IceDogs ready for Bulldogs
Stephen Dhillon will have to be at his best as the Niagara IceDogs take on the powerful Hamilton Bulldogs beginning Thursday in Hamilton. Photo by: OHL IMAGES
The Niagara IceDogs are far from satisfied with their accomplishments thus far.
The IceDogs knocked off the Oshawa Generals in quick and efficient fashion in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, and now want more.
The IceDogs will get that chance Thursday when they travel to Hamilton to take on the Bulldogs in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.
“We’d be doing the players a huge disservice if we felt now that we’ve got through the first round our jobs are done,” IceDogs head coach Billy Burke said. “We can’t wait to start this thing. We want to get back right into it.
“We’re not playing with house money and we’re not intimated by them one bit.”
The IceDogs certainly weren’t intimidated by the Bulldogs in the regular season, winning five of six matchups, including one shootout win and one victory in overtime. The only Hamilton win was a 5-4 overtime victory March 1 in St. Catharines.
Burke doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in those results.
“It means a very little bit. We feel better knowing that we beat them five times than if we had lost to them five times. It’s nice to know we play these guys well and beat these guys, but they’re playing better now than in the regular season.
“I’m sure it won’t factor into it much, if at all.”
The IceDogs are using this week to prep for the series. The teams know each other well from the regular season, but come playoff time no stone can be left unturned to gain even the smallest advantage.
“There is a lot of stuff for us to go through, but there is so much you can’t show it all to the players,” Burke said after emerging from a lengthy video session. “You have to break it into sections or it becomes overwhelming.
“It’s a stressful time leading up to it, but you just have to do your best to make sure you are presenting the main points.”
The Bulldogs, who took care of the Ottawa 67’s in five games in their quarter-final matchup, are a stacked team built for a long playoff run. They finished first in the Eastern Conference in the regular season and second overall in points only to the powerful Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
“They have a ton of weapons. They are very deep up front, they have six solid defencemen, and a solid goalie (Kaden Fulcher). It’s tough to key in on one thing,” Burke said.
Burke would love to see the IceDogs continue to play smart, aggressive hockey and stay out of the box. The Bulldogs’ power play converted at a ridiculous 47.6-per-cent rate in the first round.
“We’re not going to change what we’ve been doing just because we’re going up against Hamilton,” Burke said. “As the playoffs go and the cream continues to rise, the room for error continues to get small and we anticipate there’s not a lot of room for error, especially the way their power play is rocking right now.”
Burke indicated injured Adrian Carbonara and Johnathon Schaefer would be game-day decisions.
Games 1 and 2 are Thursday and Saturday in Hamilton. The series shifts to Niagara for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Wednesday.
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