IceDogs take home opener in shootout
The Niagara IceDogs made a triumphant and victorious return to the Meridian Centre Saturday after 580 days.
The IceDogs topped the Oshawa Generals 3-2 in a shootout, the first regular season Ontario Hockey League game in St. Catharines since a 12-1 loss to former captain Akil Thomas and the Peterborough Petes, March 8, 2020.
“It felt great,” IceDogs coach Billy Burke said. “Very exciting obviously, an obvious buzz and obvious energy throughout the rink in warm up.
“It was great to be back and, you know, the fans are amazing. It didn’t seem like they had any time off at all.”
Burke said the IceDogs feel fortunate to play in a top-notch rink with outstanding fan support, something they have never taken for granted.
“Exhibitions are fun but game day, they put on a great show,” Burke said. “The fans are so involved. It’s loud, it’s just a great atmosphere. It’s one of the best rinks in all of junior hockey and we’re very thankful and grateful to be able to call it our home.”
The IceDogs didn’t give the 3,276 fans who showed up much to cheer about early as they were held off the scoresheet for the first two periods and trailed 1-0 heading into the third.
It was a strange start for a team making its home debut under such extraordinary circumstances and coming off a big 4-1 win in Barrie Thursday to kick in their season-opener.
“I think it was a little bit maybe of us thinking that we had a good night on Thursday and we could just show up,” Burke said. “Oshawa, they don’t cheat. They play a very honest game, a heavy game, they have some real high end guys, and they’re very comfortable in low-scoring games.
“We had to find a way to break through and I thought we used our speed a little bit more. That was a big weapon for us. I don’t think we looked very fast in the first two but I thought we looked a little bit quicker and got some results.”
Jake Uberti finally got Niagara on the board early in the third and then set up Isaac Enright later in the period to give the IceDogs a brief 2-1 lead. Declan Waddick was later called for a holding penalty and the Gens quickly capitalized, tying the game at 2-2 with less than four minutes to play.
Following a scoreless overtime, the IceDogs prevailed in the shootout after six rounds. New captain Cam Butler, Rodwin Dionicio and Juan Copeland scored for Niagara while Calum Ritchie and Lleyton Moore found the back of the net for the Generals.
Butler was thrilled to be able to help the team to a win in his first game on home ice wearing the captain’s C.
“It’s a great honour I carry with pride, so there’s something really special for sure,” he said.
Butler said he doesn’t plan to do a whole lot different now that he is in an official leadership role.
“I’m just being myself, keep doing everything I’m doing that got me the C in the first place,” he said.
Butler was impressed how the IceDogs picked up their game after a sluggish start.
“I feel like we’re gonna be a third period team this year,” he said. “We have really good conditioning and everyone battles hard when it comes down to it. Yeah, the first few periods were slow, but we came out hard in the third and got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Tucker Tynan once again came up big between the pipes for the IceDogs, kicking out 32 shots.
“There’s no doubt that he’s a leader. He’s the heartbeat of the team,” Burke said. “As the shootout went on there, they got a couple of great goals, but you just knew he was going to stand tall and it was going to be tough to get another one by him.”
Ice cubes: Mason Howard (upper body), Anthony Agostinelli (upper body), Jonah DeSimone, Ethan Sims, Andrew Wycisk and Joey Costanzo did not dress for Niagara . . . Carter Bickle, Parker Petruniak, Andrew Witton and Kobe Tallman were scratched for Oshawa . . . Former St. Catharines Falcons winger Dawson McKinney and ex-IceDogs rearguard Lleyton Moore are members of the Gens . . . Former local junior B coach Rob Hubbert is the new colour man on IceDogs radio broadcasts.
IceDogs 3 Generals 2 SO
Bryony Hawthorn/Impact Players of the Game: Niagara goaltender Tucker Tynan with 32 saves and Oshawa netminder Zachary Paputsakis with 25 saves.
For the Niagara IceDogs: Jake Uberti (1); Isaac Enright (1).
For the Oshawa Generals: Calum Ritchie (2); Daniel Michaud (1).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Paputsakis (27), by Oshawa on Tynan (34); Power plays: Niagara 0-for-3, Oshawa 2-for-6; Penalty minutes: Niagara 16, Oshawa 10.
Up next: The IceDogs are in Hamilton Friday and home to the Bulldogs next Saturday.
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