IceDogs head into break with loss
The Niagara IceDogs are 16-11-3-2 heading into the Christmas break. PHOTO BY: OHL IMAGES
The Niagara IceDogs head into the Christmas break at the unofficial halfway point of the Ontario Hockey League season perhaps ahead of schedule.
The IceDogs have compiled a solid 16-11-3-2 record through the first 32 games of the season despite a pair of losses in their last two games.
The IceDogs, 24 hours following a disappointing 6-3 loss to North Bay, dropped a 5-3 decision to the Barrie Colts Saturday night at the Meridian Centre.
IceDogs coach Billy Burke seemed more than satisfied with the team’s progress to date.
“I just told the guys it’s too bad we have to end on a sombre note going into the break but absolutely (I’m) happy with the guys,” Burke said. “Single-digits losses until this weekend is a positive and 16 wins. Twenty wins at Christmas would have been fantastic but I’m proud of the guys.”
Burke feels the best is yet to come.
“I feel we have another level we can get to in the second half. There were a lot of good things and I told them they should be proud of themselves and be motivated to be the best team we can for the rest of the year.”
The IceDogs may have been able to head into the break on a winning note were not for a series of odd plays that included a goal from behind the net, a goal called back on an offside, and another fluke goal against from the slot that deflected straight up in the air and somehow landed in the net.
“It’s deflating if you look at it that way,” Burke admitted. “Another offside goal called back. We have to focus. You just can’t go offside. It’s unacceptable. That’s three goals three weeks in a row called back on offsides.
“It’s frustrating but he guys are pretty strong in that sense. No matter what happens, you just have to keep playing.”
Despite an uneven effort, Burke was proud of the way his charges battled to the end.
“You have to give credit to our guys for finding some life there and coming back and making it close,” Burke said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with some bad turnovers. Two of the goals off the top of my head were the direct result of turnovers and you can’t do that against a team like Barrie. They are good and I think we’re right there but we have to be able to play the whole game.”
The IceDogs scored once on the power play but overall looked off their game with the man advantage.
“Just too casual,” Burke said when asked about the power play. “You can’t take the power play for granted. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege to play on it.”
Barrie outshot Niagara 9-5 in a scoreless first period. The IceDogs had a five-on-three man advantage for over a minute but failed to get a shot on net and ended up taking a penalty.
“I thought it was sloppy . . . The guys weren’t even in their spots,” Burke said. “It’s not curing cancer on the five-on-three. Shoot the puck.”
The Colts broke the scoreless stalemate just 15 seconds into the second when newly-acquired Aaron Luchuk netted his league-leading 31st goal of the season. Lucas Chiodo then put the Colts up 2-0 on a fluke goal that deflected straight up in the air and floated over the shoulder of Stephen Dhillon.
Kirill Maksimov finally got the IceDogs on the board with his 20th of the season when he took a perfect pass at the opposing blueline from Billy Constantinou, who was stationed behind the Niagara net, and scored on a breakaway. Any momentum from that goal was quickly squelched when Jason Willms banked a shot off Dhillon in front behind the net.
Niagara appeared to make it 3-2 early in the third when Johnny Corneil scored but the Colts challenged the play and it was ruled offside. Corneil later got one that counted on the power play to narrow the gap to 3-2. The Colts got that back when Zach Magwood took advantage of a giveaway by Liam Ham while the IceDogs were on the power play to make it 4-2.
Seconds later Danial Singer scored with Dhillon on the bench to narrow the gap back to one at 4-3. Jaden Peca then sealed the deal with an empty net goal with 52 seconds remaining.
Dog food: Justin MacPherson, Ian Martin, Andrew Bruder and Bradey Johnson did not dress for the IceDogs . . . Nathan Allensen, Victor Hadfield and Sam Rhodes were scratched for the Colts . . . Maksimov was playing in his 150th OHL game . . . IceDogs owner Bill Burke celebrated his 60th birthday Saturday.
Colts 5 IceDogs 3
BPSN Star of the Game: Barrie forward Zach Magwood with two points.
For the Niagara IceDogs: Kirill Maksimov (20); Danial Singer (13); Johnny Corneil (8)
For the Barrie Colts: Magwood (16); Aaron Luchuk (31); Jason Willms (18); Lucas Chiodo (12); Jaden Peca (5).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Leo Lazarev (22), By Barrie on Stephen Dhillon (34); Power plays: Niagara 1-for-7, Barrie 0-for-3; Penalty minutes: Niagara 10, Barrie 18.
Up next: Thursday, Dec. 28 at North Bay. Friday, Dec. 29 at Sudbury.