Coming off a 5-4 loss to the top team in the CHL the night before, the Steelheads hoped to bounce back as they visited their central division rivals, the Niagara IceDogs Saturday night. These two teams last met on November 19th, where the Steelheads picked up a 3-1 win at home. The Steelheads lead the season series against the IceDogs 2-1, but a 3-2 win over the Ottawa 67’s last night saw the ‘Dogs jump back into second place in the central division.
Emanuel Vella made his seventh start of the season in goal for the Trout while Niagara’s Stephen Dhillon made his 21st start for the ‘Dogs. The first period got out to a bit of a slow start as both teams looked to set the pace. The Steelheads would strike first as Owen Tippett ripped home his fourth of the season at 9:11. Albert Michnac assisted on the goal. Minutes later, Nicolas Hague extended the Steelheads’ lead 2-0, firing his 13th of the season past Dhillon. Michnac and Isaac Walker assisted on the goal. At 15:35, Akil Thomas beat Vella to get the home team on the board and cut the Steelheads’ lead 2-1. Kirill Maksimov and Oliver Castleman assisted on Thomas’ sixth of the season. Late in the frame, the ‘Dogs evened the score 2-2 as Liam Ham buried his second of the season from Danial Singer and Maksimov. Shots on goal in the opening frame were 11-7 in favour of the Steelheads and the score was locked at 2-2 heading into the first intermission.
The physicality we saw the last time these two teams met started to show again in the middle frame. Approaching the midway point of the frame, Bradey Johnson gave the ‘Dogs their first lead of the game, scoring his second of the season from Andrew Bruder and Ian Martin. Two minutes later, Johnson struck again to put the home team up by two with his second of the night. Matthew Philip and Justin MacPherson assisted on the goal. Shortly after, Nicolas Hague would head to the box to serve two-minutes for a cross checking penalty. The IceDogs capitalized on the man-advantage as Ham put home his second of the night from Thomas and Ben Jones to give Niagara a 5-2 lead. After three unanswered goals, Jacob Ingham would come into the game to relieve Vella. 43 seconds later, Trent Fox would get one back for the Trout to bring them back within two. Cole Schwindt assisted on Fox’s eighth of the season. Some pushing and shoving at the buzzer resulted in coincidental roughing minors to Hague and Thomas. The Steelheads trailed the IceDogs by 2 after 40 minutes.
The IceDogs would have an early opportunity on the power play as captain Michael McLeod would head off to serve a cross checking penalty. The Steelheads penalty kill unit went to work and killed off the infraction, sending the game back to even strength. Later in the frame, Elijah Roberts would put one past Ingham but the goal was quickly waved off due to incidental contact. Despite a last stitch effort, the Steelheads were unable to get back in this one as they dropped their second straight game. The final score was 5-3.
The Steelheads will close out the weekend with a visit to Oshawa tomorrow to take on the Generals in a 2:05 PM start.