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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oshawa v Niagara Series Thoughts

Visually Game 3 of the IceDogs/Generals series made for spectacular TV with a number of game stories entering the game, and even more after the game.   Artistically, this was not exactly Rembrandt on ice.   Bottom line is that there is some real animosity between these two teams, and the IceDogs showed the necessary push back to get back into the series.  Here are a few random thoughts...

Scores 2 goals, and gets 20 stitches and still only gets 2nd star. Go figure!.     That, to me, is a definitive statement on the leadership of the IceDogs as no one would have begrudged Shipley had he not returned.  Warrior is an understatement. 

Boosted by noise makers, the drum corps and a whole whack of loyal fans, the old building rocked on its foundations at time and was the loudest that I can remember it.  Even though Oshawa is a veteran team, you could see that some were rattled at the atmosphere and the IceDogs fed off of it.   Kudos to the IceDog fans. 

Already a game story as IceDog fans revel in making Lucas Lessio public enemy number one, Lessio took centre stage for his over the top taunting celebration of a goal, that wrongly as it turned out, was waved off for a phantom contacting of the puck with a high stick.  Lessio then took a slew of penalties and had his night end early as he picked up a questionable interference call and then a 10 minute misconduct.   Lessio was on the short end of a few calls, but no IceDog fan will extend any sympathy to him.  He was still visibly upset at the disallowed goal call after the game. 

pro's pro.  Laughton has been the best player on either team in the playoffs.  Easy to see why he is a first round pick and a future NHL'er.  Even when he scored to make the game 4-2, there was no discernible reaction as he knew there was work to be done.

MalettaDiFrusciaPerlini and Verhaeghe have been equally as effective as the big three of StromeShipley and Ritchie, and that is a good thing.  Add in Aaron Haydon's return to the lineup from a broken jaw and they are a large reason that this a series very much in doubt. 

In Game 3 Festarini outplayed Altshuller, and the IceDog net minder looked very composed, remarkable considering the wave of players that the Gens sent to the net.  Altshuller has played well in spurts, but has not looked completely comfortable in the net so far for Oshawa. 

Interesting choice by Coach DJ Smith to send McGuire, Dundas and Hunter Smith out for the last face-off.  Gamesmanship has been an issue with both teams this series.   The spillover to Game 4 will be interesting to say the least. 

See you at the rink!
Steve Clark

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


With visions of three NCAA brackets and the OHL playoffs dancing in my head, the prognostication cap is on.  Keep in mind my track record for predictions of any sort have been lamentable to say the least. 

I was the guy who stocked up on supplies least Y2J destroyed all that we held valuable and was the one who bought into the Mayan prediction of the end of the world.   Caveat aside, lets have a gander at the OHL playoffs..

London vs Saginaw:  Saginaw played well down the stretch to overtake Windsor and claim the last spot, and they did it while trading Vincent Trocheck, their best player.  This is where they will miss him the most.  Too much depth for London for the Spirit to handle.  Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Seth Griffith, Olli Maata head a long list of players who anchored the Memorial Cup run last year.  

London in 5

Plymouth vs Sarnia:  Plymouth was just ridiculous down the stretch, winning something like 20 out of their last 24 and looking like a juggernaut doing it.  Adding the aforementioned Trocheck may have been the final piece of a strong lineup already boasting the likes of Tom Wilson, and a core defense, that while unspectacular, is experienced having played upwards of 200 games together.  Sarnia has a lot of flash and dash on offense led by Charlie Sarault and 60 goal sniper Reid Boucher.   JP Anderson provides good goaltending but the defense will find it difficult to handle Plymouth's forwards

Plymouth in 5

Owen Sound vs Sault Ste Marie: Owen Sound is like that big mean dog that you want to avoid when you walk home.  They are deep, skilled and aggressive and when I saw them play vs Sarnia on Friday I moved back several rows when Daniel Zweep came on the ice!  The key is whether or not they can stay out of the penalty box.  If they do, they should win relatively easily.  If they do not the Soo could stretch this series.  

Owen Sound in 6

Guelph v Kitchener: The first pick 'em of the playoffs.  Guelph had a fine year and has a very capable Garrett Sparks to duel John Gibson in net.   That said, I don't think we have seen the best of Kitchener this year as they were ravaged by injuries and also had a lot of players go to the World Jr's.  Both teams are very evenly matched and I can see this one going seven games.  In fact, that is what my prediction is. 

Someone in 7.....ok, ok, I will go with Guelph

Belleville vs Mississauga:  Mississauga backed into the playoffs with so much force, you could literally hear the beep, beep of the big  truck (Thanks to The League for providing the original joke).   The Steelheads lost 9 of their last 10 and needed a win over Ottawa and help to get in.   They have some nice individual talent in Riley Brace and Dylan Smoskowitz, but the Bulls have Subban's a plenty as well as some nice depth at forward fortified by the likes of Tyler Graovac.  

