Niagara IceDogs spoil Connor McDavid’s OHL Debut
(Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
By: Matthew Burnside (@MattbTHG)
Although the NHL lockout has occurred, hockey never stops. The OHL season premiere began with a matchup between the new look Erie Otters and the Niagara IceDogs.
Featuring last night’s game was Erie’s rookie star centre Connor McDavid. 15-year-old Connor McDavid was awarded exceptional status allowing him to enter the OHL a year early. This marks the second year straight in which the OHL has allowed a player to enter the league early previously being Barrie Colts defensemen Aaron Ekblad. McDavid dominated Minor Midget playing with the Toronto Marlboros 96’ team acquiring 209 points in 88 games.
The IceDogs took part in a pregame banner ceremony to honour last season’s accomplishments (winners of both the Central Division & Bobby Orr trophy). Taking part in the pregame festivities were former IceDogs players Andrew Aggozino, Freddie Hamilton, Alex Friesen and Mark Visentin.
The game started with a bang as Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton welcomed McDavid to the league by absolutely leveling him with a clean open ice check. Erie opened the scoring at 8:02 with a PP goal scored by Connor Crisp on a tipped shot from Troy Donnay. Anyone who remembers Connor Crisp would recall last’s year match up between these two teams in which the forward played as an emergency back up goaltender in the 13-4 debacle in Niagara last season. Steven Shipley tied it up on a PP from Ryan Strome & Dougie Hamilton at 13:57. Nick Betz replied making it 2-1 on a rebound off a Travis Wood shot to end the first period. The Ice Dogs followed up with 3 unanswered goals scored by David Sysala, Anthony DiFruscia & Joel Wigle to complete the comeback to take it 4-2.
Making OHL debuts for the Otters were Connor McDavid, Oscar Dansk, Artem Kuleshov, Kyle Pettit and Hayden Hodgson. Also newly acquired JP Labardo from the Oshawa Generals. While Anthony DiFruscia, Ondrej Kopta & David Sysala made their debuts with Niagara.
McDavid wowed the crowd with exceptional puck skills, vision, poise and speed. McDavid centered the first line with forwards Connor Brown and Stephen Harper who definitely displayed signs of chemistry. They were held pointless due to strong defensive play from Dougie Hamilton and Islanders prospect Jesse Graham. What’s most impressive about the young stud is his offensive creativity in the neutral and offensive zone. Columbus prospect Oscar Dansk backstopped 26 of 30 shots in the loss. Solid games from Otters new Captain Connor Brown and 2013 NHL draft eligibles Stephen Harper, Nick Betz and Jake Evans.
Anthony DiFruscia Niagara’s second round pick in 2011 joined with the IceDogs this off season, after compleplation of pursuing the NCAA route. DiFruscia had a solid game playing with returning IceDogs forwards, Dallas prospect Brett Ritchie and Isles prospect Ryan Strome. Anthony scored his first OHL goal in his first OHL game, receiving 1st star of the game honours in front of his close family and friends. IceDog returnee Brett Ritchie (awarded Hardest worker of the game).
The Ontario Hockey League continues today with 8 games, Niagara and Erie both involved in a back to back as Erie heads to London while Niagara plays in Brampton.