Star turn for new IceDog
It took them 32 minutes to find their groove, but when they did the Niagara IceDogs showed what they’re capable of in a 6-3 win over the Kingston Frontenacs Friday night in front of another sellout crowd at Meridian Centre in St. Catharines.
Akil Thomas notched a hat trick, and four points, while newly acquired Matt Brassard chipped in with three assists as the IceDogs improved to 14-3-3 on home ice this season.
“I thought we were better than the scored indicated for a lot of the game,” Niagara head coach Billy Burke said. “Give them (Frontenacs) credit. They’re young, they’re hungry, they never quit and they can be tough to play against.
“So I thought we had some great O-zone time (offensive), and kept going and kept going and eventually we had a feeling the dam was going to break.”
Brassard, a 2017 seventh-round draft selection of the Vancouver Canucks, assisted on two of Thomas’s three goals, and two tallies on the power play.
Burke compares the 6-foot-3, 207-pound blueliner to former Niagara captain Ryan Mantha.
“A right shot, he’s a little Mantha 2.0 in that sense,” Burke said. “I know he was a little sick yesterday (Thursday’s overtime loss against Guelph), so it’s tough for him coming in after not practising.
“I thought today was more of the guy we’ve seen the last couple of years, the guy we wanted to go out and get. He played great, it was great to see.
“Having a guy like that is very important.”
Brassard was pleased with his second game in an IceDogs uniform.
“When I first got here, I had some sort of flu and was throwing up all day, so I wasn’t 100 per cent for the game yesterday, but I was feeling way better today and felt I played a much better game and we got the win,” said the 20-yearold Barrie native.
Brassard is hoping to become a vocal leader once he settles in with a team that now features nine NHL drafted players.
“I like to think of myself as leading by example, and a vocal guy,” the former Oshawa General explained. “I know once I get more comfortable around these guys, and get to know them a little more I’ll become more of a vocal guy, but right now I think I have to lead by example.”
Brassard now has eight goals and 30 points on the season as the Canucks were quick to message him upon his trade to Niagara.
“They just said it’s a great opportunity for me, coming to a team that’s ready to compete for a championship,” he said. “The message from Vancouver was ‘Try to help these guys win a championship,’ and I’m sure it’s going to help me too with their organization to hopefully try and get a contract.”
The IceDogs actually trailed this game 1-0 and 2-1 before reeling off four straight goals in a 20-minute span from the middle of the second period to halfway through the third.
Jake McGrath, acquired in a trade with Sudbury, made 23 stops in his Niagara debut Friday as Stephen Dhillon was given the night off. Christian Sbragalia served as McGrath’s backup.
Thomas completed the hat trick into an empty net at the 19:45 mark of the third period.
The IceDogs visited the Sudbury Wolves Sunday and will host the Hamilton Bulldogs
Thursday. Game time at Meridian Centre is 7 p.m.
’Dog Biscuits: Stephen Dhillon, Ivan Lodnia, Mason Howard and Jake Uberti were scratched for the IceDogs … Uberti was honoured as the Dogs’ Academic Player of the Month for December before the game. The Niagara rookie is maintaining an 86 per cent average in Grade 11 at Governor Simcoe Secondary School.