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Verhaeghe helps flip the switch: IceDogs defeat Generals 7-3

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The Niagara IceDogs hosted the Oshawa Generals in game 3 of their second round series of the OHL Playoffs

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

#StartedFromTheBottom

That's the motto for the Niagara IceDogs in this year's playoffs. Coming out of a six-game losing streak to start the season, and being out of the playoffs until the new year, they have lived at the bottom of the standings. Gaining two 2014 first round picks in Brendan Perlini and Josh Ho-Sang as well as an overage goaltender in Brandon Hope the team turned their season around and powered up the standings until they finished 5th in the East, only 3 points behind the Ottawa 67's.

Maple Leafs prospect and IceDogs Captain Carter Verhaeghe was there on top of it all, and we spoke before the playoffs about the season.

After posting over a point per game in the regular season Verhaeghe had 2 goals and 6 assists in 6 games in the IceDogs 4-2 series victory over the Ottawa 67s. The IceDogs started the series with a pair of losses, 8-5 and 8-2, before winning four straight and capturing the series the afternoon of Easter Sunday.

Oshawa was heavily favoured coming into this series, and they showed it dominating the first two games to win 5-3 and 6-1. Verhaeghe has one goal and no assists so far this series. The Gens will have to return to a sold out (and very cold) Meridian Centre, that seems to have brought over most of the intensity from the old Jack Gatecliff arena.

They've got 2000 more fans and have brought back a high school drum line to help the noise level (I'm pretty jealous since it's my old high school. I wish we had an OHL team when I was there...) and it was the first test if the playoff noise can be expressed properly in the new rink. Most of it has been saved for the Generals in past years, whom the IceDogs meet for the fourth time in the playoffs in the past five seasons.

Season Round 1 Round 2
10/11 W 4-0 vs Brampton W 4-1 vs Oshawa
11/12 W 4-2 vs Oshawa W 4-0 vs Brampton
12/13 L 4-1 vs Oshawa N/A
13/14 L 4-3 vs North Bay N/A
14/15 W 4-3 vs Ottawa Oshawa leads 2-1

Before the game the IceDogs received some bad news as Coach/GM Marty Williamson will be stepping away from the bench for the remainder of the series to rest due to ongoing health concerns. We at PPP wish the Williamson family all the best at this time.

IceDogs defenseman and 2015 draftee Vince Dunn (get a second round pick for him Shanny) is sitting game 2 of a 2 game suspension for slew footing (It's an automatic 2 games for this offense), so the starting line up for tonight is: Anthony DiFruiscia at centre, Mikkel Aagaard at RW, Graham Knott at LW, Blake Siebenaler and Brian Brosnan at D and in goal is Brandon Hope, who has started all 3 games of this series.

The IceDogs scored 27 seconds into the game on a nice snipe from Jenkins (unassisted). The Generals are not dominating nearly as much as the have been, Niagara's spending more time in the offensive zone than not for the first half of the period. It was a very physical first period, a few things that could have been called but weren't, it's a players game.

The Generals scored at 12:04 on a good play by the entire line, and it becomes apparent quite a few fans made the trip down tonight, but the drummers and fans quickly drown them out after the goal and during any attempts to start "Go Gens Go" chants.

Verhaeghe played well through the first 10, though he was kicked out of his first face off attempt after jumping into the play on a quick line change. Carter kicked off a scrum after jabbing at the puck while Ken Appleby made a save.  The IceDogs walked out of that with a penalty and went on the PK for the first time this game. Not much action for Oshawa a few checks and Niagara's DiFruscia gets some good crosschecks into a Gens head during a battle in the corner while on the PK but isn't called.

Verhaeghe is back on the ice for a defensive zone face off, loses it but takes the Gen into the boards, knocks the puck loose, then chases it into the offensive zone where he tangles up another Gen in the corner. More scrums, but no more penalties after a couple more saves.

Appleby flubs a catch at his chest and the puck bounces around his equipment but Ho-Sang can't capitalize on the butter fingers, the Generals are doing a good job of getting in Ho-Sangs way tonight. Carter takes a solo rush to the Generals net when he hits the ice during an on the fly line change, he's almost tripped but stays up (should have gone down and tried for a penalty shot, but I coach like Bombay at the beginning of the Mighty Ducks). The puck gets to the defensive zone with some nice passing by the Generals which results in a goal by Aiden Wallace, after he slips from Verhaeghe's coverage.

Oshawa gets a hooking penalty and Carter is kicked out of another face off in the offensive zone. Perlini takes it, passes back to CV, who send it to Ho-Sang. Ho-Sang fakes two slap shots before passing to Perlini and Perlini finds the back of the net to tie the game at 2. The second period ends with some 4-on-4 hockey after Oshawa ruins a power play chance by some blatant goaltender interference.

I would love to see the Marlies pick up Mikkel Aagaard next season. The OA Dane has had 15G 26A in his first year in North America and has been a reliable second line player; the Aagaard-DiFruscia-Knott line has been fantastic tonight. We also get an ad for the Women's World Juniors which will be here in St.Catharines next January, and you can get tickets to all 22 games for $100.

