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Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Assorted opinions and ramblings from the past week in the OHL.


-- So Mark Visentin fulfilled every goalies secret dream in that he scored a goal last night, and it was a legitimate goal that he scored himself, not one he just got credit for.  The interesting thing about Mark Visentin is that he almost scored a goal earlier in the year in a game at London, but missed the net costing his team an icing in a one goal game.  The star goaltender was a bit sheepish after that one his goal attempt exploits were reduced to if the IceDogs had a two goal advantage.   Puck handling is the strongest aspect of Visentin's all round excellent game, and it comes as little surprise to ardent IceDog followers that Visentin scored a goal. 

--Sports fans sure are a curious bunch though.  On the TSN article on Visentins goal the comments section made the usual foolish and unfounded comments about Visentin's World Junior play and somehow comments about Dougie Hamilton not being as good as Jake Gardiner.  Clearly Leaf fans are desperate for something to talk about

--More Visentin.  The Star produced a decent, all be it, short AP account of the Visentin's goal, but clearly proof-reading the picture was not in order as it was accompanied by a shot of Olivier Roy, and a bad one at that.  The article is here

--We had the night off on Friday as Sportsnet covered Game 1 of the Ice Dogs/67's series.   It sure was interesting watching the game from the stands, but still found myself calling the game in my mind.  Kudos to Sportsnet for actually fitting their giant production truck in a tiny space, but it also cost the 67's who had to move their bus to the street where one bright shining St Catharines star chose to give the bus a ticket for illegal parking.  Interesting that a lot of fans do not seem to care for the constant time outs by the major networks.  You have to remember that advertising helps pay the bills, and I bet you coaches love the timeouts as it gives them a chance to rest key personnel. 

-- Marc Zanetti is a good, hard-nosed player whose OHL career will likely end as a result of a momentary brain cramp.   The Ottawa D man gave IceDog Tom Kuhnhackl a boot to the face while he was on the ground during Game 1.  While the kick did not cause an injury, it was a shockingly momentary lapse in judgement.  I will choose to remember the player who was a leader on his team and a 30 minute a night defensemen rather than the one moment that many will chose to define him with. 

--Damien Cox, who analyzed the kick on Sportsnet, chose to rub it in a little more when he tweeted (and I paraphrase) on whether or not Zanetti was glad that his kick was caught on the Friday Night Game of the Week.  However, to twist the knife in a bit after the incident, in my opinion,  was not a wise choice by Cox, who rarely has a good thing to say about anything

-- In the spirit of full disclosure, I will readily admit I have been in a minor dispute with Damien Cox.It was so minor that he likely has forgotten about it.   He actually blocked me on Twitter.  After Cox used his twitter feed to relentlessly pound on Don Cherry and the CBC, I chose to lob a couple of soft-ball chiding comments his way, he blocked me. I'm a big fan of the CBC, and of Hockey Night in Canada, so I took a little umbrage to his needling shots at the Corporation and Don Cherry  Guess he can dish it out but.....

We will have Game Five of the IceDogs/67's series live Friday Night at 7pm on TV Cogeco and the OHL Action Pack

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Prediction time again after a rather pedestrian 2/4 effort last round.  I was on track for a perfect round until those dastardly Ottawa 67's stormed back from 3-1 down against an embattled Barrie Colts team and those plucky Kitchener Rangers came back from 3-2 down to upend the favoured Plymouth Whalers.  I had Barrie in 6 and Plymouth in 7 in my original predictions.  I also picked Niagara to win in six and pegged the London/Saginaw series bang on.


This is more of a celebration of the excellent play of the Ice Dogs rather than a condemnation of the Ottawa 67's.  Ottawa has had to work hard for their series wins, beating Belleville in 6 tough games and carried to the limit by an undermanned Barrie Colts team.  Despite the fact Ottawa is in the conference final, there is a feeling that Ottawa has not played their best hockey to this point.  They will need it against the Ice Dogs, a team gathering momentum as the playoffs go on.   The Ice Dogs have been chameleon like in that they adapt to the game that their opposition plays.   They matched the aggression of the Oshawa Generals and won in six and then usurped the tight checking Battalion in a four game sweep.  The Ice Dogs have no weaknesses in their lineup from roster members 1 through 20.  Ottawa will need to be at their best to beat Niagara, and while the games will be hotly contested, the Ice Dogs will prevail.


