THE CANADIAN PRESS
ST CATHARINES, Ont. — The Niagara IceDogs have won the Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference title for the first time since the team moved to St. Catharines.
Freddie Hamilton had a goal and an assist as the IceDogs edged the visiting Ottawa 67′s 3-2 on Friday in Ontario Hockey League playoff action.
"The fans are great here," said Hamilton about winning in front of the hometown crowd. "They’ve been here since day one, when the team moved here five years ago. They’re loud and it was just great for us to win it on home ice."
Niagara earned the Bobby Orr trophy by winning the best-of-seven series 4-1. The IceDogs have only won the conference title one other time, in 2003-04 when they were based in Mississauga, Ont.
Ryan Strome and Alex Friesen also scored for the IceDogs while Dougie Hamilton chipped in with two assists.
Sean Monahan and Jake Cardwell each scored for the 67′s, who finished the post season just 3-6 on the road.
"In the third period we asked for our players to give everything they had, and they did," said 67′s head coach Chris Byrne. "But give them (Niagara) credit, they found a way to keep the puck out."
Mark Visentin made 25 saves for the win while Petr Mrazek turned away 36 shots in a losing effort.
Niagara went 1 for 5 on the power play as Ottawa went 2 for 6.
The IceDogs will now face the London Knights in the OHL final with Game 1 scheduled for Thursday in London at the John Labatt Centre.
"They’ve been the number one team all season," IceDogs’ head coach Marty Williamson said. "They’re deep, they’re balanced, they have outstanding goaltending. I’m glad our guys have a few days to rest and get ready for Thursday night."
Strome, on the power play, and Freddie Hamilton gave the IceDogs a 2-1 first period lead as Niagara outshot Ottawa 21-8.
Friesen put Niagara up 3-1 midway through the second period with his team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs.
Cardwell brought Ottawa within one at 10:14 of the third but Visentin stopped everything the rest of the way to secure a victory for Niagara.