Niagara Takes First Game
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - Jack Studnicka and Jason Robertson each scored a goal and Stephen Dhillon won a goaltending duel as the Niagara IceDogs blanked the North Bay Battalion 2-0 Thursday night in the opening game of their first-round Ontario Hockey League playoff series.
Dhillon made 23 saves for his first OHL playoff shutout before a sellout crowd of 5,300 at the Meridian Centre that saw the second-place IceDogs draw first blood in the teams' best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Battalion goaltender Christian Propp made 50 saves in a heroic performance that drew praise from coach Stan Butler.
"He gave us a chance to win," Butler said of Propp.
Without scoring, that would prove impossible for the seventh-place Battalion. The Troops, blanked in a series opener for the first time in franchise history, last were shut out in a playoff game in a 6-0 home-ice loss to the Barrie Colts in the fourth game of a conference semifinal on April 14, 2016.
North Bay, trailing by two goals through 40 minutes, saw the penalty-free third period wind down to its final minutes without getting closer. Propp first left for a sixth attacker with 2:40 to play, then returned to the net for a faceoff before departing for good with two minutes on the clock. Niagara was successful in fending off every attack, icing the puck a couple of times in the process.
The second game of the series is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Niagara before the set shifts to North Bay next Tuesday night.
Studnicka opened the scoring on the power play at 14:06 of the first period with Mason Primeau serving a hooking penalty. Studnicka slipped to the mid slot and redirected Akil Thomas's left-point shot, with Matt Brassard drawing the other assist.
Niagara had a big early edge in play, recording the first 11 shots on the way to a 16-5 margin in the period. The Battalion was credited with its first shot in the ninth minute.
Propp, who made a point-blank save on Studnicka in the fourth minute, was under siege for much of the early going. Brad Chenier and Niagara's Elijah Roberts were sent off for roughing at 8:56, and Chenier had a chance in alone on Dhillon upon exiting the penalty box. The IceDogs went to the power play when Mitchell Russell was whistled for a head check on Thomas, who may have been guilty of embellishment, at 9:47.
Robertson scored at 17:56 of the second period off a left-wing faceoff. He slid innocently toward the centre and lofted home a high backhander. Ivan Lodnia had the sole assist.
Niagara again was dominant on the shot clock, with a 21-8 edge in the frame. Propp stopped Lodnia in tight in the seventh minute, denied Mason Howard on a two-on-one rush with Andrew Bruder in the eighth and, in the final seconds, stoned Studnicka on a two-man advantage lasting 1:32 after Cameron Peters and Theo Calvas drew slashing and crosschecking penalties respectively.
The game Saturday night can be been live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.
BATTALION BULLETS: The teams met on the final day of the regular season last Sunday, Niagara winning 8-3 at North Bay ... The Battalion qualified for the playoffs for the 18th time in its 21-year history, made up of 15 years in Brampton and six in North Bay. The Troops have won 15 of 32 playoff series, including six of 10 since moving to the Gateway of the North for the 2013-14 season ... In 167 playoff games, the Battalion has a won-lost record of 75-92, including 35-50 in road games and 0-1 at a neutral site ... The Battalion is 20-13 in the first game of a playoff series, including 8-11 when that game is played on the road ... Butler is 79-100 in OHL playoff results, ranking third in wins among active coaches behind Dale Hunter of the London Knights with 128 and George Burnett of the Guelph Storm with 101 ... The Battalion went 0-for-1 on the power play. Niagara was 1-for-5 ... North Bay was without Travis Mailhot, Kurtis Evans and Luke Burghardt, who completed a two-game suspension for a match penalty for slew-footing in a 7-4 road victory last Friday night over the Mississauga Steelheads ... Peters, Harrison Caines, Pacey Schlueting and David Maier made their OHL playoff debuts, while Primeau, Russell and Calvas saw their first postseason action with the Troops ... The Battalion's Patrick Brown turned 19 ... Niagara scratches included Kirill Maksimov and Kyen Sopa ... The referees were Mike Cairns and Quincy Evans.
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