March 24, 2009

Niagara Takes the Lead: Niagara 5 Ottawa 3

Ottawa hasn't won a game in this barn all season and looked to change that with today's game. The goofy playoff schedule has the series with three consecutive games in St. Catharines. With the loss on Friday, Ottawa has effectively lost the home ice advantage that they worked so hard for all season so Ottawa has to win one of these three games.

The opening ceremony was dedicated to Cpl. Tyler Crooks who was among the 4 soldiers who recently died in Afghanistan.

Forward Combos:
Cowick, Couture, Nigro,
Lindsay, Kiriakou, Toffoli
Blunden, Martindale, Nesbitt
Hanes, Smith, Carnevale

Demers, Gibbons,
Birkhoff, Paryzek,
Hartwick, Zanetti

Goal: Perugini

Scratches: Schinkelshoek, Sonnenburg, Anderson, Cuma (knee)

As in the previous two games, it was Niagara that scored first. This time it was on a power play with Mark Anthony Zanetti in the penalty box for checking to the head of Andrew Shaw. Perugini was screened as Friesen's shot went short side.

Jeremy Smith made some good saves on Ottawa's first power play and his inspired team went up two goals on a heads-up play when Insam picked up the puck that Hartwick lost in his skates while in the slot.

Niagara had the momentum in their barn and it didn't look good for Ottawa when Niagara scored their third goal in the first period. It looked worse when Ottawa went on the PP in the final minute and change in the first. It was pretty awful; hardly what you would expect from the team with the second best PP in the league during the regular season.

Adam Courchaine started the second period. Perugini gave up 3 goals on 13 shots.

Ottawa started with 27 seconds left on their hapless power play from the end of the first period. The big question was how Ottawa was going to come back after what Logan Couture said was their worst period of the series. Well, if the PP was any indication, the second period was not going to be much different than the first.

The penalty against Toffoli was totally bogus. The Niagara player still had the puck. But perhaps 4-on-4 is better for Ottawa as just seconds in, Thomas Kirakou put Ottawa on the scoreboard when he slide one under Smith. Smith was trying to make a case for interference but nobody bought it.

The game finally opened up in the second period and both goalies made some good saves but Ottawa was unable get another one past TFG (see Random Thoughts). It got chippy too.

And it got worse when Ottawa had to defend a 2-man disadvantage for a 1:23 (or so). Adam Courchaine made some serious saves and Kiriakou without a stick made some heroic moves to keep the Dogs from scoring on the 2-man advantage but with just 11 seconds left in the second penalty, Alex Pietrangelo's shot was deflected past Courchaine to put the Dogs up 4 - 1.

Ottawa came out stronger in the third period and Ryan Martindale scored his first playoff goal to cut the lead in half, but it wasn't enough to make up for the first period. The IceDogs took control and shut the door on any come back by Ottawa. The nail in the coffin was the 5th goal with less than 5 minutes left to play.

Schiestel's dirty hit from behind on Couture late in a game that they already had in hand was just - well - dirty. Tyler Toffoli scored Ottawa's only PPG in the final minute of the game to make it 5 - 3 but that's all she wrote.

Three Stars as selected by the Team1200:
1. Alex Friesen (goal and 2 assists)
2. Marco Insam (2 goals and an assist)
3. Adam Courchaine (26 saves on 28 shots in two periods)

Hardest Working 67 as selected by the Team1200: Thomas Kiriakou

Random Thoughts:
  • Goal tending may be the difference in this series. And a very strong forecheck on a small ice surface.
  • Niagara really moved the puck well on their power plays. They kept the defenders moving a lot.
  • Kiriakou, as usual, had a strong game. Seemed he was everywhere including some great back checking to avoid a SHG in the third.
  • Jeremy Smith has the fainting goat thing down cold. He fell over like a stone when Nigro simply looked at him. That won't go over well in the majors (if he makes it). He is now anointed as TFG (The Fainting Goat).
  • Pietrangelo mixing it up with rookie Birkhoff. Tsk!
  • The officiating stunk. Parks is not among my favourite officials. Not that I have any favs but for some reason, it's easy to note when he is officiating. And the linesman completely missed the offside on the 5th goal.
  • Hamilton's headshot on Hartwick should be reviewed by the league.
  • The Ottawa PP went cold.
  • The IceDogs have apparently attended the Corey Perry Summer School of Diving. A+ students.

Well, now that the 67s have that out of their system, I expect them to adjust to the smaller ice and make it a series starting on Thursday.

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