Kitchener showed a lot of intestinal fortitude in coming back against Plymouth last series.   This was a very close checking series for the most part until the offences broke through towards the latter stages.  To win a game 7 on the road against a favoured opponent speaks heavily the character and will of the your team. Kitchener has that, plus a boat load of talent anchored by John Gibson, a great goalie.   London also showed a lot of heart as they were down 2-1 to Saginaw before reeling off three straight wins to close out the series.  London has set the pace the whole season long in the Western Conference a boast an enviable talent level.  Kitchener, this year, just seems to have that X factor though.


--TV Cogeco will step aside for Game 1 of the Ottawa series so the big boys from Sportsnet can invade the Jack.  Make no mistake about it, broadcasters are competitors too and it's sort of like having someone come into your living room, grab the remote, kiss your wife and put your slippers on.  That said, I'm happy that the Ice Dog players are getting the national exposure they so richly deserve

-- The Ice Dogs will have had an eight day layoff by the time the puck drop in Games 1.  While conventional thinking is that the Ice Dogs might be rusty, a break at this juncture of the season is gold to heal up those bumps and bruises that accumulate over a long season

--Good for Greg Gilbert of Saginaw in winning the Coach of the Year.  He really turned the fortunes of the team around, but the fact that the award did not go to Dale Hawerchuck is shocking.  Barrie was awful last year, the three seed in the conference this year.  Do not underestimate the difficulty that a coach has in instilling a winning attitude in his team

--Congrats to Andrew Agozzino, a deserving winner of OA of the Year in the OHL.  It sure will be strange not to see #9 in an Ice Dogs uniform next year.

--The rough stuff that has plagued the NHL during the 1st round of the playoffs has not trickled down to the OHL yet.  The hockey has been rough and aggressive at times, but not to the level that the NHL has.

--It was a finish for the ages in the Barrie/Ottawa series wasn't it?  Ottawa scores with :25 left to take a 3-2 lead and then Barrie scores the tying goal with :09 left and then Remy Giftopoulos scores on a harmless shot to win it!  Drama to the extreme...

We will have game two of the Ottawa/Niagara series live on TV Cogeco at 2pm Sunday.

Steve Clark

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


After two close checking games between Brampton and Niagara, the teams opened it up a little bit and after spotting Brampton a 2-0 lead, the Ice Dogs roared back for a 6-3 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.  Freddie Hamilton paced the Ice Dogs with a hat-trick and a five point evening, Tom Kuhnhackl added a pair while Alex Frisen potted a short-handed marker.  Ryan Strome dished out four assists in the win, while Mark Visentin won his 5th consecutive play-off start, matching the record he set during last years play-off run.   Matt MacLeod, Philip Lane (SH) and Zach Bell responded for the Battalion.

Highlights are HERE

Game 4 goes on Thursday in Brampton with a potential game 5 back in Niagara on Saturday evening.


--Philip Lane levelled Alex Friesen with a pretty obvious elbow to the head in the 2nd period and got 5 minutes for head checking and a game misconduct.  Supplemental discipline on this one is possible, though one mitigating factor is that Friesen would return to the game

--The Ice Dogs have now won 7 consecutive playoff games versus the Battalion

--Up until last night, Freddie Hamilton had one goal in 12 games, factoring the latter part of the regular season. Tom Kuhnhackl was on seven game goalless drought until his two goal performance

--The support the Ice Dogs are getting on the road is reminiscent of the first year when a large contingent of vocal supporters would often match the home crowd in volume and enthusiasm

--The song written exclusively for the Ice Dogs by local musician Angela Siracusa is getting mixed reviews.   The song is certainly catchy, though hardily intimidating to opposing teams and fans.   Still, on a cross-marketing platform it is a solid promotion of the Ice Dog brand. Check the song out here

