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It's been a tough 5 days for the Niagara Icedogs. The team is down 3 games to nothing to the Ottawa 67's in their OHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, and has to win on home ice Thursday just to force a 5th game in the series on the road. The Icedogs have dropped basically 3 one goal games, with last Sunday's 3-1 loss featuring an empty net goal in the last minute for the 2 goal Ottawa cushion. In the 3 years the Icedogs have been in Niagara, I can't recall a more devastating, heartbreaking, more difficult loss to take than the 5-4 overtime loss on Tuesday night at home. Up 4-2 almost midway through the 3rd period, Ottawa scored to get close, then tied the game with a minute 18 left in regulation, before Ryan Martindale won it in OT. It would be easy at this point for the team to give up. But that is not going to happen. This team has been there before. Remember earlier in the season? Two players leave the team, the Icedogs are 20th overall in the standings, looks like it's over in December. Did the team quit then? Not a chance. They rallied around one another and put together a real nice second half to make the playoffs.
This particular group of guys simply will not quit. If you've followed the team closely this season, especially since December, you know there is way to much talent and way too much heart in every single player for them to just throw in the towel on Thursday night.They are down, but definitely not out. You have to realize how close this team is to being up 3-0 themselves, with all three of the first games being contests the Icedogs could have won, with a break here or there.I fully expect a Niagara win on Thursday night, and I'll go one step further and predict another home game in the series on Monday night for game 6. That's how much confidence I have in the resiliency and character of this group. It would certainly be nice to see a sellout on Thursday, a loud, boisterous, give it to the 67's cheer on the Icedogs sellout.
Quick note about Tuesday night's game in Niagara. In attendance was the greatest hockey mind in the history of the game. And John Ferguson Jr. was there too........Had the once in a lifetime chance to have Scotty Bowman sitting right next to me during the game. Even as a Leaf fan, meeting Mr. Bowman was like one of those Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooners TV show moments......"hammana-hammana-hammana..."He is quite simply, a hockey genius, and was very personable. He looks at hockey differently than the rest of us. We were discussing his previous visits to the Jack Gatecliff Arena, and he asked a very good question most people wouldn't even think of, as he wondered why the visiting team got the penalty box on their side, pointing out what a huge advantage that is for the visitors. Little things like that are what have made Scotty Bowman the greatest, most winningest coach of all time.
At the other end of the spectrum, my broadcast partner Ted interviewed former Leafs G.M.John Ferguson Jr. before the game, a guy most Leaf fans blame for setting the team back into the stone age. Glad Ted did the interview. On principle alone as a Leaf fan, I couldn't have, and if I did, every question would have began with the words "What were you thinking when...."
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