IceDogs in tough
Niagara defenceman Justin MacPherson, seen in this file photo, scored a goal Wednesday as the IceDogs dropped a 4-2 decision to the Hamilton Bulldogs at Meridian Centre. Photo by: OHL IMAGES.
The Niagara IceDogs’ resiliency is going to be put to the ultimate test.
The IceDogs have been able to find various ways to get through difficult times this season and head coach Billy Burke sees no reason for that to change now.
The IceDogs have left themselves no margin for error after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Hamilton Bulldogs Wednesday night at the Meridian Centre.
The IceDogs now trail the Bulldogs 3-1 in the Ontario Hockey League best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series and must win Thursday in Hamilton to live another day.
“We’re not dead yet,” Burke said. “I know the guys are disappointed, but we’ve won in that building all year. We have to go and win one and get this thing back here for Saturday.
“It’s a quick turnaround, which is nice. You just wake up and go back at them.”
A lapse of 57 seconds early in the third period turned a 2-1 Niagara lead into a 3-2 deficit.
“It was a punch in the stomach and we were never really able to get our feet back under us,” Burke said. “It was disappointing. We’ve been a good third period team all year and to not come out excited, it was too bad.
“That’s what good teams do. You have a couple of momentary lapses and come out a little flat . . . they’re dangerous and they showed it.”
Burke quickly called a time out following the goals by Marian Studenic and Issac Nurse.
“I didn’t want to take it there at all,” Burke said. “We were on our heels and if they score again, it’s lights out. You have to try and slow it down. It’s not what we wanted to do.
“We just wanted to regroup and reset and try and have a strong final 17 minutes.”
Niagara had good jump to their game to start but the Bulldogs struck first when Studenic scored just over nine minutes in.
The IceDogs quickly replied less than a minute later when Kirill Maksimov netted his second in as many games off a nice feed from Ben Jones.
Hamilton later appeared to take a 2-1 lead but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference.
Niagara turned in a solid effort in the second and scored the lone goal when Justin MacPherson scored his second of the post-season less than two minutes in. Niagara held a 13-8 edge in shots.
“I thought there were times when we had opportunities and couldn’t add to the lead,” Burke said.
Burke is confident the IceDogs will empty their tanks in an effort to extend the series.
“We just have to be playing for our lives,” Burke said. “We need to go in there and have our best game.
“It’s do or die now.”
Ice cubes: Ian Martin, Andrew Bruder and Billy Constantinou did not dress for Niagara . . . Matthew Strome (neck), Kade Landry, Jake Gravelle, Narvin Mutter, Owen Burnell and Jake Murray were scratched for the Bulldogs . . . Liam Van Loon, who spent the season with the Ancaster Avalanche, dressed in place of Strome . . . Several IceDogs draft picks and local players who were drafted from Saturday’s Priority Selection were in attendance . . . Willy Lochead won a spirited decision over Will Bitten early in the second period. It was the first fight of the series.
1. Hamilton Marian Studenic (1) (Ryan Moore, Nicholas Caamano) 9:07.
2. Niagara Kirill Maksimov (4) (Ben Jones) 9:59.
3. Niagara Justin MacPherson (2) (Sam Miletic, Liam Ham) 1:55.
4. Hamilton Issac Nurse (Connor Walters, Arthur Kaliyev) 1:57.
5. Hamilton Studenic 2 (2) (Caamano, Ryan Moore) 2:54.
6. Hamilton Robert Thomas (5) (Caamano, Kaden Fulcher) 19:59.
BPSN Star of the Game: Hamilton forward Marian Studenic with a pair of goals.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Kaden Fulcher (26), by Hamilton on Stephen Dhillon (27); Power plays: Niagara 0-for-3, Hamilton 0-for-4; Penalty minutes: Niagara 15, Hamilton 17.
Up next: Game 5 Thursday in Hamilton, 7 p.m. Game 6 if necessary, is Saturday at Meridian Centre.
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