-- All other series are at 2-1.  Saginaw leading London 2-1 is likely the biggest surprise, but an undermanned Barrie team has a 2-1 lead on Ottawa after a 5-2 win last night.  Barrie is missing Stephen Beyers, Ryan O'Connor, Zach Hall and Tanner Pearson, four very key contributors yet they gutted out a 2OT win vs Ottawa to knot the series before last nights win

--Congrats to all the young men that the Ice Dogs drafted on Saturday.  The future indeed looks bright for the Ice Dogs.  Why the OHL chose to hold the draft 3 weeks earlier with eight teams immersed in the playoffs is beyond my comprehension

-- Very quietly Sherry Bassin finalized his two year extension with the Tullio Centre in Erie.  It's not exactly a long-term endorsement of the area, but it buys him time until he knows how the renovations of the arena turn out.   The Otters drafting of Connor McDavid is sure to put some backsides in the seats in Erie

--Good for Sam Carrick, who finalized his 3 year entry level deal with the Leafs last week.  Carrick, who potted 37 goals during the regular season is a leader, and unafraid to mix it up.  He's exactly the type of player the Blue and White need

--Had a chance to listen to the Kitchener Rangers radio broadcast on Sunday.  Don Cameron, who is in his mid 70's, has a voice I could listen to all day long.  He's the OHL's Vin Scully.  Mike Farwell, former TV play by play broadcaster is solid on colour commentary.  Both are very nice guys to boot!

See you at the rink

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


And then there eight.... No first round series went seven games, but there sure were some entertaining six game series, along with some excitement, surprises and controversy abound. Oh yes there were some Melrose Place like moments for sure.  I went 7/8, picking Ottawa/ Belleville and Saginaw/Sarnia bang on, while misfiring badly on the Sudbury/Brampton series as I had Sudbury in six.  The other series I picked correctly but was off on the number of games it would take.   

Round 2 awaits, and without further ado...


Niagara had one heck heck of a battle with Oshawa in the first round.  Most pundits would agree that Oshawa was sort of like a wolf in sheep's clothing, and not a true indicator of a #8 seed.  The Ice Dogs in the end were full value for their series victory, but the Generals gave them all they could handle and then some.  Brampton had a surprisingly easy 1st round as they dusted off Sudbury in four straight.    Niagara beat Brampton 4-2 in the season series, and were 3-0 vs Brampton at home.  However, Brampton were one of the few teams to shutout Niagara during the season, winning 3-0.   That game became something of a epiphany for the Ice Dogs as Marty Williamson ripped his team in the press after the game and the Ice Dogs were much better for it down the stretch.  Brampton was right in the thick of things with Niagara for the division crown until the team went 1-7 during Stan Butler's suspension.  Brampton will have to play their usual composed and rigid two way game to best the Ice Dogs.  In the end the Ice Dogs depth and home ice advantage will prevail.  Niagara had players get at least two goals in all six games of the Oshawa series and scored 30 goals over the course of the six game series.  I'd rate the defenses one through six pretty close, give a slight edge to the Ice Dogs in net and a more decided advantage to the Ice Dogs up front.  

I really like this Barrie team.  They were very hot down the stretch and got pushed to the limit by a very, very game Mississauga squad in round one before prevailing in six games.  Despite not having Tanner Pearson up front, they still have Mark Scheifle, Colin Behenna returned from suspension and provided a boost, Anthony Camara is a good power forward while stalwarts such as Ivan Telegin and Daniel Erlich provide good offensive depth.  Mattias Niederberger was also very good in goal in the 1st round .  Ottawa really got pushed in round one by Belleville, who like Oshawa were a team that ran hot and cold during portions of the season.  Lots of offensive depth is featured on Oshawa in Tyler Toffoli, Shane Prince,  and Sean Monahan.  Future 1st round pick Cody Ceci anchors a solid back end while Petr Mrazek is a tried and true playoff veteran.  This pick is no disrespect to Ottawa. I just like Barrie's overall game and the momentum they have been building through the playoffs. 