The second period starts with Aagaard-Haydon-Knott up front on the power play. Verhaeghe gets out on a line change and passes to Ho-Sang who passes to Siebenaler who sends to Verhaeghe who shoots but is stopped and Oshawa dumps the puck, and Carter changes as the penalty expires.

During play IceDogs goalie Brandon Hope goes down as both #20's (OSH: Matt Mistle - NIA: Zach Wilke) go down into the net and Wilke gets 2 for interference. The IceDogs PK has really limited the Oshawa scoring chances on the power play this game.

After the penalty expires Verhaeghe line changes and takes the puck end to end into the Oshawa zone but is shoulder to should with Aiden Wilke the entire trip. They kept shoving each other behind the net and the puck is sent to the blue line where Niagara defense flubs it and we get an offside. Oshawa has taken up a bit more dominance at the start of the second period, but it doesn't last. Verhaeghe chases the puck back into the defensive zone and in the corner both #20's again go down but this time Oshawa gets the penalty for roughing, but Niagara gets one for diving.

During the 4-on-4 Carter is playing high up waiting for a pass from Perlini. As play goes on Ho-Sang is called for cross checking after Appleby makes the save for Oshawa.

The Generals get a 4-on-3 PP for a few seconds, which doesn't matter as Jordan Maletta goes on a 1-on-2 rush into the Generals end, but some fancy stick work keeps him from getting a decent shot off. Anthony DiFruscia is playing like a madman tonight with blocked shots good hits, and the IceDogs are benefiting from his passion.

Ho-Sang gets out fo the box and Verhaeghe doesn't play as high up with him on the ice, taking a more neutral position knowing Ho-Sang and Perlini will break out when they can. Later in the period Jordan Maletta makes a rush into the Oshawa zone and gets knocked down but he makes the pass to Billy Jenkins who scores to give the IceDogs a 3-2 lead. Aagaard and Cole Cassels get into it post whistle and they both get unsportsman like penalties. One minutes into the 4-on-4 Ho-Sang gets another penalty, this time for interference, so Oshawa will have a 4-on-3 for a minute.

Not much action for Oshawa, they get a shot off as the matching penalties expire but the save is made. Ho-Sang gets out of the box and makes a 1-on-2 rush into the Oshawa zone but makes the shot late at a bad angle and Appleby saves it. Verhaeghe has a moment with Will Petsching holding onto his stick for a ride and Verhaeghe has a word with the refs about it. Verheaghe is playing more D near the end of the second, but he passes to Perlini, who passes to Mikulovich on D who waits out Appleby and scores on a wrist shot of the dot.

Ho-Sang is taken down with 40 seconds left by McCarron who gets two for interference. Niagara tries something different and puts Ho-Sang on the offensive zone face off, perhaps anticipating Carter being tossed again, but it doesn't happen  and the IceDogs end the second on the power play.

The third period starts on the power play, and it quickly moves to a 5-on-3 after Oshawa gets a too many men penalty. A lot of tic tac toe passing and Verhaeghe scores to give the IceDogs a 5-2 lead. Later at even strength on a defensive zone play Verhaeghe tries to skate the puck out with McCarron waterskiing behind him,

Oshawa is playing hard and controlling this period at the moment but the IceDogs are doing what they can to slow the game down.

Niagara is playing heavy D now lots of covering gaps in the net and blocking shots. Oshawa get called for cross checking and Niagara goes back to the power play. Lots of passing between Perlini, Ho-Sang, and Verhaeghe but n goals, Verhaeghe is playing D on the power play then changes with Perlini.

Oshawa gets the puck into Niagara's end and Kenny Huether pass the puck out fo the corner to Oshawa Captain Josh Brown who scores off a snap shot. With 8 min left the play became a lot more physical, Oshawa could have used that much earlier in the game.

Billy Jenkins then scores high glove side off the crossbar and the hats come flying in, giving both teams a breather as the refs clean them up. Oshawa misses a big chance on an empty Niagara net as Hope is caught off guard, big, big hits are coming from all Generals now, Oshawa is crowding the IceDogs net and Niagara gets called for puck over the glass with 5 min left.

Niagara dumps it out and Aagaard scores into the empty Oshawa net to make it 7-3. Refs start to worry about things getting out of control and give Alex Mikulovich a misconduct and he's sent to the room.  As this occurs OShawa changes goalies and puts Jeremy Brodeur in net for the final 2:30.

Haydon (NIA) and McCarron (OSH) are each given misconducts in the final minute. The crowd erupts into cheers and the band plays on thorugh the final 30 seconds as Niagara takes Game 3 by a score of 7-3. The official 3 stars are 3) Verhaeghe 2) Maletta and 1) Jenkins.

Oshawa and Niagara will play again Thursday in Game 4, I'll be there but as a fan with my son, Game 5 will be Friday in Oshawa adn with London/Erie over (4-0 series sweep for Erie) there's a chance this game could be on Sportsnet.