New-look IceDogs set for season opener (Updated with trade)
The IceDogs open the 2022/23 Ontario Hockey League regular season at home Thursday versus the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by: BILL POTRECZ
Fans won’t be able to tell the Niagara IceDogs without a program to begin the season.
The IceDogs open the 2022/23 Ontario Hockey League regular season at home Thursday versus the Mississauga Steelheads with a revamped roster featuring 10 players who were not with the team at the end of last year.
New owner Darren DeDobbelaer took over the team in July and named himself general manager. He quickly went to work making a bevy of deals that has resulted in six new forwards, three new defencemen and a new netminder.
There is also a new coaching staff led by head coach Daniel Fitzgerald, assistants Brandon Shaw, Damon Racicot, Jason Barron and former IceDog Andrew Fritsch, along with a new assistant general manager in former Port Colborne Sailor Wes Consorti.
Fitzgerald said expectations are high for the new group.
“We want to be competitive. We want to be a team that’s held in high regard across the league and that means we’re a playoff team,” he said. “We have high expectations for our group to get better every day and that’s what’s going to set us up for success.”
Fitzgerald feels consistent improvement over the course of the season will be the key.
“The way we look at it as a staff we need to continue to get better every single day. There will be bumps along the way but if we’re better — hopefully much better — at the end of the season than we are at the beginning we’re going to put ourselves in a really good position come playoff time and be a team that’s very difficult to play against.
“If we take as few steps back as we can and keep pushing forward and improving, we’ll have a better sense as we get closer to playoff time where we are.”
The IceDogs concluded exhibition play with a 3-3 record following almost a month of training camp.
“I think for me it definitely went the way I wanted it to,” Fitzgerald said. “We had control over pretty much everything which is fantastic, beside losing players to NHL camps which we don’t have control over when they come and go.
“The players responded to the coaching philosophies great. I thought it was fantastic.”
The following is a position-by-position look at the opener roster.
Returning: Anthony Agostinelli, Brenden Sirizzotti, Brice Cooke, Pano Fimis, Declan Waddick, Juan Copeland, Aidan Castle, Daniel Michaud.
Newcomers: Kevin He, Andrew Vermeulen, Matthew Papais, Evan Klein, Pasquale Zito, Nolan Dann.
Fitzgerald feels the group has strong offensive potential.
“I don’t see goal scoring being our issue at all. We’re very deep in the forward group and the addition of Evan Klein makes us even deeper,” he said. “We have guys coming in with 20-plus goals in our league already. We have guys who are looking to step up and guys who have experience.
“I’m thrilled with our forward group. I think they’re deep and hard to play against and I think it’s going to be difficult to match up against us because we have three or four lines who can come at you and produce offensively, which is fantastic.”
Watch out for: Pano Fimis to become an elite performer and Juan Copeland to take a huge step forward.
Returning: Landon Cato, Alec Leonard, Andrew Wycisk, Rodwin Dionicio.
Newcomers: David Jesus, Nathan Ribau, Ryan Vannetten.
“I like our D group,” Fitzgerald said. “I would have loved for them to play together through the pre-season more. With Landon sitting out the majority of the pre-season, that hurt us and David Jesus missed a game as well. I think we’re in a really good spot with that group now that we’re healthy. We have some veterans and some young guys who are full of energy and potential.
“I’m really excited to see how that group plays together as a whole.”
Watch out for: Leonard to make a name for himself as a premier young defender.
Returning: Josh Rosenzweig, Joey Costanzo.
Newcomer: Owen Flores.
“Obviously, competition in the crease is great and we have three really good goaltenders,” Fitzgerald. “It will be difficult on a night to night basis to select a starter. We have three who are more than capable and I love what I’ve seen so far.”
Fitzgerald said he still hasn’t made a decision on who will start Thursday.
Watch out for: A trade. Hard to see the team keeping all three for the entire season.
Note: The IceDogs today dealt Costanzo to the Windsor Spitfires for a fourth-round draft pick in 2023 and a 12th-round draft pick in 2026.
Dear reader. If you liked this story or one of the 4,500 other stories found on our website, please consider hitting the Support Us button on the right-hand side of our home page and making a PayPal contribution to our website. Your support would be much appreciated. If you are a business owner, please consider advertising on our site. Our rates are reasonable and we provide plenty of exposure for your business. Contact email@example.com for more information.