Barring any setbacks in practice this week, Corneil will be in the lineup this weekend when the IceDogs travel to Barrie Saturday and North Bay Sunday.
IceDogs coach Billy Burke is anxious to get his captain back.
“It will be huge,” Burke said. “On the ice he’s our most veteran forward, the only over-age forward we have, so just that experience alone on the bench and in the room, you really can’t replace that.
“He’s a proven goal scorer. He’s another weapon to take pressure off (Ben) Jones, Akil (Tomas) and Kirill Maxsimov. He gives us a little balance.”
Corneil was able to skate and work out while the finger healed. He also did his best to be a leader despite not being able to play.
“He was always around. On road trip he was in the room trying to get the guys going. You could tell he wanted to be part of it and it sucked for him to be out,” Burke said.
Corneil wanted to be part of the team without getting in the way.
“It was all kind getting to me a bit,” said Corneil, who had three goals and nine points in 12 games before the injury. “You want to be in there and communicate and talk like you do every game but it’s a little different when you’re in stands. You don’t want to hang around the room too much and be in their faces when you’re not even in the game.
“It’s tough. I’ve never sat out too many games with injuries. I’m just looking forward to getting back to it.”
Corneil did take the opportunity to see the game from a different perspective, which he said was an eye-opening experience.
“You really see the game differently, especially up top in the press box,” he said. “It was good. I haven’t even really watched games in a while so it was good to get a little bit of a break and see where I have some time on the ice and see how we’re playing as a team
“There were some benefits. It was only four games and I would have loved to play in them but I’ve been on the ice and staying active.”
Burke said he will likely pair up Corneil with Akil Thomas while the line of Ben Jones, Maksimov and Matthew Philip will remain intact.
“You need a little bit of balance,” Burke said. “A good way to do it — sometimes you get three guys off the bat who click and it’s easy — but is to try and build pairs. Get two guys who are comfortable together and you try and find that compliment guy. Sometimes guys can go great and become stale so you can change it up and then go back to them and get that spark back.”
Corneil would love nothing more than to see the IceDogs pick up two points in Barrie Saturday and put an end to their six-game winless streak.
“It’s not like we’re getting blown out or have lost eight in a row but they’re adding up and we have to get back on track. It starts with one game. It’s little things that we’re not quite buying in and it’s costing us.”