The Mississauga Ice Dogs innaugural season was tough one, to say the least. They finished last in the OHL with a record of 4W-61L-3T. The Ice Dogs were also dead last in goals for (145) and lead the league in goals against (426). If there was any silver lining to last season’s poor showing, it was that it enabled them to select first overall at this year’s OHL Entry Draft. This pick landed the Ice Dogs arguably the best junior hockey prospect since Eric Lindros, in the form of Jason Spezza. Under the tutelage of coach Jim Hulton, who returns for another season, look for the Ice Dogs to make some improvement over last year. Of course, when you’re at the bottom, the only way to go is up.
1999-2000 SEASON PREVIEW
The Ice Dogs will be looking to junior phenom Jason Spezza to help with their offensive attack. Last season as an underager with the Brampton Battalion, Spezza had 18 goals and 44 assists in 58 games. Also expected to improve on last season’s totals is centre Lou Dickenson. The Ice Dogs 1st OHL Draft pick in 1998, 2nd overall, had a total of 19 goals and 27 assists in 62 games in 1998-1999. Overage goal production should come from captain Scott Page, who is expected to return this season. He lead the Ice Dogs scoring last year with 20 goals and 30 assists in 66 games. Other key offensive contributors are Fraser Clair (6-12-59games, Chad Wiseman (11-25-64games), and Sebastien Savage (10-15-57games).
The Ice Dogs defensive corps looked terrible on most nights last season. It was a trial by fire for the rookie-laden blueliners. However, this experience was invaluable as these same players look toward the 1999-2000 campaign. Returnees on the blueline include Blake Orr (3-13-61games), Matt Coughlin (1-3-61games), Andrew Davis (4-6-65games) and Ivan Curic (1-1-36games). The Ice Dogs acquired a veteran rearguard in the offseason from North Bay. Omar Ennaffati is expected to provide leadership as well as toughness for his new team. Promising rookies vying for spots on the blueline include Marcus Smith and John Jarram.
Last season’s goaltending tandem of Josh Evans (6.37 GAA) and Nick Foley (5.90 GAA) saw more rubber than a dead skunk on the Trans-Canada Highway. That trend should continue this year as the Ice Dogs continue to develop as a team. Of the two netminders last season, look for only Nick Foley to return as an overager. The Ice Dogs will probably break in a rookie as an understudy or fill the remaining spot with a trade, although the former is probably their preference. Rookie candidates include Mike Mole.
The Ice Dogs will improve this season, but will it be enough to earn themselves a playoff berth? Probably not, but if the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors don’t put together a strong campaign, they might have these ‘Dogs nipping at their heels.