IceDogs hit the books (updated with trade)
The Niagara IceDogs will be using some downtime in the pre-season schedule to work on and off the ice. Photo: BILL POTRECZ
The Niagara IceDogs are going back to school this week.
With a nine-day break before their next exhibition game, IceDogs head coach Daniel Fitzgerald plans to use the time to do some teaching.
“I think we’ll start a little slower and built up in the middle and then ease off at the end,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to be a week of a lot of meetings and we’ll take the opportunity to get into the classroom a little bit.”
The IceDogs, who are 2-2 in pre-season acton, square off versus the Hamilton Bulldogs Tuesday, Sept. 20 in Ancaster followed by another game versus Hamilton at the Meridian Centre Thursday, Sept. 22.
The regular season opener is Thursday, Sept. 29 at home versus Mississauga.
Fitzgerald feels the break comes at a perfect time.
“When we get into the grind of the season, we do have practice time but we have a lot of maintenance days and guys who will be nursing injuries,” he said. “This is a great time (to teach).”
The IceDogs split a pair of exhibition games over the weekend, topping the Erie Otters 7-2 at Virgil before dropping a 4-3 decision to the Otters in St. Catharines.
“I was really happy with our performance in Virgil Friday night,” Fitzgerald said. “I thought that with four defencemen it was a total team effort. It looked like an offensive explosion carried us but we limited them to 22 shots, and for us, that’s where we want to find our identity.
“I think we’re going to be a team that will score goals but we want to be a team that’s hard to play against and make difficult for teams to generate offence against us. That was a lot closer to where we want to be.”
Fitzgerald feels the IceDogs weren’t as sharp Saturday.
“I thought we got a little bit loose defensively,” he said. “We only had five defencemen that night with David Jesus getting back into the lineup but those four played a lot of minutes the night before and we didn’t do enough to insulate them.
“It was a little bit disappointing but we learned a lot. We got a lot of good film out of it. We’re still trending in the right direction. Really happy with the progress we’re making. All the stuff we need to improve on is all fixable. We don’t need any magic beans to get things on track. We’re well on our way.”
Friday’s game saw the debut newly acquired goaltender Owen Flores. Flores was acquired earlier in the week from the London Knights in exchange for second-round pick in 2024 and a fifth-round pick in 2023.
Flores, 18, was drafted in the sixth round, 116th overall by London in 2020. He started 23 games for the Knights last season posting a 3.75 goals-against average and .875 save percentage.
“We were looking to add some depth and strength to this very important position,” IceDogs general manager Darren DeDobbelaer said.
The arrival of Flores gives the IceDogs a crowded crease with holdovers Josh Rosenzweig and Joey Costanzo still in camp.
“I don’t really have a sense what we’re going to do,” Fitzgerald said. “I know right now we’re going to carry three. We’re really happy with the way Owen played Friday night and obviously Josh and Joey have been fantastic. They’re pros. Right now we have a good trio and what happens in the next few weeks or months remains to be seen. That will be Darren’s department.”
Ice cubes: Forwards Pano Fimis (Toronto) and Pasquale Zito (Detroit) are off to NHL camps . . . Captain Landon Cato is nursing a mild upper body issue that kept him out of the lineup on the weekend as a precaution . . . The IceDogs dealt forward Dylan Roobroeck to the Oshawa Generals Monday in exchange for an eighth-round draft pick in 2024. The rookie winger tallied eight goals and 21 points last season.
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