Sure is more fun writing about a team that is winning now. The 2013-1014 IceDogs, one of the youngest teams in the league started out playing, well, like one of the youngest teams in the league. Errors of youth, inconsistent goaltending, goal scoring from too few sources left the IceDogs and their supporters using the much dreaded term "Tank Nation" .
My colour colour commentator Ed Burkholder remarked that it usually takes young players until Christmas to start to get acclimatized to the league. The pace of the game and the strength of the players are things a rookie player is not used to. That has rung true for the IceDogs. They began their hot streak in mid December with a successful road weekend versus Kingston and Belleville, and can boast victories over Windsor, London, Kingston (again) and a first ever victory in Plymouth. In their last 11 games the IceDogs fashioned a 7-2-0-2 record, with regulation losses against Owen Sound, which was a post Christmas 6-2 turkey by the IceDogs, and a 4-2 loss to highly ranked Guelph in a game in which the IceDogs held a decisive shots on goal advantage.
Last nights game was fun from a broadcasting perspective. Kingston, though injury ravaged, is one of the top three teams in the conference. The IceDogs jumped on the Fronts early, building a 2-0 first period lead and expanded it as high as 6-1 before coasting to a 6-3 W. While the Fronts were missing #1 Central Scouting ranked Sam Bennett, the IceDogs were without highly touted forward Brendan Perlini, top D Man Aaron Haydon, and useful two way forward Jordan Maletta. Plus, they lost G Brent Moran early in the game with an upper body injury.
The Dogs are now tied for 7th in the conference with Mississauga with two games in hands and the development of 1st year players like Alex Mikulovich, and Graham Knott has been a pleasure. With six players ranked by Central Scouting and two more draft eligibles having solid years in Anthony DiFruscia and Jordan Maletta, good times are ahead for the rest of this year and the inaugural season in the Meridian Centre.
WHAT TO DO WITH JACK GATECLIFFE AND REX STIMERS ARENA
An article written in the St Catharines Standard indicated a councillor was pushing for the legendary building to close as soon as possible. So much for nostalgia! The creaky building costs a fair amount of money to run and has had some issues with maintenance, not uncommon for a vintage building that pre-dates World War 2. One plan that has been floated is for the IceDogs to play exhibition games at the Jack before moving across the road to the Meridian Centre. Others it seems just want put an abandoned sign on the front door and can't get out fast enough! Time will tell as the spring and summer approaches. Maybe the final say should go to North Bay boss Stan Butler, who I'd hazard to say is not a fan of the building and may commandeer his own wrecking ball to start the process.
THE REST OF THE WEEKEND
Road tests for the IceDogs this weekend come in the form of the Barrie Colts, a place where the IceDogs got handed an 8-2 thrashing earlier this year and have yet to beat, and the North Bay Battalion. Though there is separation in the standings you cannot ignore four pointers as the push for the playoffs. The next air time for us will be Thursday January 23rd vs Mississauga and Saturday January 25th vs Ottawa. Both games are at 7pm and are available in HD for those in the Niagara region.
Till next time!