Belleville in 4

Barrie vs Kingston:  Another team that needed a lot of help to get into the playoffs was Kingston.  They too needed to pick at the Ottawa 67's carcass to qualify for the playoffs.  Bigger things were expected of this team, but they floundered badly down the stretch.  Barrie has too much depth on offense with Scheifle, Camara, and Hall.  Plus the defense led by Ekblad, Ryan O'Connor and Alex Lepkowski should help dispatch of the Fronts early. 

Barrie in 4

Oshawa v Niagara:  This match up adds a level of intrigue as Niagara knocked out Oshawa the last two years in the playoffs. Last years first round was a rollicking affair in which the Gens completely completely capitulated the first two games before responding with two straight victories and a healthy scare for the supposedly dominant IceDogs.   Lots of players from that Oshawa were part of the last two losses, and I do not think they want to see a hat-trick of eliminations at the hands of the IceDogs.   Niagara had a great start and then got depleted by the World Jr's and NHL camps.  They still have Strome, Ritchie and Shipley, but they are banged up and going against the likes of Jenner, Lessio, Laughton, Petgrave, and Biggs.   How close the series will be determined by the discipline, or lack thereof, by Oshawa. 

Sorry IceDog Fans...Gens in 6.....but Lucas Lessio will get booed lustily 

Brampton v Sudbury: Aaah yes, the series that blew my bracket last year.  Who could have predicted that the Battalion would sweep the Wolves?  Not this guy!  The Wolves were sellers at the deadline, and then played better.  The Battallion were fairly consistent over the course of the year with one ugly stat as they lost 9 games in OT or the Shootout.  That's ok though because Sudbury lost 12 in that manner.   The systems coaching of Stan Butler and the goaltending of Matej Machovsky will ensure that the Brampton name will live on for another round at least. 

Brampton in 6

For the record, I am picking Plymouth to win the whole thing as they were the best team I saw all year, granted that the sample size was small. 

See you at the rink
Steve Clark

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I am not exactly the most creative marketing guru that fell off, well, whatever truck marketing guru's fall off of.  If you take a look at any of the ways that I brand myself, its pretty standard fare.   I usually rotate one of two photos of myself in the wonderful, dynamic and creative pose of trying to look thoughtful and intelligent with a microphone in front of me. 
My Photo

Not exactly the most innovative picture.  Nobody is calling me a Steve Jobs visionary or a 2013 Renaissance Man.  However, I will opine that it is time for the IceDogs to tweak their current logo, and maybe change up the dynamic a little bit.  They may choose to do it next year, but certainly when the new arena opens in 2014 a fresh look and new uniform goes without saying. 

Now, as I say this, I say this with the caveat that I actually like the current IceDogs logo and colour scheme. The red and black is bold and the "IceDog" markets itself quite effectively to children, and does it without being cartoon-like.  It certainly was an improvement over the Mississauga IceDogs logo: 

In fact, I own many, many pieces of IceDogs  merchandise, be it t-shirts, golf-shirts, or hats.  My wife has IceDogs  merchandise, and so does my 21 month old toddler.  However, six years is a a substantial amount of time to have one logo in an era of third uniforms and creative changes to a sports brand on a yearly basis.    The IceDogs have had a couple of different styles to their uniform, in particular when they have done their Pink in the Rink game, and it has worked.    It does not have to a grand overhaul, just some changes.  As OHL teams come through the Gatorade Garden City Complex, I am stuck by some of the effective subtleties to uniforms, whether it is added piping, taking away piping, cream coloured uniforms, changes from the standard black to something more reflective of team colours.  There is a lot that can be done without doing something radical like the Mississauga Steelheads did when they changed from the Majors, and the Steelheads took a calculated risk which paid off as their uniforms look quite sharp.  

I would add a red third uniform into the mix, and change the front logo to something like a little more old school, maybe encircled or something like that.  The IceDogs have sold t-shirts with that sort of branding last year for the playoffs, and it was a tremendous success.   

Here it is:  

This is likely not breaking news to the IceDog staff.  No one is going to rush into an emergency staff meeting because the TV guy thinks he's Ralph Lauren.   I would guess that something might be in the works in the not so distant future, if not next year, then the year after.  

Sports branding almost demands a different look.  It's what makes the cash registers ring, or I guess the modern analogy is the debit machines swipe.  

Just don't do this...don't ever do anything remotely close to this eyesore. Not even Ryan Strome, Jesse Graham or Mitchell Theoret could look good in this disaster :-)

Steve Clark
Self-Proclaimed Fashion Guru
IceDogs TV Play by Play