• Brandon Caputo

Littlejohn goes Big in a Night of 1st's at Meridian Centre

By: Brandon Caputo

(@Caputz13_AGM)

Photo Credit: niagaraicedogs.net


After a strong weekend on home ice against Oshawa & Sudbury, the IceDogs were looking to bounce back after an 8-2 loss on Family Day Monday in Oshawa. Niagara turns to another 3-game weekend that won't be easy, as the Top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference stand in their path.


Starting with tonight's Central Division matchup against the North Bay Battalion (28-15-3-3),

the IceDogs (13-27-2-1) currently sit last place in the Eastern Conference and 10 points back of Sudbury for the final playoff spot. Niagara's inactive list continues to grow as goaltender Josh Rosenzweig, forward Declan Waddick, and defenseman Rodwin Dionicio have all been added. To add to that, forward Brice Cookie is awaiting a suspension and is out of the lineup after receiving a 5-minute checking to the head penalty on Monday vs Oshawa.


Forwards Pano Fimis and Cam Peters continue to be out with injuries, along with forward Liam Van Loon who continues to serve his 10-game suspension. In total, the IceDogs are without 7 players for tonight's matchup.


As as result, the IceDogs have called up 2 players who will both be in the lineup.

Defenseman Lucas Littlejohn of the OJHL’s Pickering Panthers (2020 OHL Draft, 12th round pick) who has 3 goals & 13 assists this season. As well as forward Tanner Ryan of the GOJHL’s Welland Jr. Canadians (IceDogs affiliate) who has 7 goals & 11 assists this season.


The opponent tonight also are missing a few players in D Tnais Mathurin, F Liam Arnsby, and mostly notably leading scorer Brandon Coe. The San Jose Sharks prospect is in concussion protocol but hopes to be back in the lineup for North Bay later in the weekend. North Bay will surely miss him as he has 30 goals and 48 assists for 78 points in 47 games played this season.


STARTING LINEUP:

LW Juan Copeland

C Daniel Michaud

RW Brendan Sirizzotti

D Landon Cato

D Isaac Enright

G Joey Costanzo


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1st Period


Danil Gushchin comes down the LW and rips one high glove on DiVincentiis to make it 1-0 IceDogs less than 5 minutes into the game, getting the Meridian Centre crowd up and going early on. The San Jose Sharks draft pick gets his 30th goal of the season, which is far and away the most on the team.


Mitchell Russell comes down a few minutes later on the opposite side and rips one short side glove on Costanzo to tie the game at 1-1. IceDogs get a powerplay late into the 1st Period but it solved nothing.

Aidan Castle had a partial breakaway with just over 3 minutes left but just pushed the puck wide on the backhand. North Bay comes right down afterwards and the man who took the previous penalty Kyle McDonald rips one glove side once again on Costanzo to make it 2-1 in favour of the Battalion.


Both teams took some time to get adjusted to their new make lineups, but the pace picked up in the ladder quarter of the period. Danil Gushchin, to no ones surprise was the most dangerous player on the ice whenever he had the puck, trying to make things happen with a very young lineup. Shots after the 1st period were 15-7 in favour of the visiting Battalion.


2nd Period


With about 7 minutes gone in the period, an uncharacteristic turnover from Battalion d-man Ty Nelson results in Brendan Sirizzotti taking the puck from his own blue line with speed creating a 2on1 chance the other way. Sirizzotti is able to find rookie Juan Copeland on that chance for a tap-in to tie the game at 2-2.


A feel good moment comes halfway through the period as Danil Gushchin is able to find the aformentioned rookie Lucas Littlejohn playing in his 1st Career OHL game who taps in the cross crease pass for his 1st Career OHL goal. A great moment for the OJHL Pickering Panther defenseman, which gives Niagara a 3-2 lead.


A turnover in the IceDogs end gives Mitchell Russell a high danger scoring chance, but its snagged by Costanzo to keep Niagara in the lead. The shots after the period are 32-13 in favour of North Bay despite being down by a goal heading to the final period.


3rd Period


A quick strike early in the period as 6'3 rookie forward Dylan Roobroeck is able to wrist one top shelf blocker past DiVincentiis to make it 4-2 IceDogs. A big blocked shot by rookie defenseman Alec Leonard keeps Niagara in the lead.


A night to remember continues for Lucas Littlejohn as he is able to get open in space and pot his 2nd goal of the night in his 1st career OHL game. Defenseman Sami Douglas-Najem also records his 1st career point on the play. Quite a night of 1st's for the young IceDogs squad. Danil Gushchin with another good pass to find the rookie for his 2nd goal of the night and his point streak is now up to 16 games and counting.


North Bay gets a Powerplay with just over 7 minutes remaining in the 3rd period but the IceDogs penalty killers stand tall for most of it, including Dakota Betts with a great pokecheck as Mitchell Russell was cutting in for a partial break looking for his 2nd goal of the game. With 12 seconds remaining in the penalty, a scramble bewside the net squirts out to Kyle Jackson who banks it in off the diving Niagara defenders to cut the IceDogs lead to 5-3.


Danil Gushchin was able to chase down the loose puck with under 10 seconds to go in the game and shovel it into the empty net as he falls to the ice. 6-3 final in favour of the IceDogs sending the fans home happy (and with a last minute cheeseburger goal) from the Meridian Centre. Final shots 48-19 in favour of North Bay, which was not reflective on the scoresheet. IceDogs rookie goaltender Joey Costanzo stops 45 of 48 shots against in the win. The announced attendance was 2795, which is a sellout for the 50% capacity limit.


Jersey House Player of the Game:

Danil Gushchin (2 goals, 2 assists)


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