Johnny on the spot
IceDogs winger Johnny Corneil scored the winner in overtime Thursday. Photo by: OHL IMAGES
Johnny Corneil hasn’t had the offensive season he would have liked, but the veteran winger came up with a huge goal for the Niagara IceDogs Thursday.
Corneil scored 2:30 into overtime to give the IceDogs a 3-2 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs in an Ontario Hockey League game at Meridian Centre.
“It was absolutely huge,” said Corneil, who netted his 18th of the season. “We’ve been looking forward to this game all week.”
It was the fifth win in a row for the IceDogs, who improved to 33-23-7-3 and now lead the Oshawa Generals by three points with two games remaining. Assuming the Generals win their final two games versus the Peterborough Petes and Sudbury Wolves, the IceDogs will need two points over the next two games versus Erie and Mississauga to clinch fourth place.
“We’re trying to get as many points as we can. That fourth place home is really big for us. We really love playing at home. We feel good at home and for me to get that goal, it really felt great.”
Corneil, who netted 31 goals last season, tried to round out his game while waiting for his offence to come to life.
“Other areas are just as important. You can’t get too caught up in scoring,” he said. “Gripping the stick wasn’t helping so I just kind of forgot about that and tried to play my game good in all other areas, and get the puck on the net when I could.”
IceDogs coach Billy Burke was happy to see Corneil come through.
“Maybe it doesn’t show on the scoreboard, but Corneil is our leader, our everything for us,” Burke said. “Sometimes he gets sacrificed ice time for other guys and he never complains.
“It’s all about the team. He’s a fifth-year guy and it’s been fun to watch him come from a guy who we didn’t think would make the team to being our captain five years later.”
The Bulldogs grabbed a 1-0 lead when Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nicolas Mattinen scored. The IceDogs quickly responded with a pair of power-play goals in the final three minutes of the period to take a 2-1 lead after one.
Following a scoreless second period, MacKenize Entwistle tied things up at 2-2 halfway through the period when he knocked home a rebound on a power play while Adrian Carbonara was off for a tripping penalty.
The IceDogs were without winger Sam Miletic, who is day-to-day with what Burke described as being “banged up a little bit.”
Niagara goaltender Stephen Dhillon had a strong game kicking out 41 shots.
The IceDogs finish the season series with Hamilton with five wins in six games.
“We’ve heard they don’t like playing us,” Corneil said. “They’re a good team but they’re afraid to play us. That’s good to hear and really gets you going.”
Ice cubes: Miletic, Willy Lochead (leg), Daniel Nardi and Ian Martin were scratched for the IceDogs . . . Jake Gravelle, Zachary Jackson, Navrin Mutter, Owen Burnell and Jake Murray did not dress for the Bulldogs . . . Niagara’s Ben Jones was voted as top penalty killer and third best defensive forward while Miletic was voted third in the hardest worker category by coaches in the Eastern Conference . . . Hamilton’s Brandon Saigeon and Niagara equipment manager Nick Hornby were honoured before the game on Grimsby night . . . IceDogs winger Kirill Maksimov has signed a three-year, entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
1. Hamilton Nicolas Mattinen (8) (Marian Studenic) 15:08.
2. Niagara Ben Jones (26) (Kirill Maksimov, Liam Hamm) 17:04 (pp).
3. Niagara Oliver Castleman (10) (Drew Hunter, Phil Tomasino) 18:41 (pp).
4. Hamilton MacKenzie Entwistle (13) (Benjamin Gleason, Robert Thomas) 9:43 (pp).
Niagara Johnny Corneil (18) (Castleman) 2:30
IceDogs 3 Bulldogs 2 OT
BPSN Star of the Game: Niagara goaltender Stephen Dhillon with 41 saves.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Kaden Fulcher (28), by Hamilton on Dhillon (43); Power plays: Niagara 2-for-3, Hamilton 1-for-5; Penalty minutes: Niagara 10, Hamilton 6.
Up next: At Erie Friday at 7 p.m. Home to Mississauga Saturday at 3:30 p.m. to conclude the regular season.
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