IceDogs outlast Battalion
The depth of the Niagara IceDogs is going to be tested in the next couple of weeks.
With the team in the midst of 10 games in 16 days due to six games postponed due to COVID, the IceDogs will need to use as much of their roster as possible to avoid burnout.
That depth was on display Tuesday as the IceDogs edged the North Bay Battalion 3-2 in a shootout in an Ontario Hockey League game at Meridian Centre.
“We’re going to have to use everybody,” Niagara head coach Billy Burke said. “Guys that didn’t dress tonight we’re going to use them. It’s a heck of a stretch — it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen — and we’re just going to have to roll with it. We want to play the games.
“This is what we do, this is what we want to do. We just have to make sure we take care of our bodies and have fun.”
The IceDogs fourth line of Anthony Agostinelli, Declan Waddick and Ryan Struthers was particularly effective with Agostinelli picking up two goals (one in the shootout) while Waddick added an assist.
“Just an outstanding game,” Burke said of the unit. “Waddick continues to get better every single game, same with Struthers. He was out and he comes back in. He’s smart player and such a spark plug. Agostinelli has had a tough go with injuries and COVID. It’s been tough for him to get his legs under him this season but I thought he did a great job.
“When you get three guys that can skate and make plays and play to their strengths and compliment each other, it just gives us confidence.”
The win improves Niagara’s record to 10-18-1-1 and leaves them six points behind the Sudbury Wolves for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The IceDogs have played seven fewer games than the Wolves.
“If we run the table in all our games in hand we’re right up almost in the middle of the conference,” Burke said. “Obviously it’s a hill and games in hand are nothing but games in hand unless you win them.
“That’s why it’s going to be fast and furious. We really feel it’s a brand new season. The first half we don’t even worry about it. We’re trying to stay fresh so that’s how we’re going to have to take it.”
North Bay scored the lone goal of the first period when Owen VanSteensel netted his fourth of the season less than four minutes in. The Battalion held a 14-10 edge in shots on goal.
Play opened up in the second period with the IceDogs getting on the board early when Danil Gushchin potted his team-leading 23rd of the season. Agostinelli’s second of the season gave Niagara a short-lived lead before Mitchell Russell tied things back up a 2-2 with his 21st of the campaign.
With 47.6 seconds remaining in the period North Bay goaltender Dom DiVincentiis was injured when he was clipped by Gushchin as he skated in front of the net. Gushchin was ejected and given a five-minute penalty for a check to the head while DiVincentiis was replaced by Joe Vrbetic. DiVincentiis was not on the bench for the rest of the game.
Because there was no match penalty assessed, there is no automatic suspension, although, the league reviews all five-minute majors.
The Battalion did not score on the advantage and ended up taking a penalty with 1:44 remaining.
The IceDogs have struggled all season long killing penalties but came up huge in that instance.
“We tried to put a little more focus on our PK and changed up a couple of things last weekend,” Burke said. “In the short term, it’s been good for us.
“The biggest thing with the PK is attitude. You’re not going to let them score and block shots. It was a huge turning point. Our best player goes down and then we have a five-minute kill.”
Following a scoreless third period and overtime, the IceDogs prevailed in the six-round shootout when Agostinelli, Liam VanLoon and Brice Cooke scored.
Brandon Coe and Ty Nelson replied for the Battalion.
Ice cubes: Sami Douglas-Najem and Juan Copeland were scratched for the IceDogs . . . Liam Arsby, Kyle McDonald, Matev Petrov (Edmonton) and Kyle Jackson did not dress for the Battalion.
Niagara’s Pano Fimas and North Bay’s Brandon Coe.
IceDogs 3 Battalion 2 SO
Niagara IceDogs: Danil Gushchin (23); Anthony Agostinelli (2).
North Bay Battalion: Mitchell Russell (21); Owen VanSteensel (4).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Dom DiVincentiis/Joe Vrbetic (30), by North Bay on Josh Rosenzweig (35); Power plays: Niagara 0-for-2, North Bay 0-for-2; Penalty minutes: Niagara 7, North Bay 6.
Attendance: Not permitted.
Up next: Home to Erie Thursday and Hamilton Saturday.
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