IceDogs finish winless in 2021-22 Canine Cup vs loaded Bulldogs
Brandon Caputo (@Caputz13_AGM)
Photo Credit: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images
In the 8th and final meeting of the season, the Niagara IceDogs travel to Hamilton to take on a fellow canine Bulldogs squad for a Good Friday evening matchup. The Bulldogs have been the "top dog" in this seasons matchup as they have had the IceDogs number all season long, holding a 7-0-0-0 record vs Niagara.
The IceDogs will look to avoid the season series sweep against their close-knit QEW rivals and look to finish their season off their final road game on a high note. The IceDogs leaders versus the Bulldogs this season include Niagara's leading scorer Danil Gushchin, to no ones surprise, who averages a goal per game in 4 matchups that he has played vs the Bulldogs this season. Rookie sensation Pano Fimis also has a respectable 4 points in 6 games vs Hamilton in the 2021-22 campaign.
The IceDogs, who along with Sudbury were eliminated from playoff contention last week, are hoping to finish off their season on a positive note this weekend, going 5-5-0-0 in their last 10 games. However, Niagara have lost their last 3 games, after what was a positive month stretch before this latest hiccup facing difficult playoff bound teams. Niagara are 1 point ahead of the Saginaw Spirit, who currently sit last place in the entire OHL while holding the best draft lottery odds for the upcoming 2022 OHL Priority Selection Draft.
Hamilton have had a scoring frenzy vs Niagara this season outscoring the IceDogs by a total of 42-14.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs against the team from Niagara are Logan Morisson, George Diaco, Ryan Humphrey, Ryan Winterton, and Nathan Staios who all have 10+ points head-to-head this season vs the IceDogs.
Hamilton's starting goalie Marco Costantini would get the night off in the crease having started 45 games in net this season. This means that Matteo Drobac gets the start for the Bulldogs as the presumed "backup" despite holding a 17-2-0-1 record, showing how special this Hamilton team has been this season. The Bulldogs come into this game undefeated in regulation in their last 13 games, going 12-0-1-0 during that stretch and currently sit first place in the entire OHL; 9 points clear of Windsor who will finish a distant 2nd in the President's Trophy race. The Bulldogs are looking for their 50th win of the season in their 67th and second to last game of the season, finishing off their regular season schedule in Erie on Easter Sunday.
It should be noted that Aidan Castle is about to enter his 67th game for the IceDogs this season, leaving Saturday Night's game in Barrie as the final step on the ladder for a perfect ironman season for playing all 68 games for the team. Brenden Sirizzotti going into his 72nd and Daniel Michaud going into his 67th games played were both acquired at the trade deadline, meaning that they had played extra games with Ottawa and Oshawa respectively before coming to Niagara.
LW: Danil Gushchin
C: Pano Fimis
RW: Aidan Castle
LD: Isaac Enright
RD: Dakota Betts
G: Josh Rosenzweig
On the 2nd shift of the game Danil Gushchin gets a good chance as he rips one off the crossbar. The rest of the first half of period one doesn't start the IceDogs way, as Winterton and Sherk get redirection goals in front of the net that Rosenzweig had no shot on either, giving the quick strike Bulldogs a 2-0 lead after a blink of an eye.
Gushchin gets a breakaway chance as the Bulldogs defender fell down in the neutral zone, tried to look for a pass and was indecisive on the shot which Drobac stopped as he stayed with Gushchin the whole time.
A bad turnover at the blue line causes a 2on0 that Roseznweig stops with a sprawled pad stop. OHL Save of the Night worthy early in the night.
Morrison is robbed by Rosenzweig but then on the rebound scramble Hayes is able to get it past a diving Rosenzweig who was still recovering from the last save to make it 3-0. Tough one to give up late in the period which the IceDogs have been notorious for doing many times this season. Shots 11-10 in favour of Hamilton.
A nice chance for Liam Van Loon early on in the period as he goes inside out on the Bulldogs defenseman but just shoots it overtop of the net. Pano Fimis takes the touch from Gushchin at the blue line and cuts in with speed but is stopped by Drobac once again. Waddick goes off for tripping giving the Bulldogs a powerplay opportunity, who sit 2nd place in the OHL with a 28.1% efficiency.
Danil Gushchin however has a shorthanded chance and rips one off the iron for the 2nd time in the game, leaving Niagara's leading goal scorer looking to the ceiling knowing he missed another great chance to turn the momentum in this game.
Dakota Betts draws a penalty with the Bulldogs on the powerplay leading to a 4on4 situation.
Pano Fimis takes the puck after the save by Rosenzweig, goes end to end and blows by both Hamilton d-men to go backhand and roof it for a goal of the night candidate to get the IceDogs on the board.
Niagara gets hemmed in their own zone for a good 2 minutes by the Bulldogs 2nd line, leading to a tired Niagara group taking a penalty. The Bulldogs would go back on the powerplay, but Niagara's penalty killers would do another solid job on one of the OHL's best powerplay units being held off the scoresheet in that regard so far in this game. Shots at the end of the 2nd period favour the IceDogs by a total of 22-21, but are still down by 2 goals going into the final period.
McTavish makes a pass out front of the net that takes a fortunate Bulldogs bounce off of Gavin White and past Rosenzweig to put Hamilton back up by 3 goals. A tough break for the road team from Niagara who have played a solid road game up to this point.
Daniel Michaud cuts to the net and is able to draw a slashing penalty as the stick is knocked out of his hands. IceDogs get their first full powerplay opportunity on the night. Gushchin is able to find Fimis on a cross crease pass but Drobac gets a pad out to stop #19 from getting his 2nd goal of the night. No dice on that powerplay.
A long stretch of play results in the mid-period break taking place with just 5:38 remaining in the final stanza.
Van Loon gets called for slashing giving the Bulldogs another powerplay opportunity. Niagara and Rosenzweig stand tall on the penalty kill, as they hold Hamilton to 0 for 3 on the night with the man advantage.
Liam Van Loon gets a chance in tight but is stopped, drawing a penalty for interference on Donovan.
IceDogs get a chance with the man advantage with a slim glimmer of hope down by 3 goals with just over
2 minutes remaining in regulation. The game ends in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the home team from Hamilton. Although, the IceDogs actually outshoot the Bulldogs 34-30 in a surprising turn of events.
The IceDogs unfortunately find themselves being shutout by the Bulldogs in the season series this year, going
0-8 in those games, with both teams in opposite ends of their process. The Bulldogs gain their 50th win of the season and look towards home ice advantage in the playoffs starting next week. The IceDogs will finish up their regular season on home ice Saturday night vs a Central Division rival in the Barrie Colts.
Josh Rosenzweig earns the 3rd star in tonight's game for Niagara, with many more spectacular saves to add to his highlight film this season.
Jersey House Player of the Game: #19 Pano Fimis (1 goal)
Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images