There was not much suspense in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League – Golden Horseshoe Conference – quarter-finals, but that will likely change in the semi-finals which begin tonight on two fronts.
Three of the four teams in the semis advanced with four-game sweeps in their opening round playoff series.
The top seeded Niagara Falls Canucks swept Lockport, second ranked St. Catharines toppled Welland in four straight games, while number three Hamilton got by Fort Erie in four as well.
How many people can honestly say they knew the first Canadian ever to win a Cy Young award has a connection to St. Catharines?
Ferguson Jenkin’s Foundation is alive and well, and is indeed located in the Garden City.
The 76-year old Chatham, Ontario native now calls Arizona home, but recently told the Niagara Sports Report on 610 CKTB how the foundation formed in St. Catharines.
Fifty-five years and counting.
Although not officially declared, the Merritton Athletic Association/Wissahickon Skating Club hockey exchange is the longest tenured exchange in North America if not the world.
What begin in 1964 has become an annual event every February featuring two teams from both organizations – in the peewee and bantam age group – travelling to each other’s home rinks and playing a weekend of hockey which features an exhibition game, championship game, banquet and all the life lessons and friendships one can imagine.
His resume speaks for itself.
And Monday night, fittingly on a basketball court, Ken Murray was inducted into the Ontario Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Brock Badgers legend was officially recognized at centre court Monday night at Scotiabank Arena when the Toronto Raptors hosted the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s one thing to come to a new country and visit, but it’s a whole other level when you move to Canada to play hockey and everything that comes with that.
New food. New culture. Billets. New teammates.
The list goes on and on.
Enter Swiss native, and Niagara IceDogs forward, Kyen Sopa.
When one of the top names in the history of Canada Basketball endorses you, you know the Niagara River Lions made the right choice in naming Victor Raso as their new Head Coach and General Manager earlier this week.
“He’s been around the game his entire life, and this is the next step,” said Canadian national team head coach and current NBA – Charlotte Hornets – assistant coach Jay Triano.
“He has the attitude of a coach and isn’t afraid to keep learning.”
If there was any doubt about the Niagara IceDogs intentions this season, they were put to bed this week.
The IceDogs acquired two more National Hockey League drafted players giving them a total of nine on their 21-man roster.
General Manager Joey Burke’s latest deal involved a trade with Oshawa Generals.
The Niagara IceDogs are well represented at the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship.
No fewer than three IceDogs were named to their respective countries teams.
Forward Jason Robertson is playing for Team USA, defenseman Daniel Bukac for the Czech Republic, while Kyen Sopa did make the Swiss team but was sent back to Niagara after sustaining a minor injury during training camp.
Niagara IceDogs entered the holiday break as one of the hottest teams in the Ontario Hockey League.
The IceDogs picked up 15 of a possible 16 points over their last eight games to close out the unofficial first half of the season sporting a (20-7-5) overall record in the OHL Eastern Conference standings.
And they did that without icing a complete line-up for the majority of their first 32 games.
In fact, only five Niagara players have suited up for every game thus far this season.
“Yes, we’re very happy where we are at,” said IceDogs head coach Billy Burke. “We have dealt with adversity and injuries all year and to finish with 20 wins and only seven regulation losses is a great accomplishment.”
It was the best Christmas present a hockey player could receive.
A call saying “you made the team.”
And not just any team, but Team Canada.
That was the case for 18-year old Shailynn Snow of the Ridley College Tigers Prep Girls hockey team earlier this week.
“Once I hung up the phone after hearing from the Team Canada assistant coach (Courtney Kessel) all my emotions escaped and I started crying and couldn’t stop,” Snow said.
The Niagara IceDogs have made no bones about it – the 2018-19 season is a go-for-it year.
That was the message since day one of training camp, and it was solidified last week as IceDogs general manager Joey Burke pulled off a huge trade with the Kingston Frontenacs.
Burke dealt sophomore defenceman Billy Constantinou and second year forward Ian Martin, along with 11 draft picks, to the Frontenacs for a pair of 19-year olds in winger Jason Robertson and blue liner Jacob Paquette.
As the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) season approaches the midway mark, it’s become quite clear that the Golden Horseshoe Conference could come down to two local teams.
Both the Niagara Falls Canucks and St. Catharines Falcons are beginning to separate from the rest of the pack in the eight-team division.
The Canucks began the week as the top team with an (18-2-1) record and 37 points, with the Falcons nipping at their heels just six points behind with two games in hand at (15-3-1) at 35.
Seventeen games into their 2018-19 campaign is exactly the quarter-pole for the Niagara IceDogs and their 68 game Ontario Hockey League schedule.
And sitting at (10-5-2-0) – good for first place in the OHL Central Division standings and second overall in the Eastern Conference – head coach Billy Burke is happy with where his team is situated.
Burke is especially pleased, and pleasantly surprised, with three young blueliners, including a pair of rookies who had to step up their games when Liam Ham, Drew Hunter and Elijah Roberts missed a total of 34 man games to injury.
One has to wonder what kind of attention John Chayka would receive if he was working in a larger market, or for a team that’s been around for longer than 22 years.
Many think Toronto Maple Leafs’ 32-year old General Manager Kyle Dubas is the youngest GM in the National Hockey League.
Raise your hand if you knew the youngest general manager in the history of the NHL works for the Arizona Coyotes, and more importantly hails from Jordan, Ontario.
The Niagara IceDogs were the fifth ranked major junior team in the country to start the season, and despite a hiccup in Peterborough last Thursday night have lived up to the early hype in the Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference standings.
The IceDogs sit at (3-1) on the season after picking up four of a possible six points this past weekend.
Thursday in Peterborough, Niagara jumped out to a 2-1 first period lead but was shutout the rest of the way.
Quick hockey trivia question.
