by Dwayne Williams (@Notsoheavyd)
The Western Conference’s #4 London Knights came into St. Catharines with a bolstered lineup and an impressive 9 game winning streak Without putting the necessary grit to their game, they were outperformed by the young Dogs squad on this night by a score of 4-1.
Niagara came out flying in the first and sent the Knights to the first intermission with a scoreless match and a 17-4 shots on goal differential. Niagara had the lions share of the scoring chances but couldn’t put any past the Knights’ tender Stolarz.
In the second frame, the Icedog’s top line worked the puck around the offensive zone and were able to set up DiFruscia for his 14th goal of the season. Ming added to the Dogs’ lead with some gritty work for his 11th marker this year. Shortly after that Zadorov was set up from his defensive partner when he fired a slick rising wrist shot to beat goaltender Brent Moran. The ‘dagger’ on this night happened as the period was winding down. Niagara was on the powerplay when newly acquired Billy Jenkins walked out from behind the net and spun around to put the puck on net. Stolarz made the original save, but the puck squirted into the air and fell behind him to give Niagara a 3-1 lead heading into the final frame.
The third period was chippier – 8 penalties were called – with both squads having good chances on their powerplays, but with nothing to show for their work. The lone goal of the period happened when the Knights were being pressured on a breakout from their defensive end. There was a miscue at their blueline that Hayden was able to keep in the zone – pushed along to Verhaege and then onto to Perlini for his fifteenth goal of the campaign.
Assistant Coach Joey Burke said ‘We regard them as the top team in the league – well respected franchise. For our guys to go to toe to toe with this big team with a handful of first round nhl draft picks. … it certainly looks great for our future.‘ The Dogs are on the road for games in Sudbury and then Sault Ste Marie – often a challenging trip in the best of weather. Burke said that ‘the road trip just got a little bit shorter.‘
Jordan Maletta was in tough against Tierney and Horvat in the faceoff circle tonight. He held his own (50%) and played very responsible defensively. He was thrilled with the team effort tonight ‘Last few games we’ve given up leads in the third – so we were really happy to finish this one off. This win give us lots of confidence going in to the road trip. ‘
With the win tonight and Belleville’s loss, the Dogs creep up to the #9 spot in the conference with a slim 2 point margin.
My three stars -
#3 Billy Jenkins – solid offensive play and good on ice vision.
#2 Graham Knott – won 4/5 faceoffs in the pivotal second period
#1 Brent Moran – fabulous bounce back game saving 27/28 shots