This game was a very lopsided affair in the early stages. The home side had the Dogs corralled into their own end for most of the first period. The offensive push by the Steelheads was buoyed by early penalty calls against the younger Icedogs. The first goal by Mississauga was started by a fortuitous bounce off the referees skate to keep a clearing attempt in the Niagara zone. The puck was gathered up by Zollt, who fed it to Foy who then connected to a streaking MacIntyre in the slot who went top shelf for his eighth goal of the season.
The hit of the game happened shortly after this when underage Sean Day pinched in the offensive zone along the boards and was met by one of the Dogs solid defenders Aleksandar Mikulovich. After both players picked themselves up off the ice, Day would make his way to the bench supporting his arm. He would return for a few shifts in the second period, but would be diagnosed with a separated shoulder and will miss the next few weeks of action.
The last goal of the period happened with only 4 seconds remaining. Rasulov worked the puck from the corner to the point. Jacob Graves fired a shot towards the net where Bobby MacIntyre would deftly deflect the puck into the top shelf again to give the home side a 2-0 advantage going into the first intermission. Shots on net were 16-4 which was supported by the play on the ice – Niagara did not register their first shot on goal until 12 minutes into the game. Spencer Martin did not have a lot of work, but was reliable when called upon in the first period.
Early in the second period, the Dogs would go on the powerplay after a Zottl slashing penalty. Working the puck from D to D, Dunn would fire a puck to the net where Eric Ming would find a bouncing puck and deposit it into the net and half the Steelheads lead to 2-1. The save of the game would come about 5 minutes later when the Dogs were on the powerplay again. Josh Burnside would gamble on a puck that was going back to the Icedogs point – he chipped the puck past the defender and would break in from his own blue line for a clear shot on Brent Moran. Moving right to left, the Icedog keeper outwaited Burnside for the momentum saving stop.
Later in the second period the Icedogs would apply pressure on the forecheck. Anthony Difruscia would do the work to get the puck into a scoring position. It would end up in the high slot where Vince Dunn would deliver a rising slap shot to knot the game at 2 goals each. Shots on goal during that period were in favour of the Visitors 11-5.
To start the third period, Josh Burnside would sweep around the Niagara defence for a point blank opportunity. Moran was up to the challenge and preserved the 2-2 tie 34 seconds into the frame. 5:43 into the period, Matt Gillard was at the side of the net and would fire a wrist shot low on Mississauga’s Spencer Martin – he stopped the puck with his left pad but the rebound went directly back to Gillard. He would fire another shot to the net and would be rewarded with his first career OHL goal and give the visitors a well-earned 3-2 lead. Gillard commented that he was ‘thrilled’ to get his first goal – ‘it wasn’t pretty but it was good to get the go-ahead goal’.
After some back and forth action, Brendan Perlini was called for holding as he checked his assigned player on the way to Niagara’s net. On the ensuing powerplay, Eric Ming would find himself without his stick in the defensive zone. He would ‘gut it out’ and ended up blocking a solid point shot on his shin pads. The Assistant captain would limp to the nearby benches to his appreciative teammates.
Assistant Captain for the home side – Trevor Carrick - would be called for tripping at 7:20 of the period. Again on defensive coverage, Mississauga’s Burnside was able to get control of the puck and ended up with another breakaway. This time he would not be denied and fired home a goal on the blocker side of Moran for the 3-3 tie. To end the period, Niagara’s all rookie line would apply some pressure to the Mississauga defenders This would end up with McCool driving to the net with a defender draped on him – end result of the play would see those two players plus Spencer Martin sprawled out on the ice and McCool going to the penalty box for goaltender interference. The Dogs would kills off that penalty and frustrate the home side on all five of their powerplay chances.
With 1:38 to play Anthony DiFruscia would spring out of his zone for a breakaway – and possibly end the game – but wasn’t able to direct the puck on net. As the period drew to a close, Aaron Haydon would put his mark on the game with a monstrous hit at his defensive blueline.
In the extra frame, the visiting Icedogs would have the better scoring chances – Perlini, Verhaeghe, Maletta and Ming with quality scoring opportunities. On one offensive rush, Ming would have his feet tangled up with the defender and he was checked into the end boards with a lot of force. He would require assistance to leave the ice. Originally it was feared that he would have a back injury – but it was revealed post game that his knee is damaged and he will be out for a few weeks of action.
The shootout would take five rounds to decide. Perlini and Maletta would score for the visitors and Smoskowitz for the home side. A lengthy video review was held after DiFruscia’s attempt in the fourth round. The puck was squeezed by Martin in his armpit as he fell backwards – the question was how far did he fall into the net. The review did not award Niagara the goal. Maletta came into his attempt very slow in the slot – after a few head fakes, he fired the shot high on the glove side past Martin for the Niagara win.
My three stars of the game:
1. Eric Ming – excellent defending in all situtations, one goal.
2. Bobby MacIntyre – first 2 goals for the home side.
3. Jordan Maletta – good offensive pressure – excellent shootout finish.
Josh Burnside – good defensive coverage and offensive punch when needed
Brent Moran – not spectacular, but very solid on the big plays to give his team a chance to win. Stopped 30 of 33 shots.
Matt Gillard – first OHL goal
The Dogs continue their weekend action with the annual Teddy Bear Toss game at home vs. the North Bay Battalion. The Steelheads .venture up the snowy highway 400 to tangle with the Sudbury Wolves tonight.