Name a league with just eight teams, that features a Stanley Cup Champion and two former first round National Hockey League picks as head coaches?
The answer – the Golden Horseshoe Junior B hockey league that consists of six teams from right here in the Niagara Region.
St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Welland, Fort Erie, Thorold and Pelham are the six teams that hail from Niagara, while Hamilton and Lockport, NY round out the eight-team league.
There’s an adage – look good, feel better.
That saying definitely rings true for the Niagara IceDogs hockey club, thanks in large part to two individuals who spend countless hours making sure the IceDog players feel good, and look even better.
Pete Dobbin has been with the Ontario Hockey League franchise for 11 seasons as Athletic Therapist, while Nick Hornby is entering his third season as Equipment Manager.
“My typical day starts with a morning workout with the older boys (players),” said Dobbin a 44-year old Niagara Falls native who has also worked with Baseball Canada in the same capacity.
The Niagara IceDogs felt lucky that Lleyton Moore was still available when it was time to make their first round selection at the 2018 Ontario Hockey League Priority draft back in April.
A few months later the 12th pick overall is making the most of his first OHL training camp, and more importantly making the Niagara brass happy they selected the former Toronto Marlboro minor midget player.
Moore had a fantastic opening week of training camp, and donned an IceDogs jersey for the first time last Friday night in Thorold in a pre-season game against Barrie.
“It was a great experience, and just a surreal moment,” said the 16-year old, 5’8, 165-pound defenceman.
“Being a part of the IceDogs organization is amazing, and playing my first exhibition game was just a great feeling for me and my family. It was an exciting moment.”
You won’t find too many OHL coaches with the experience of Jody Hull.
And now the sixteen-year NHL veteran, and former first round pick of the Hartford Whalers is bringing that experience to the Niagara IceDogs.
Hull, a 49-year old Petrolia, Ontario native was recently named Associate Coach of the IceDogs, taking over from the departing Ted Dent who accepted a scouting position with the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes.
The Niagara IceDogs are one of just two Ontario Hockey League franchises to make the playoffs every year over the past 11 seasons.
Not an easy accomplishment for a team that arrived in St. Catharines from Mississauga back in 2007.
Since then, only the London Knights can claim to have the same success as the IceDogs.
He’s still jet-lagged, but Joe Fletcher wouldn’t change his part-time job for anything.
The Niagara Falls native just returned from Russia and the 2018 World Cup where he had the opportunity to work nine games – three on the field – and six in the video room.
It was Fletcher’s second consecutive World Cup appearance after refereeing in Brazil in 2014.
For the third straight year the Toronto Maple Leafs are using the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls as part of their training camp.
In 2016 the Leafs held their development camp in the Honeymoon City, while last year their main training camp was in the Falls.
This year, once again, their main camp will consist of three days of on-ice and off-ice events in Niagara Falls.
A new chapter in Niagara College athletics began this week as Welland native Michele O’Keefe returned home to take over the role as Associate Director of Athletics and Recreation.
The former President and CEO of Canada Basketball returns to the Rose City after working in the sport of basketball on and off for 24 years.
Akil Thomas is a darn good player. This past weekend he became a stronger person off the ice.
The projected, all season long, first round NHL pick had to sit through 50 picks before his name was finally called Saturday morning in Dallas, Texas, site of the 2018 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
By the end of this week Akil Thomas’ life could change.
The 18-year old Niagara IceDogs forward, and Brandon Florida native, will be drafted to the National Hockey League.
The only question – what round and what team will take the talented player that’s called Niagara home for the past two hockey seasons?
There’s a local connection – in fact two of them – at this week’s FIBA U-18 Americas Championship basketball tournament at Meridian Centre in St. Catharines.
The Bediako brothers, who both play for the Ridley College Tigers Prep Team, are suiting up for Team Canada.
Jaden, 17, is a 6-foot-11 centre, while younger brother Charles, who just turned 16, is a 6-foot-9 centre/forward.
Both brothers grew up in Brampton before making the trip down the QEW to join the Tigers.
The Niagara Region continues to grow its sporting landscape. Look no further than the past three years when the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines has landed national or international events including the 2016 IIHF U-18 Women’s World Hockey Championships, the 2017 Canadian Women’s Curling Championships (Scott Tournament of Hearts) and now the 2018 U-18 […]
Sixteen years old, and drafted to the OHL.
Might sound great to some, but what’s lost is your leaving home. You’re off to a new school. New friends. New teammates. All part of the process that many often forget.
And what about the parents? They’re entrusting a new billet family with ultimately their son’s future.
How many people across Niagara know the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame is located in St. Catharines? Or that the St. Catharines Jr. A Athletics have been around since 1877?
Don’t worry you’re not alone.
The Jr. A Athletics lacrosse club is one of the oldest sporting traditions in all of Canada.
The in-arena setup is second to none. The atmosphere is electric. Most importantly, the quality of basketball is on par with any professional team across North America.
The Niagara River Lions are in their third year of existence, playing out of the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines, as part of the National Basketball League of Canada.
If the regular season was any indication, the Niagara Ice Dogs would be the favorites heading into their second-round playoff series against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Unfortunately, most in the world of sports know the regular season means nothing when it comes to the post-season – especially in hockey.
The Ice Dogs entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference standings but won five of six games against the top-ranked Bulldogs during the regular season.
As the Niagara IceDogs get to set to embark on yet another playoff run – their eleventh straight since arriving in St. Catharines – head coach Billy Burke feels his team doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
Entering play on Friday the IceDogs hold down fourth place in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) Eastern Conference Standings, and will likely play the Oshawa Generals in the first round of the playoffs.
“Regardless if we get home ice or not, I still think a lot of people will see us as underdogs,” Burke, the first year Niagara head coach, said.
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