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Old 03-29-2010, 10:06 AM
clark17 clark17 is offline
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Default What a fun ride by Chuck Lafleur

The Niagara Icedogs season came to an end on Sunday, March 28th in Ottawa in a 5-1 loss to the 67's. A depleted Niagara lineup left everything on the ice, but in the end, Ottawa won the series 4 games to 1 to move on to the Eastern Conference semi finals. I was trying to find the right words to describe what it was like seeing this season come to an end, and although it's perhaps not the best literary description, all I could think of at the end of the game was .......THIS SUCKS!
The first Icedogs team two year's ago was a star-studded lineup that was expected to win, last year's squad still had some big time star power in the lineup, but this year's team was a much younger, more inexperienced group than either of the previous two. It's not like they were just trying to break in 2 or 3 rookies like the first year, this team had 4, count em' ,4 rookies on defense , 4 more freshmen up front and a rookie backup goalie.Add in 7 second year players, and it was a veritable kiddie corps. The returning cast for next year's looks rock solid, and some will no doubt have breakthrough season's in 2010-2011.
The end of a season means the end of the Junior careers for 3 Icedogs, Reggie Traccitto , Marco Insam and Josh Moes. We've watched Traccitto develop from a grinding winger into the top goal scoring defenseman in the OHL in a span of two years, and he's found a home on the blueline. I'll miss seeing his parents around the rink too, just great, great people. Insam , I believe, has a fine career ahead of him playing pro overseas, where can can forge a very comfortable living, and as for Moes, it was very sad indeed that he was injured in the first period and was not able to finish his last game in Junior. Moes was an excellent pickup in October of '09 by the Icedogs, providing a strong veteran presence both on and off the ice.With the season now complete, he can focus on his performances for the next season of Canadian Idol......
Moes was a real leader on this hockey team, and speaking of leadership, what about Andrew Agozzino and Alex Friesen, 2 third year players on the team....Friesen enjoyed an outstanding season for Niagara, I'd put him right up there with the best centremen in the laegue right now, let alone next season, and Aggy to me exemplifies what a captain is. It's no coincidence that the team turned it around when Agozzino was given the 'C' on his jersey. He's a role model for any kid in minor hockey to aspire to be like.
And how about the Hamilton brothers? Freddie develpoed into a bona fide NHL prospect this year and will be a cornerstone of this franchise for the next couple of seasons.And Dougie on the blueline....are you kidding me? A rookie who's that good in any situation? He's going to be scary good from here on in......
On the topic of franchsie players....Mark Visentin will be the best goalie in Junior hockey next season, bar none. His develpoment this year was astounding, he's extremely dedicated to his craft, and some NHL team will be drafting a future stud netminder in June. His backup, John Chartrand, exhibited tremendous potential when given the opportunity, so the Icedogs probably will have the best goaltending tandem in the OHL for the next couple of years.
On defense, it was fun watching free agent Matt Petgrave step into the lineup for Niagara.He has a year under his belt now and will only get better. You can't teach the heart this young man has.He's fearless, skates like the wind and as you're well aware if you've listened to our radio broadcasts this year, is the best open ice bodychecker in the "O'. Simon Gronvaldt was a nice pickup from Barrie in the Petro trade and also has a full year under his belt,Keith Maisonville is another individual who will back down from no one and plays with the heart of a lion, while Mike Schwindt combined with Petgrave to form a very good shutdown pair on defense for Niagara. The pride and future mayor of Mount Forest is going to be an invaluable member of this team going forward.I think "Schwindter" is one of the most underated defenseman in the league, but if you watch him night in and night out, you get to appreciate what he brings to the table.I know the coaches do.
Up front, you also look at players like Ryan Strome for the future. This young man is a gem, plain and simple. A wizard with the puck, I expect "Stromer" to be among the best playmaykers in the league in a very short while, his hockey smarts and creativity are that good.. Another reason to cheer for him....his whole family are Leaf fans!!!
