by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)
The Niagara IceDogs have become a powerhouse under Marty Williamson as they head into the Hershey Centre and take on a Mississauga Steelheads team that has survived and remain highly competitive when the majority of people said they would fall down the standings. Entering the game the IceDogs are one point ahead of the Steelheads in the Central division standings and the two teams sit 3rd and 4th in the conference.
Niagara quickly got on the offensive, peppering shots on Spencer Martin and scoring early. A point shot by Jesse Graham gets tipped and slows down allowing Carter Verharghe to take the puck and score to make it 1 nothing, 70 seconds into the game. Niagara would continue to pin the Steelheads in their zone and make it impossible for puck possession or even a chance for Mississauga to clear the puck. Half way through the first period Mitchell Theoret would make it a 2-0 lead on a pass from Ryan Strome. A minute later Brett Ritchie would bank a puck in off of Martin to increase the lead to 3. Niagara would continue pressing and before the period ended Steven Shipley would make it 4-0.
In the second, Niagara would continue to pressure but not as effective as they were in the 1st period. After Strome got called for a holding penalty, the Steelheads power play struck as Dylan Smoskowitz scored his 19th of the season and get Mississauga on the board. The sloppy second period play would continue and the Steelheads would continue to struggle with puck possession. At the end of the second Niagara put 43 shots on Martin while Brent Moran only faced 15 shots.
The third would be where the Steelheads would come alive, firing 16 shots on net. Trevor Carrick would cut the Niagara lead in half as a deflection would beat the Niagara net minder. Six minutes later Kristoff Kontos would shoot on net and another deflection would find the back of the net., making it a 1 goal game. Niagara would strike again on the power play as Theoret would score his second of the game and make it 5-3. Not even 30 seconds later, Smoskowtiz would get his second of the game and make it a one goal game yet again. The IceDogs would hold off and add an empty net goal to make it a 6-4 final. Spencer Martin would make 50 saves in the loss.
The first year forward is a winger is strong on the boards and speedy on the wing. He doesn’t freely cross into the middle of the ice, he prefers to play off the boards but will go into crash the net when the puck is down low. Good speed and strength and knows how to use his outside speed to gain position.
A goalie who plays as big as his size. Rarely backs into his crease as he plays a the top of the crease. Moran is always up right and as square to the shooter as possible. He shows very little panic and shows mental toughness after ‘garbage’ goals that frustrate goaltenders. Can really hold his posts and controls his rebounds and pads down low. Moving side to side he may need some more strength as he does open up his five hole briefly that skilled forwards can capitalize on.
Really keeps his position in tact, seldom chasing the puck, good lateral mobility and an active stick. Likes to be aggressive and physical. Can really throw a big hit in open ice and along the boards. Good at trapping the opposition or removing them from the puck. His general footspeed is lacking but compensates with his defensive awareness and not playing outside his ‘limitations’.