With the end of the 2017-2018 OHL season within sight, the Niagara IceDogs find themselves holding onto second place in the competitive Central Division.
Primed for another playoff run with a roster full of dynamic scorers leaves fans with thoughts of playoff hockey. But with plenty of games left to play, nothing is guaranteed.
For the IceDogs, the perfect test arrived at the Meridian Centre on Feb. 8, as the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds rolled into town.
Sitting comfortably atop the OHL standings with 89 points, and a playoff spot already guaranteed is a reason for any team to feel like coasting into the playoffs.
Apparently, the Greyhounds didn’t get the memo.
Over the course of the first 41 minutes of play the Greyhounds dominated play, scoring four unanswered goals, giving the appearance of an easy win for the OHL league-leaders.
But during the remaining 19 minutes of the final period the IceDogs showed a renewed sense of urgency that seemed non-existent during the first two periods of the game.
The IceDogs scored three unanswered goals of their own from the sticks of William Lochead, Sam Miletic and Kirill Maksimov, putting a come-from-behind victory in reach as they entered the final minute of play.
The game’s final whistle signaled the end of the game, and the end of the IceDogs’ hope for a comeback. The final score was 4-3 in favour of the Greyhounds.
While the loss wasn’t the result the team was looking for, there was still plenty to be excited about.
Miletic, scorer of Niagara’s second goal of the game, has been a bright spot on the IceDogs’ roster since the team acquired him from the London Knights on Jan. 9.
“We weren’t actively trying to trade Sam,” said London General Manager Rob Simpson, “(but) it’s a chance for Sam to push and to win like some of these other guys.”
Miletic had been impressive for the Knights this season, his third with the team that drafted him in the final round of the 2013 draft, scoring 54 points in 35 games.
As a result, Niagara had to pay a significant price to acquire Miletic’s services, sending three second-round picks (Peterborough’s in 2018 and Niagara’s in 2024 and 2025) along with a third-round pick in 2022 to London.
Miletic needed little time to become comfortable in his new surroundings, scoring three points in his first game with the IceDogs.
Miletic entered the IceDogs’ game against the Greyhounds with a six-game point streak, which he extended to seven games with a goal scored on Sault Ste. Marie’s Matthew Villalta. In 13 games with his new team, he has scored 12 goals and 20 points.
With 73 points this season split between the London Knights and the Niagara IceDogs, Miletic sits fourth in league scoring.
The Niagara IceDogs’ next home game will be held on Feb. 16, when the team takes on the Owen Sound Attack.