IceDogs get the jump on the Gens
Niagara IceDogs centre Ben Jones, seen in this file shot, collected a pair of points as the IceDogs doubled the Oshawa Generals 4-2 Friday. Photo by OHL IMAGES
Come playoff time, teams need their best players to be their best players, and that’s exactly what the Niagara IceDogs got Friday night.
Ben Jones, Akil Thomas and Sam Miletic have been three of Niagara’s go-to players on offence all season and kept that trend going.
All three collected a goal and an assist as the IceDogs topped the Oshawa Generals 4-2 in the opener of their Ontario Hockey League best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final playoff series.
The victory was the eighth in a row overall for Niagara which finished the season with a seven-game winning streak
Game 2 is Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Meridian Centre.
“Obviously it’s playoff time, it’s crunch time and everyone has to be at their best, but for all of our veterans in there, it’s time to step up,” Jones said. “It’s pretty much on all of us to step up and play the best hockey we can and rely on the others to play the best they can.”
IceDogs coach Billy Burke tipped his cap to Jones and the rest of his elite players.
“You know your depth guys are going to do everything they humanly can and inevitably, when your big boys get an opportunity, that’s what they have to do. They’re proven scorers in this league and when they get those opportunities, they have to capitalize.”
Niagara dominated the opening period outshooting the Generals 18-8 and scoring the only goal when Drew Hunter converted a perfect pass from Jones. Niagara also had a goal called back when Johnathon Schaefer’s shot was ruled to have hit the cross bar. It was called a goal on the ice by the officials.
“We knew we were going to come out hot and have a good 10 minutes,” Burke said of the club’s fast start. “If they come out and score first, it doesn’t matter. You knew they were going to come back in the shots and the game was going to even out.”
The IceDogs made it 2-0 early in the second when Sam Miletic tipped one past Generals netminder Kyle Keyser from close range.
Oshawa got one back later in the period when captain Jack Studnicka scored a short-handed goal when he out-muscled Miletic for the puck on a tremendous individual effort.
Niagara then increased their lead to 4-1 when Thomas and Jones scored just over a minute apart about halfway through the third. Matt Brassard, who turned in a solid performance for the Gens, rounded out the scoring with a late goal.
The IceDogs worked hard to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and took full advantage with the win in the opener.
“We pushed really hard for home ice so to get that win is huge,” Jones said. “I don’t know if some of the guys realize how big that is to get home ice and then win on home ice, it really puts a dagger in the start of the series.”
Stephen Dhillon turned in a solid performance between the pipes for the IceDogs, particularly late when the Gens were pressing to get back in the game.
Ice cubes: Ian Martin, Andrew Bruder and Billy Constantinou were scratched for Niagara . . . Mario Peccia, Joseph Rupoli, Cole Resnick, Mitchell Hewitson and Alex DiCarlo did not dress for Oshawa . . . Former IceDog Jordan Maletta, now a member of the Arizona Coyotes organization, was in attendance . . . Ex-IceDogs forward Hayden McCool was held off the scoresheet for Oshawa.
1. Niagara Drew Hunter (Ben Jones) 9:31.
2. Niagara Sam Miletic (Danial Singer, Akil Thomas) 5:26.
3. Oshawa Jack Studnicka 17:18 (sh).
4. Niagara Thomas (Miletic, Elijah Roberts) 11:13.
5. Niagara Jones (Kirill Maksimov) 12:17.
6. Oshawa Matt Brassard (Studnicka) 16:59 (pp).
IceDogs 4 Generals 2
BSPN Star of the Game: IceDogs centre Ben Jones with two points.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Kyle Keyser (36), by Oshawa on Stephen Dhillon (32); Power plays: Niagara 0-for-3, Oshawa 1-for-4; Penalty minutes: Niagara 14, Oshawa 12.
Up next: Game 2 is Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Meridian Centre.
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