IceDogs end 2017 with victory
Ben Jones continues to get the job done for the Niagara IceDogs.
The 18-year-old centre has been one of the most consistent players for the club this season, scoring at least a point in 24 of his 35 games.
Jones collected a goal and two assists as the IceDogs topped the Hamilton Bulldogs 7-3 in an Ontario Hockey League game New Year’s Eve at the Meridian Centre.
The IceDogs, who won the previous two meetings with Hamilton this season, 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 7, and 4-1 Sept. 23, have won three straight since the Christmas break to improve to 19-11-3-2.
Jones has an eight-game scoring streak and leads the IceDogs in scoring with 41 points.
“I’m not usually an offensive producer, I usually like to stick to what I’m good at,” Jones said. “I like to stick to my role and if the offence comes, the offence comes.
“It’s been great so far and hopefully it continues.”
Jones has teamed well with sniper Kirill Maksimov, who leads the club with 23 goals.
“He’s obviously a dangerous player. You can see his shot and his goal total and how often he scores,” Jones said. “If the play is there, I’ll make it. If I can find him I obviously trust his shot more than mine. We work very well together and have been happy with how it’s gone so far.”
Jones, a seventh-round selection of the Las Vegas Knights in the 2017 NHL draft, collected 50 points last season and should easily surpass that this year.
But it is his two-way ability and smarts as a player that earned him a trip to NHL camp this season much more than his offensive upside.
“He’s on everything,” Niagara coach Billy Burke said. “We could bring him out here and ask him what we want to do in every situation and he’s bang-on.
“He’s an incredibly smart player and his offence has continued to evolve. I wouldn’t have thought at this time last year maybe he’d be able to put up the points he’s put up but his confidence and his poise . . . he’s doing a great job for us.”
Burke could’t think of a better way to wrap up 2017 than with such a complete team effort against one of the strongest teams in the league.
“It feels great,” he said. “We know they’re a top team in our conference and had won seven in a row coming in and made some smart additions to their already strong core. They’re for real.
“We’re thrilled where we are right now. The guys feel great and they didn’t cheat. They earned all three wins this weekend.”
Hamilton dominated the opening period — they held an 18-9 edge in shots — but the IceDogs struck first when Akil Thomas floated in a shot with just over two minutes remaining. The Bulldogs quickly retaliated 27 seconds later on a goal by Will Bitten to conclude the scoring in the period.
Johnny Corneil gave Niagara a 2-1 lead just under seven minutes into the second when he took a nice pass from Jones and quickly redirected the puck past Hamilton netminder Nick Donofrio. Jones then added a huge goal when he netted a short-handed marker with just 27 seconds remaining in the period.
Hamilton quickly got that one back less than a minute into the third to narrow the gap back to one at 3-2 before Philip Tomasino restored Niagara’s two-goal lead with his fourth of the season. Maksimov padded the lead with his team-leading 23rd of the season before the teams traded late goals. Matthew Philip’s eighth of the campaign put a cap on a wild third period.
The IceDogs continue a six-game homestand Thursday against Guelph.
Ice cubes: Joshua Dame, Ian Martin, Zach Shankar and Bradey Johnson did not dress for the IceDogs . . . Reilly Webb, Navrin Mutter, Marian Studenic and Jake Murray were scratched for the Bulldogs . . . Welland’s Connor Walters came into the game with two goals and eight points and was a plus-8. Grimsby’s Brandon Saiegon is having a solid season with 21 goals and 42 points . . . Former St. Catharines Falcon Riley McCourt has a goal and nine points in 26 games . . . Teams are now wearing dark jerseys at home and white on the road for the second half of the season . . .The Bulldogs feature the No. 1 power play unit at 26 per cent. The IceDogs are 13th and 19.3 per cent. The IceDogs penalty killing is second at 85.2 per cent . . . The Bulldogs are winless in eight overtime games . . . Niagara’s Danial Singer played in his 100th OHL game . . . Thorold’s Kyle Langdon picked up three assists for Niagara.
IceDogs 7 Bulldogs 3
BPSN Star of the Game: Niagara centre Ben Jones with a goal and two assists.
For the Niagara IceDogs: Jones (14); Kirill Maksimov (23); Danial Singer (16); Akil Thomas (10); Johnny Corneil (10); Matthew Philip (8); Philip Tomasino (4).
For the Hamilton Bulldogs: Matthew Strome (23); Nicolas Caamano (17); Will Bitten (12).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Hamilton on Stephen Dhillon (38), by Niagara on Nick Donofrio (31); Power plays: Niagara 1-for-2, Hamilton 1-for-3; Penalty minutes: Niagara 12, Hamilton 10.
Attendance: 5,315 (sell out)
Up next: The IceDogs continue a six-game homestand Thursday against Guelph.