The IceDogs enter the weekend in the middle of a heated playoff race.
Coming off a disastrous weekend that saw them earn a big win over Mississauga then follow that up by losing to Ottawa and Kingston (being shutout in both losses).
Niagara is in a weird situation, they’ve traded away their longest tenured players and have lost a ton of players due to injuries, yet still find themselves in the playoffs as of now.
“Obviously we’re still finding our game with this group, special teams are a work in progress,” said Billy Burke.
Special teams are key to Niagara’s success, in their win against Mississauga they went 2-4 on the powerplay. In their losses, they went a combined 0-4.
This weekend they will need all facets of their game, including special teams because they have games against Ottawa, Barrie and Hamilton.
All three teams are ahead of Niagara in the conference standings, with Barrie only three points ahead of Niagara in their division.
The 67’s are the best team in the OHL, with an impressive 36-7-0 record and have already beaten the IceDogs twice this season.
The top-5 scorers on the 67’s all have over 60 points, with Marco Rossi at the top (28G, 53A, 81P) while Niagara’s leading scorer (the injured Ivan Lodnia) has 51 points.
Ottawa has only 114 goals against on the season, Niagara has given up 209.
The 67’s also blew out the IceDogs 6-0 on January 25th, Noel Hoefenmayer (2 goals) and Joseph Garreffa (1 goal, 3 assists) led the way for Ottawa.
If Niagara wants to rebound from that loss, they will have to play a near-perfect game on Thursday night.
Their goaltending and their execution on the powerplay will be key.
Niagara’s goalies face an average of 41.6 shots per game, with Ottawa’s high-powered offense it’s safe to assume that whoever starts in net will need to be the IceDogs’ best player on this night.
Arguably the most important game of the weekend for the IceDogs, the Colts sit three points ahead of Niagara in both the divisional and conference standings.
The last time the Colts came to Niagara the IceDogs came away with a big 4-3 shootout win giving Niagara a 2-1 lead in the season series.
Over the last two seasons, the IceDogs have had Barrie’s number, leading the season series 6-3 since 2018-19.
Heading into the weekend, the Colts are on a three-game winning streak and with a 4-5-1 record in their last 10.
While the IceDogs are on the opposite end of that spectrum, riding a two-game losing streak and a 2-8-0 record in their last 10 heading into the weekend.
These divisional games are crucial for the IceDogs, and despite the injury issues the team is facing, the game against the Colts is a game they have to win.
Saturday against the Bulldogs is another key game on the IceDogs schedule.
Heading into their fifth matchup of the season each team has won twice and lost twice.
The Bulldogs rank fourth in the Eastern Conference in goals for, while the IceDogs give up the third-most goals in the entire league.
Another game where goaltending will be key if the IceDogs want to win.
Hamilton’s Arthur Kaliyev sits fifth in the OHL with 71 points. Smart defensive play and a strong goaltending performance will be the big keys to a Niagara victory.
Heading into the weekend the Bulldogs sit four points ahead of Niagara in the Eastern Conference with 43 points.
As a team who is going through a transition and facing a slew of injuries, this weekend could be a key for Billy Burke’s team to find that new identity he talked about after the trade deadline.