IceDogs get back on track (updated with Fimis quotes)
Throughout all the struggles of the Niagara IceDogs this season, the one area of reasonable consistency has been in goal.
Owen Flores and Josh Rosenzweig don’t have great numbers, but on most occasions have done their job to keep the club competitive.
Flores went down with a knee injury earlier this month, opening the door for more playing time for Rosenzweig and the big netminder has more than held his own.
Rosenzweig kicked out 34 shots and had a shutout until the halfway point of the third period as the IceDogs topped the Erie Otters 5-1 in Ontario Hockey League action Thursday at Meridian Centre.
The win snapped an ugly 10-game losing streak for Niagara which last won in Erie on New Year’s Eve.
“It felt so great,” Rosenzweig said. “We’ve been battling it lately and this one felt really good.
“Our team really responded here tonight.”
Rosenzweig said despite their record — the IceDogs are still last overall in the league with a 9-25-6-1 mark — the team isn’t giving up on themselves or this season.
“The character in the locker room — we’re not quitters and we’re sick and tired of losing,” he said. “We want to make the playoffs and we’re going to do whatever it takes to climb back up.
“You’re going to have your ups and down throughout a season but it’s all about batting the adversity and coming together as a group.”
Rosenzweig was tested at times, but had a relatively easy night compared to some other games this season where the IceDogs permitted north of 50 shots.
“We definitely bought into our systems and we’re definitely playing for each other,” he said. “This team has no quit.”
Rosenzweig, who will celebrate his 20th birthday next month, has started five of the last six games.
“When you’re playing more consistently you feel better between the pipes,” he said. “That definitely helps. When things aren’t going well you try to get back to basics. You’re spending a little more time at the gym, on the ice in practice and just trying to snap out of the funk.”
IceDogs coach Ryan Kuwabara tipped his cap to Rosenzweig.
“That’s the thing with our goaltending, I told them to just give us a chance to win,” he said. “Game in and game out and when you play like that you make it easy on us.
“He was solid in net and we scored on our chances.”
Niagara led 2-0 after two periods, then put the game away with a pair of goals early in the third period. Bruce McDonald spoiled Rosenzweig’s shot at a shutout at the 10:24 mark of the third before Kevin He concluded the scoring.
“I’ve been preaching, the guys have been working hard and we haven’t been getting the bounces and today we were able to put the puck in early and establish a little bit of control early and then our details were there,” Kuwabara said. “Super excited for the guys.”
The IceDogs played with much more structure, particularly in their own end.
“It was a good step for us believing in ourselves that we can win. Sometimes that’s all it takes, to have a game like this and continue moving forward and having success,” Kuwabara said.
Pano Fimis made his return to Niagara after being dealt to the Otters just before the trade deadline. Fimis was held scoreless. He has three goals and five points in 10 games with Erie.
“It was a special night for sure,” Fimis said. “It wasn’t the outcome that we had hoped for but regardless it was great coming back to the rink where I started my OHL career and seeing the fans that supported me through the ups and downs for a year and a half.
“It did feel a little weird being on the other side. It was great to see so many of the people that I was surrounded by every day and that I made great relationships with that will last a lifetime. That video tribute meant the world to me and it will be a night I’ll always remember. Niagara will always have a special spot in my heart.”
Ice cubes: Landon Cato (upper body), Andrew Wycisk (upper body), Owen Flores (lower body), Gerard Keane (broken wrist), Anthony Agostinelli (concussion) and Juan Copeland did not dress for the IceDogs . . . Ty Henry, Carey Terrance, Dylan Edwards, Alex Messier and Brett Bressette were scratched for the Otters . . . Erie’s Owain Johnston dropped the gloves with Niagara’s Zakary Lavoie early in the second period. Lavoie put Bressette out for the season with a broken collarbone on a check the last time the teams played New Year’s Eve . . . Veteran bench boss Stan Butler has been hired as head coach for the Otters.
IceDogs 5 Otters 1
Niagara’s Josh Rosenzweig and Erie’s Pano Fimis.
Niagara IceDogs: Daniel Michaud (15); Declan Waddick (13); Kevin He (12); Alex Assadourian (7); Bronson Ride (3).
Erie Otters: Bruce McDonald (6).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Kyle Downey (27), by Erie on Josh Rosenzweig (35); Power plays: Niagara 1/5, Erie 0/3; Penalty minutes: Niagara 15, Erie 19.
Next up: The IceDogs are back home Saturday against North Bay.
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