And what about Johnson Andrews? He finished the season very strong for the Icedogs and unfortunately, like Moes, was injured in the last game in Ottawa. Andrews is the prototypical power winger, he's shown in the past several weeks he can score at this level, he's a big physical presence who scares opponents (right, 67's?) and I predict a big things for the winger . I think Andrews will be a dominant player for Niagara next my books, he's an "untouchable" for this franchise.
Andrew Shaw remains one of the top heavywieghts in the OHL, and although he didn't drop the gloves as often this season as last year, he didn't have to. Who'd want to fight him? Shaw was able to develop other parts of his game this season, and is a guy you love to have on your team, not play against.
Dylan MacEachern received some long overdue recognition this year for his contributions to the club. He was given an "A" on his jersey and was another of the veterans the young guys looked up to. He's forged a very nice OHL career for himself, the only member of the Niagara Icedogs to have played with the team when it was based out of Mississauga, and at this point, is the only potential overager for next year on the Icedogs roster.
Michael Hasson is another player who can really help a team. He has a tireless work ethic and a great attitude, and can chip in offensively as well. And that ain't no bull ! (His dad Gary's in the bull business...breeder, not fighter)
Then there's the three rookie wingers.....Andrew Fristch, mark my words, will score at least 30 goals a season in this league. Great hands, special talent.Mitch Theoret and Matt Baldassarra surprised many by making the team out of training camp. They are going to be a tough duo to play against down the road. Both showed a propensity to drop the gloves with anyone in the league in their rookie seasons, Baldassarra taking on all comers and Theoret...I still chuckle when I remember him challenging Windsor captain Harry Young on February 6th in Niagara.Young is a veteran heavyweight but did that bother Theoret? Not at all.
These players made our job fun. I don't know how many times I'd be pre-recording an interview with one of the players when several of his teamates would come over and try to crack him up. These guys kept it loose and had a blast off the ice, but on the ice, they were all business.This was as tight knit a group of players as you'll ever see in hockey.
The coaching staff of the Icedogs should be given a lot of credit for the team's performance since Christmas. As a fan, you like to see players develop, and every one of the Icedogs did this season. So kudos to Mike McCourt, Randy Ladoucer, Frank Girhiny , Billy Burke and goalie coach Ben Vanderklok on a job well done.
G.M. Dave Brown has assembled some very big pieces to the puzzle already, with more key pieces to a future powerhouse team about to be added at the May OHL draft.
Thanks to Bill and Denise Burke for having the Icedogs here in Niagara.They care equally deeply about the team, the players, staff and the fans.
And speaking of the fans, It's going to be tough for the next while not going to the rink and seeing familiar faces and shooting the breeze about the team. We have the most loyal, loud, dedicated fan base in the league.
We see a lot of parents on the various road trips. Have a great summer folks, it truly has been a pleasure meeting you, even the two who ended up in the snorkling outfits on the 'guys only' trip to Sault Ste. Marie!!!
Anyone associated with the Icedogs, over the course of a long season, becomes almost like family. From the ushers (my wife was almost in tears when I got home from Ottawa (A) -because the Icedogs had lost and (B)-she wouldn't have the whole "game day" experience again for a few months) to the off-ice officials, to our media brethren, and anyone else you see at the rink, are all there not to get rich, but because we love doing it.And that's the hard part, saying goodbye for the summer.But hey, if my calculations are correct, training camp starts in 146 days.........................
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Old 03-29-2010, 10:52 AM
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Awesome article! Thank you!
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Old 03-29-2010, 12:04 PM
conchar conchar is offline
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Thanks for a great article Chuck...we will all really miss the Ice Dog experience and I am sure that many of us have our calendars marked off already for the start of training camp etc. We have to keep this team going so hopefully we get news of a new arena being approved shortly.
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Old 03-29-2010, 01:42 PM
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Thanks Chuck for a great article and a great season with the Dogs! We are counting down the days until we are all sitting in the Jack watching the 2010-2011 Ice Dogs play their first game of the season!
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