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BRAMPTON, Ont. – Steven Shipley scored the lone goal in a shootout as the Niagara IceDogs defeated the Brampton Battalion 2-1 in the Troops’ Ontario Hockey League season opener Friday night.
Anthony DiFruscia scored Niagara’s goal in regulation time, while goaltender Christopher Festarini made 33 saves through overtime as the IceDogs secured their second victory in two nights of the new season after a 4-2 home-ice decision over the Erie Otters.
Spencer Abraham scored the Battalion goal. Goaltender Matej Machovsky made 17 saves through overtime and stopped Brett Ritchie in the shootout. Brandon Robinson, Mike Amadio and Barclay Goodrow all failed to score in the shootout in front of a raucous crowd of 2,384 at the Powerade Centre.
“I thought we limited their chances pretty good,” said coach Stan Butler, whose Troops were swept by Niagara in an Eastern Conference semifinal last spring. “We just needed to capitalize on our opportunities and make better plays around the net.”
Said Robinson: “It’s heartbreaking to lose to those guys after what happened in last year’s playoffs. I think we outplayed them for most of the game, which makes it even more frustrating.”
DiFruscia opened the scoring in the second period when a cycle attempt from behind the net by Ryan Strome deflected off defender Zach Bell’s stick into the goalmouth. DiFruscia gathered the puck at the inner edge of the right-wing circle and fired it into the top-right corner at 4:31.
Aaron Haydon received a delay-of-game penalty at 7:12, and teammate Jesse Graham went off for holding 39 seconds later, giving the Troops a two-man advantage. They pressured the IceDogs, but a bounce over Dylan Blujus’s stick sent Dougie Hamilton in on a shorthanded breakaway. Machovsky made the stop, kicking the puck out to Robinson for a four-on-one rush the other way. Festarini denied a Robinson one-timer, but the home side struck on the ensuing play.
After Blujus sent the puck deep in the offensive zone, Robinson retrieved it and passed to Abraham, who connected on a snap shot from high in the right circle at 8:58.
“To get that goal early in the season felt really good,” said defenceman Abraham. “It was a great effort. We gave up only 18 shots, just came out with the short end of the stick tonight.
“We need to bear down and put the puck in the back of the net. If we can do that while playing well defensively, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”
Shipley and Marcus McIvor were sent off at 8:46 of the third period for holding and roughing respectively, resulting in the teams skating four a side. Action opened up at both ends of the ice, but the goaltenders shut the door.
Patrik Machac came close to scoring for the Battalion in the 19th minute as Goodrow found him alone in the slot, but Machac couldn’t convert the opportunity.
“When you give up only one goal, you have a chance to win every game,” said Butler. “It was an extremely close game that we didn’t take advantage of.”
The Battalion came out of the gate at full speed in the first period, controlling the offensive zone and wearing down defenders. Festarini faced eight shots in the frame and kept his team even with some key early saves. The IceDogs responded with four shots on Machovsky.
“I didn’t know what to expect to start the game,” noted Butler. “They played yesterday, and we didn’t. Sometimes it takes some time to get your legs going.”
Added Butler: “Overall, I like our team’s speed. It’s definitely an asset for us. We need to take advantage of our strengths and capitalize on the opportunities that speed creates for us.”
Each team killed a first-period penalty. Strome was whistled for tripping at 15:37 and Bell went off for a check to the head at 19:43.
Battalion scratches were Mark Raycroft, Connor Jarvis and Mitch Amante. Niagara was without Brian Brosnan, Rio Anzolin, Shayne Rover, Kyle Shaw and Mike Robinson.
The Battalion visits the Sudbury Wolves at 2 p.m. Sunday.
BATTALION NOTEBOOK: The Battalion has a won-lost-tied record of 4-10-1 in season openers and is 5-10-0 in home openers … A pregame ceremony saw Butler honoured alongside Larry Gibson and Ziggy Musial of the Brampton Excelsiors lacrosse program, fellow inductees into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame last May. The trio conducted a ceremonial faceoff between Goodrow and Strome … The Battalion went 1-for-5 on the power play. Niagara was 0-for-2 … Opening line combinations saw Machac centring left winger Robinson and right winger Goodrow, Jamie Lewis centring left winger Blake Clarke and right winger Matt MacLeod and Nicholas Foglia pivoting left winger Nick Paul and right winger Mathew Santos. Brennan Feasey centred left winger Derek Froats and right winger Amadio … The Battalion has not yet named a captain. Goodrow wore the 'C' and is to do so at home, while Cameron Wind is to wear it in away games … The IceDogs also have not named a captain as yet … Jarvis remained sidelined with an upper-body injury suffered in a preseason game … Clarke, Amadio, Santos and Paul made their OHL regular-season debuts, while rookie Jake Smith backed up Machovsky. Clarke was the club’s first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection last April, while Amadio was a second-round selection. Santos signed as a free agent after playing last season with the Vaughan Kings major midgets. Paul, a fifth-round pick, played last season with the Mississauga Reps major midgets … Blujus, Strome, Ritchie and Hamilton are available to their respective teams because the National Hockey League lockout has shut down camps … The Battalion held a pregame reception for season ticketholders.