The Niagara IceDogs wrapped up their regular season atop the central division and have officially finished in second place in the OHL’s Eastern Conference after posting a 44-17-7 record. They will take on the seventh seeded North Bay Battalion in the first round of postseason action.
On March 14, the IceDogs played their last home game of the regular season against the Mississauga Steelheads, which they won by a score of 4-2. The IceDogs then completed a road trip on Mar. 16 and 17 when they faced the Barrie Colts and the Battalion. Niagara won 7-4 and 8-3, respectively. These wins extended their win streak to six games to close out the season, tying their second longest streak of the year.
The IceDogs are entering postseason play on a roll and their top guns have continued to fire at their best all the way through. IceDogs captain Ben Jones and Akil Thomas both recorded their 100th points of the season in their victory over Barrie. This was a special milestone for both players and the IceDogs organization as they were just the fourth and fifth players to ever do so in the history of the team. The IceDogs’ Jason Robertson also eclipsed the 100 point mark but he did so with 24 games being played with the Kingston Frontenacs this season. Jones, Thomas and Robertson make up a three-headed monster that is unmatched by any in the OHL as the three players are among an exclusive group of just nine that have produced 100 or more points this season.
The good news continued to roll in as it was announced by Los Angeles Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, that they had officially signed Thomas to a three-year entry-level contract with the team. Thomas was originally selected by the Kings with the 51st overall pick in the 2018 draft.
As for what lies ahead in the playoffs for the IceDogs, they are set to face the 30-33-5 North Bay Battalion. In the season series between the two teams Niagara has a 4-1-1 record, winning the three most recent games. Overall, the goal differential across the six games between the two teams was 31-18 in favour of the IceDogs. Robertson finished the regular season with an OHL leading 117 point in 62 games but the IceDogs are going to be forced to concern themselves with Battalion captain Justin Brazeau, who recorded the second most points in the league with 113 in 68 games. Brazeau is an interesting case as his dominance has come out of nowhere. The six-foot-six 21 year-old had gone undrafted, but due to his performance this season will be a sought after commodity by NHL clubs because of his size and skill. Aside from Brazeau, the IceDogs don’t face a true threat when considering the Battalion. The IceDogs are far more deep as a squad and should be considered heavy favourites in this matchup.
Niagara IceDogs (#2)
Power Play — 28.1 % (2nd)
Penalty Kill — 77.1 (14th)
Goals Against Average — 3.07 (3rd)
Goals Per Game — 4.79 (1st)
North Bay Battalion (#7)
Power Play — 24.2% (6th)
Penalty Kill — 77.6 (11th)
Goals Against Average — 4.13 (15th)
Goals Per Game — 3.38 (14th)
All season the IceDogs front office, coaching staff and players have made it clear that their intentions were to capture an OHL championship in pursuit of a Memorial Cup. They certainly look the part of contenders and will have their first opportunity to progress towards that goal when game one of the best-of-seven series against the Battalion takes place on Mar. 21 at the Meridian Centre.