Niagara IceDogs enter New Year at the halfway point of OHL season

The Niagara IceDogs, led by coach Ben Boudreau, reflect on a challenging season marked by injuries but show promise as they gear up for the 2024 NHL Draft. Photo credit: Meridian Centre

The Niagara IceDogs began their unofficial second half of the season Thursday night in Owen Sound.

St. Catharines native Ben Boudreau officially took over the team on November 10, but was never afforded the opportunity to play with an almost full, healthy, lineup until earlier this month.

Entering play Thursday, Boudreau and the IceDogs (8-19-5) had their most successful month of play registering four wins in 10 games, including two victories in their final three contests before the Christmas break.

“When I did take over we did see a slew, and a rash, of injuries where our lineup was getting depleted every single night,” explained Boudreau recently on the Niagara Sports Report on Newstalk 610 CKTB.

“As for on-ice results, it was difficult right out of the get-go dealing with a mishmash of a lineup every night, but as we started to get healthier we started to win a few more games.”

Boudreau has been impressed with his team’s resiliency, and is happy with the team’s make-up in the dressing room.

2024 NHL Draft eligible Kevin He leads Niagara in goals with 16, and points with 24.

Rookie blueliner Artyom Frolov leads IceDogs defensemen with eight points, while veteran netminder Owen Flores sports a 3.87 goals against average and .896 save-percentage.

One area of concern for Boudreau is the IceDogs powerplay. which is hovering around the 10-percent mark entering the New Year.

Most teams like sitting around the 20-percent mark when it comes to their teams play with the man-advantage.

“The one thing our team lacks is the natural ability to score,” Boudreau said. “You can really see where it hurts us right now on our powerplay, our lack of ability to put a couple of passes together, so that’s an area we really need to improve on – especially if we’re going to start winning some of these one goal games.”

The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) trade deadline is January 10, and with six games left before that date, Boudreau and the Niagara brass are hoping to map out a plan of success moving forward.

“My philosophy, and I think a few others would agree, is you don’t want to mortgage your short-term future for a long-term plan here,” said Boudreau.

“We want to build long-term here. I think protecting your draft-picks is the utmost important thing right now, but if I did have a wish it would be a power play quarterback defenceman.”

Boudreau plans to sit down with interim general manager Wes Consorti and owner Darren DeDobbelaer in the coming days to discuss the trade deadline.

The IceDogs have been the busiest of the 20 OHL clubs wheeling and dealing in the past year adding 19 players since the start of 2023.

Niagara welcomes Guelph on New Year’s Eve night to close out 2023. Puck drop is set for 6 pm, and you can skate with the players on the Meridian Centre ice following the game.

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