February 9th was the Niagara Ice Dogs’ last home game. The Ice Dogs blew away their arch rivals the Mississauga Majors by a score of 11-0. Andrew Agozzino scored a hat trick including 2 short handed goals and secured his place as franchise goal leader with 155 goals.
It was also Ryan Strome’s first game back after a nine game absence from recovery of a broken nose from a dust up with Brody Silk in a January 13th game in Sudbury. Playing with a full face mask Strome is protecting his new nose which Strome credits the plastic surgeon making it better than before! With the 11-0 blow out the Ice Dogs outshot the Majors 50-18.
Ice Dog forward David Pacan described the outcome as “awesome, a little bit of redemption for last year (when) Missy (beat us) 10-0. One year later it’s awesome. Our goal is to finish on the top of the league.”
Following the Major’s thrashing the Ice Dogs headed out for their longest road trip of the year and came home not only with achieving their goal of leading the Eastern Conference but individual milestones were reached as well.
Saturday, February 11 was the opening game of the long away stretch as Niagara defeated the Barrie Colts 3-0. The Colts goalie Mathias Niederberger kept Barrie in the game with an outstanding performance as Niagara outshot the competition 42-25. Mark Visentin was given his 25th star of the year for his second shut out in a row.
Sunday, February 12th against the Oshawa Generals saw the return of Dougie Hamilton after a ten game suspension. Hamilton had 2 power play assists in his first game back and Andrew Agozzino scored two power play goals securing the Ice Dogs with the best power play of the league. Once again the Ice Dogs severely outshot their opponents 50-25.
Thursday, February 15th the Niagara Ice Dogs continued to hammer their opponents as they outshot the Erie Otters 61-18. Unfortunately they also faced rookie goal tender Devin Williams as he gave an unbelievable performance stopping all but one of the Ice Dogs 61 shots. Ultimately the Dogs lost to the Otters 2-1 as the Otters scored the winning goal with 43 seconds left in the game.
Friday, February 17th marked a return visit to the Sudbury Wolves. The Ice Dogs opened with three straight power play goals in the first. The last match up in Sudbury resulted in the Dougie Hamilton suspension as well as the Strome injury. Whether the Dogs were looking for retribution or it was just strong competition between divisional rivals, the second period was very chippy. This resulted in the Ice Dogs spending a lot of time in the penalty box. Defenseman Brett Ritchie acknowledged “we were in the box a lot. If we stay out of the box, we are successful. (We) anticipate a long play off run, (this) is definitely the year to make a run.”
Ultimately the Ice Dogs won the game 5-2. Ritchie's goal would prove to be the game winner, giving him his fifth game-winning goal as an Ice Dog, while Agozzino's shorthanded goal set a new Ice Dogs’ franchise record for career shorthanded markers. Mark Visentin moved his record to 13-0 in 2012.
Saturday, February 18th an afternoon game rescheduled due to a leaky Ottawa roof saw the Peterborough Petes vs. the Ottawa 67’s. The Pete’s overcame a 3-0 deficit by scoring four straight goals. One of the Peterborough goals came from Nick Ritchie, brother of Brett Ritchie. The Petes win over Ottawa secured the Ice Dogs’ first place in the Eastern Conference.
Saturday evening the Ice Dogs faced the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the first time this year. It also marked Brock Beukebooms’ first visit back to the Soo since being traded to Niagara last June.
Beukeboom has faced some injuries, starting the year on the sidelines and just recently returning from a concussion. Beukeboom assures he has fully recovered. “My style of play hasn’t changed at all. Injuries are part of the game. If I wasn’t back to 100 percent I wouldn’t be playing.” Beukeboom was looking forward to his return to the Soo.” I am expecting mixed emotions…..I have a lot of good memories up there. A lot of good team mates, my billet family, a lot of good people. (but) after the game will be a time to see everyone.”
Beukeboom is fondly thought of by the people of the Soo as well. The Ice Dog play by play team noted Beukeboom was greeted throughout the Soo like a VIP with everyone excitedly welcoming him back to town.
The game ended in a 3-0 win with a quick opening goal from Dougie Hamilton followed up by two goals from Ryan Strome. It was after the game was officially over people started talking about what had been unspoken through out the game – Mark Visentin secured the shut-out earning his 10th of the season, a league record defeating the previous record of nine. It has been reported the previous record of nine was held by Len Broderick (set in 1956-57), Glenn Hall (set in 1950-51) and/or Don Lockhart of the Toronto Marlies in the 1949-50 season. Whoever held the previous record it is quite impressive.
Visentin hasn’t lost a game since November against Ottawa. Following the Soo victory Visentin was seen scooping up the game puck as a souvenir of his accomplishment. He has the game puck for each shut out this year. His locker is getting full but something tells us he has room for more!
While it was a long and arduous road trip it was certainly worthwhile for the Ice Dogs as they head back to Niagara securing first in the Eastern Conference and tied with the Plymouth Whalers for second in the league. The London Knights in first place overall can feel the Ice Dogs panting just six points behind.
The Dogs will be celebrating their victories by spending Family Day at the Jack with their fans at their 5th annual Skills Competition.