The Niagara IceDogs host the Plymouth Whalers in an interconference match-up tonight in one of four games on the OHL schedule.
The IceDogs recently broke a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Kingston on February 23. They’ve gone 4-6-0-0 in their last ten games and sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Mississauga. The IceDogs are 27-29-2-2 on the year and have just 669 penalty minutes, second-lowest in the OHL.
Plymouth was on an eight-game winning streak before they suffered a 6-5 loss to Windsor on February 24. The team has won eight of its last ten games and is second in the Western Conference. The Whalers’ 246 goals for are the most in the league, and Plymouth has already clinched a playoff spot.
Leading the way for Niagara is center Ryan Strome. Strome, a New York Islanders prospect, has 83 points in 48 games this season and leads the IceDogs in assists (52) and points. Right winger Brett Ritchie leads the team with 33 goals on the year, while center Steven Shipley has 29 goals and 31 assists for 60 points on the year.
Top among IceDogs defensemen is former Niagara blueliner Dougie Hamilton, who is no longer with the team as he has joined the NHL’s Boston Bruins since the lockout ended. Taking his spot as one of the top blueliners is Jesse Graham, another New York Islanders prospect. Graham has 31 points (3-28) in 60 games this season.
Center Vincent Trocheck leads the Whalers with 91 points total on the season. That includes 50 points (24-26) in 35 games with Saginaw prior to joining Plymouth. With the Whalers, he has 41 points (18-23) in 20 games.
Left winger Ryan Hartman has 23 goals and 34 assists for 57 points in 51 games, while right winger Tom Wilson has 55 points in 44 games. Gianluca Curcuruto leads Whalers defensemen with 40 points in 59 games.
Whalers netminder Matt Mahalak is 11th in the OHL with a 3.00 GAA, while Niagara’s Chris Festarini is right behind him with a 3.12. The goaltenders are tied in save percentage, each carrying a .902. Festarini, however, has appeared in 49 games, while Mahalak has appeared in 44 on the year.
Tonight’s game is the second and final meeting of the two teams; they last faced each other on October 6 in Plymouth, a game that saw the Whalers take a 6-3 victory.
Stefan Noesen scored a pair of goals, while Cody Payne, Garrett Meurs, Matthew Mistele and Alex Aleardi added goals. Riley Corbin had 27 saves in the win. For Niagara, goals came from Ryan Strome, Carter Verhaeghe and Dougie Hamilton, while netminder Brent Moran stopped 29 of 34 shots faced.
After tonight’s game, Niagara has just seven games remaining in the regular season. They’ll begin the month of March with a pair of games this weekend, visiting Belleville on Saturday before hosting Windsor on Sunday.
The Whalers also have seven games remaining on the schedule after this evening’s matchup, beginning with a Friday visit to Erie followed by a Sunday trip to Mississauga.