In a season filled with many distractions, the drama continued Friday for the Niagara Ice Dogs. When the players arrived for their game-day morning skate they discovered yet another break-in. This time however, it wasn’t the usual concession stock missing, it was Ice Dog player equipment. Two dozen sticks, helmets, elbow pads and shoulder pads from Freddie Hamilton, Andrew Agozzino and Steven Shipley were reported stolen along with the all important goalie pads belonging to Mark Visentin.
Team owner Bill Burke was furious as break-ins continue to be an on-going problem at the Jack. Team President Denise Burke expressed her concern for the players noting “the boys are creatures of habit” but praised team equipment manager Garry “Bucky” Buxton for being able to quickly replace the missing equipment. Coach Williamson assured everyone the event was not going to cause the team to lose focus. “We’re kind of a mature hockey team. Stuff happens,” he said. “There really isn’t any distraction. More is being made out it than it is.”
The stolen pads were two games old. Visentin wore them in Games 5 and 6 of the first-round series against Oshawa. Visentin was quoted in the St. Catharines Standard saying he has two extra sets of pad “so it wasn’t too big of a deal…but it’s frustrating when you get a new pair of pads and they get stolen. It is what it is and hopefully they show up.”
The drama continued onto the ice Friday evening as the second round play-off series against the Brampton Battalion began. The Battalion played a strong game stopping the Ice Dogs from their usual offensive game. The Ice Dogs are known for out shooting their opponents by large numbers and yet the Battalion was able to keep the Ice Dogs down to 33 shots and had 46 shots of their own on Visentin. At the end of three periods it was a tie game causing the Ice Dogs to play their first over-time game of this play-off season.
A major scramble in front of the Battalion net at about fourteen minutes into OT saw a Brampton player put his hand on the puck in the crease. This resulted in a penalty shot for Ice Dogs Brett Ritchie. Battalion goal tender Matej Machovsky was able to keep Ritchie’s shot out of the net, but he was not so lucky several seconds later when over ager David Pacan scored the game winning goal.
Pacan scored on a five-hole shot from the slot but sheepishly admitted he was aiming for the top corner. “Agozzino made a great pass. When he got the puck he kept his head up and found me in the middle ....I knew I just had to get a shot on net because that’s what you’re looking for in overtime.”
The line reunification of over-agers Pacan, Agozzino and Alex Friesen has worked well for Pacan. He not only scored Friday’s game winner but also contributed in the elimination of the Oshawa Generals in series one with the tying and winning goal in game six.
Pacan says it is “awesome” being reunited with Agozzino and Friesen. “Those guys create so much space for you. They are really smart players. We’ve been together all of last year and part of this year. We know each other like the back of our hand.”
With the ordeal of stolen equipment now in the past, the Ice Dogs hope future drama remains on the ice.
- Pacan has self-proclaimed “best flo in the O.”
- Bruin prospect Dougie Hamilton was named OHL Player of the Month for March with 17 points in 14 games
- Don Cherry was in Niagara this week commenting to the local paper the Niagara Ice Dogs are one of the favourites to win the Canadian Hockey League championship and he hopes they do. Cherry, was a part-owner of the team when the Ice Dogs were in Mississauga, and said with the way goalie Mark Visentin plays, the team can win it all, as long as they stay healthy.
- During Friday’s game, on the eve of the OHL priority selection draft, the Ice Dogs acknowledged the hard work of the Ice Dog scouting staff who “rarely get to see an Ice Dog game” because of the thousands of games throughout North America they attend in their search for future prospects.
- Prior to each play-off game the Ice Dog fans are treated to “Drive It Home” a pep rally song written and performed specifically for the Ice Dogs by Angela Siracus an award winning Nashville recording artist.
To view the YouTube version of the video “Drive it Home” click here: http://youtu.be/lDNjAjjD9nI
- The St. Catharines Jr. B Falcons who saw their attendance plummet with the arrival of the Ice Dogs are still financially viable through their 50-50 ticket sales at each Ice Dog home game. Friday night’s take was worth $3291.00.
- Stars selected for game one of series two:
3rd Star: Matej Machovsky (Bramptom Battalion-goalie )
2nd Star: Mark Visentin (Niagara Ice Dogs-goalie)
1st Star: David Pacan (Niagara Ice Dogs-game winning goal)