IceDogs power past Generals
Stephen Dhillon, seen in this file shot, made 34 saves as the Niagara IceDogs topped the Oshawa Generals 6-1 Sunday. Photo by: OHL IMAGES
Stephen Dhillon’s ability to turn the page and refocus after permitting a bad goal was front and centre Sunday at the Meridian Centre.
The veteran netminder flubbed an easy shot early, then refocused and shut the door the rest of the way as the Niagara IceDogs defeated the Oshawa Generals 6-1 to take a 2-0 lead in their Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference best-of-seven quarter-final playoff series.
The series shifts to Oshawa Tuesday and Thursday for Games 2 and 3.
Overall, Dhillon made 34 saves in a game that featured seven goals, 62 minutes in penalties and a combined 20 power-play opportunities.
“It was sort of a bad bounce and one that we need to get in the future,” Dhillon said of the goal. “I owed the boys and we had a couple of big kills and our power play came through huge for us.”
Dhillon, who also earned an assist in the third period, quickly redeemed himself with a pair of spectacular saves to keep the score 1-0.
“You always want to make that next save, regardless of whether it’s a dump in or a cross-crease, backdoor pass,” he said. “It was great to be able to help the boys.”
Dhillon’s effort did not go unnoticed by Niagara coach Billy Burke.
“He was great,” Burke said. “For sure he muffed it on the first one, but he stepped up and made some huge saves on a five-on-three. He shut the door and that’s what elite goalies do. Older guys are able to settle it down, do a good job and regroup, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Oshawa grabbed a 1-0 lead early on the power play on Allan McShane’s wrist shot. Niagara tied it up late in the period when Liam Ham scored on a power play.
Officials called 12 minor penalties — six to Niagara and five to Oshawa— with the result being only 1:55 of five-on-five play in the opening 20 minutes.
It was a tough game to coach — even tougher to watch — with a constant parade to the box.
“It’s difficult for sure,” Burke said. “It’s not how you game plan when you chart and get guys involved. I know (Andrew) Bruder and (Billy) Constantinou didn’t get a single second of ice time and that’s not what we wanted to do.
“Every game (you wonder) what are we going to get tonight in terms of goals and penalties and you just have to be ready,” Burke said. “You can’t get too up or down. You just have to stay focused and make the best decision you can.”
Inexplicably, only four minutes in penalties were called in the second, a pair of offsetting minors late in the period. Adrian Carbonara netted the lone goal of the middle frame with his first of the post-season to give Niagara a 2-1 lead after two.
Niagara struck early in the third to extend their lead to 4-1 with goals by Sam Miletic and Bradey Johnson less than a minute apart. Thomas and Miletic, with his second, rounded out the scoring. Three of Niagara’s goals in the third were with the man advantage.
“Thrilled with the third period,” Burke said. “We came out hard in the third. It was a close game until we were able to open it up in the third. This was a 2-1 game, not a 6-game.”
The IceDogs can take a 3-0 lead Tuesday, but Burke is expecting the Generals to play their best game of the season.
“We have to make sure we are weathering their storm and making sure we keep our emotions in check.”
Ice cubes: Kyle Langdon (suspension), Johnathon Schaefer (lower body), Ian Martin and Daniel Nardi were scratched for the IceDogs . . . Mario Peccia, Joseph Rupoli, Cole Resnick, Mitchell Hewiston and Mitchell Brewer did not dress for Oshawa . . . Niagara defenceman Billy Constantinou celebrated his 17th birthday Sunday . . . Former IceDogs captain Luke Mercer was in attendance . . . Justin MacPherson and Jack Studnicka squared off in the first fight of the series in the third period. Studnicka was given the instigator.
1. Oshawa Allan McShane (Matt Brassard, Hayden McCool) 5:03 (pp).
2. Niagara Liam Ham (Kirill Maksimov, Ben Jones) 18:39 (pp).
3. Niagara Adrian Carbonara (Andrew Bruder) 8:24.
4. Niagara Sam Miletic (Kirill Maksimov, Stephen Dhillon) 3:39 (pp).
5. Niagara Bradey Johnson (Drew Hunter, Matthew Philip) 4:10.
6. Niagara Akil Thomas (Miletic, Danial Singer 12:46 (pp).
7. Niagara Miletic (2) (Thomas, Singer) 14:25 (pp).
IceDogs 6 Gens 1
BPSN Star of the Game: Niagara goaltender Stephen Dhillon with 34 saves and an assist.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Kyle Keyser (32), by Oshawa on Dhillon (35); Power plays: Niagara 4-for-9, Oshawa 1-for-11; Penalty minutes: Niagara 31, Oshawa 31.
Up next: Games 3 and 4 in Oshawa Tuesday and Thursday.
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