The Niagara IceDogs (6-9-1) snapped their five-game losing streak on November 7 beating the Sarnia Sting (5-12-0) by a score of 6-3 at the Gatorade Garden City Complex.
Sad news was shared before the game as the IceDogs honoured local radio host for 97.7 HTZ-FM, “Iron” Mike Benson with a moment of silence, as he had passed away earlier in the day. The radio station has a strong relationship with the hockey team so it was a gloomy day for Niagara, who looked to win this game for Benson.
The game was filled with penalties and both teams had their fair amount of chances to score, however, the first scoring chance came on a strange play. Niagara goaltender Christopher Festarini (Timmins, Ont.) was almost fooled on a Sarnia dump-in as the Sarnia player faked a shot into the corner and instead shot it on goal. Festarini was just outside of his net assuming the puck would be in the corner and had to make a lucky toe save to stop the puck from crossing the line.
Midway through the first period, the Dogs and Sting both exchanged scoring chances but neither team could score. Finally, Niagara got on the board first as Ben Hughes (Barrie, Ont.) gave the 2,851 in attendance something to cheer about. Hughes’ goal came off a rebound with assists coming from Mitchell Fitzmorris (Ingersoll, Ont.) and Luke Mercer (Toronto, Ont.).
Sarnia almost tied the game just minutes later but a great defensive play by Niagara denied the scoring chance. The great defensive play was rewarded on the offensive side as Carter Verhaeghe (Waterdown, Ont.) gave the Dogs a two-goal lead.
Blake Siebenaler (Fort Wayne, IN) made a nice pass on a two-on-one to find Verhaeghe who one-timed the puck past Sarnia goaltender Brodie Barrick (Welland, Ont.).
Neither team would score for the rest of the period and after one period of play the score remained 2-0. Niagara was by far the better team in the period and it showed as they outshot the Sting 16-7 in the frame.
Sarnia received a slashing penalty at the end of the first period so the Dogs began the second period on the power-play. Niagara did not disappoint on the man-advantage and scored 34 seconds into the period. Verhaeghe tipped in his second goal of the night after a point shot by Mercer. The goal would be reviewed but it stood as Verhaeghe’s stick was under the crossbar.
On yet another power-play, Hughes scored his second goal of the night to make the score 4-0 for the Dogs. The game was getting out of control and Niagara was making it hard for Sarnia to create any offensive plays.
At 13:23 of the second period, Verhaeghe completed his hat trick as he sniped five-hole on Barrick. The crowd did not seem too aware that Verhaeghe completed the hat trick as only one fan threw his hat on the ice. Verhaeghe’s goal was his team leading 14th goal of the season, which is pretty impressive for playing just 18 games this season. Things were going so well for the Dogs on the night that even goaltender Festarini received an assist on the play.
With a 5-0 lead, the Dogs were well on their way to victory even though it was only the second period. Sarnia did not let the five-goal lead daunt them however, as they scored two quick goals to cut the deficit to three after two periods of play.
The third period was not as eventful as the previous periods as both teams exchanged goals and the final ended 6-3 for Niagara. Sarnia put up a fight until the very end as they outshot Niagara in the third period but was outshot 36-31 in total.
Niagara will play their next home game on Nov. 14 against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. at the Gatorade Garden City Complex.