I was very impressed with Saginaw's six game victory over a Sarnia team loaded with talent.  The Spirit, who were challenged just to make the playoffs at one point in the season are a team that is peaking at the right time.  Unfortunately the London Knights have maintained a superior level of consistency all season long and have a line up brimming with talent, not limited to Michael Houser, Jared Tinordi, Greg McKegg, Jared Knight, Seth Griffith, Vladimir Namestnikov.  Saginaw also did not play well vs London during the regular season, including losses of 8-0 and 6-0.  Take the Knights and their depth in this one. 

Arguably the best match up in terms of goaltenders with Plymouth's Scott Wedgewood and Kitchener's John Gibson.   Plymouth got a real eye opener in the first round as they spotted Guelph a 2-0 series lead before roaring back to take four straight in a series that had its share of controversy featuring an accusatory finger being pointed at the Whalers for their alleged embellishment of certain infractions.  Kitchener survived a rough and tumble 1st series vs a battling Owen Sound Attack team. Plymouth is a lot of people's pick to go to the final and might just have hit their stride.  Kitchener though has been very good and it would surprise me if a Game 7 went their way. This one is a bit of a pick 'em. 

Steve Clark

Monday, April 2, 2012


You can be of two minds with the Ice Dogs six game elimination of the Oshawa Generals, depending on whether or not you view your cup as half-full or half-empty.  The glass half-full theory will say that it is good that the Ice Dogs got their mettle tested in the first round as it will steel them for the rest of what hopefully is a lengthy play-off run.  They will also point to a decided shots on goal advantage forged by the Dogs in order to demonstrate Niagara's obvious superiority.  The glass half-empty fan will stew over the fact that the Ice Dogs could have and should have dispatched the Generals in four straight, particularly after dominant performances in Game 1 and Game 2. 

Make no mistake about it, the Ice Dogs are supremely deep, confident and skilled team.  They can run four lines that each bring something special to the table.  In fact in each of the six games in the Oshawa series the Dogs had a player get at least two goals.  Alex Friesen had a hat-trick in Game 1, Steven Shipley got two goals in Games 2 and 4.  Ryan Strome got two goals in Games 3 and 5, while David Pacan scored a pair in Game 6.  That is some serious offensive depth!  They have three potential number one D men in Dougie Hamilton,  Jamie Oleksiak and Brock Beukeboom and they have rock-solid goaltending,  helmed by Mark Visentin.  That said, the Ice Dogs, like all teams have a few flaws and the Generals were able to expose some of them and achieve success.  Oshawa's ability to go East -West on the Ice Dogs through the skating of Lucas Lessio or when they made quick passes in the Ice Dogs zone netted them some goals.  Going North-South against the Ice Dogs proved to be futile.  The Ice Dogs controlled the neutral zone for the most part and counter attack and transition effortlessly.  

The next round is expected to begin in Niagara on Friday evening with three potential opponents in play in the Belleville Bulls, Mississauga St-Michaels Majors or the Brampton Battalion. 





Definitely a thumbs in the middle show for me,stolen by Undertaker's match vs HHH in Hell in a Cell.  The low point was a pointless :18 squash by Seamus over Daniel Bryan that put a bad taste in my mouth at the beginning of the PPV, and never fully left.   The problem with the Hell in a Cell match is that it had everything, and because it happened in the middle of the show left all the other matches lacking in the fierce drama HHH/Undertaker provided.  Rock and Cena worked hard, but at 31 minutes was too long and attempts to build drama and suspense actually came across as a bit boring at times.   Jericho/Punk delivered a great match, but on the hells of the Hell in the Cell seemed to suffer a bit by comparison.   Cody Rhodes/Big Show and Kane/Randy Orton were matches we could have seen on Monday Night Raw any week of the year and the less said about Team Johnny vs Team Teddy and the Diva's match the better.   Dreadful  moments of the show were Brodus Clay's appearance and a sinful shilling of The Deadliest Catch that wasted Mick Foley's talents.  Foley is running the risk of being a comedic punchline and a sell out if he keeps doing this silly stuff.   There seemed to be some buzz in Miami about surprise appearances by Brock Lesner and/or Batista.  Neither of those materialized.   One positive is that the 78 000 + in attendance carried their end of the bargain and showed a great amount of emotion which is sometimes hard to sense in an open air stadium. 

Steve Clark