New look Icedogs keeping it close

By Larry Bradley


With the late season addition of three Mississauga Chargers (Provincial Junior A), the Mississauga IceDogs have put together respectable back-to-back efforts in front of the Hersey Centre faithful. Newcomers Mike Oliveria, Chris Curran and Jason Francis, fresh from a semi-final battle with the Milton Merchants, have been asked to fill the IceDogs roster for the remaining part of the OHL season. Their gritty, “nothing to loose” attitude has been a welcome ingredient to a wounded Mississauga squad that just hasn’t had the man power to stay close in recent games.

Mike Oliveria is a talented centre who led the Chargers in scoring this season with 80 points in 48 games. He plays a very determined brand of hockey and is tough to check off the puck. The shifty forward has a great imagination and anticipates the play well at both ends of the ice. IceDogs’ head coach Rick Vaive displayed much confidence in Oliveria, sending the rookie out to centre a five on three penalty kill in his first game against the Sarnia Sting.

Left winger Chris Curran was the IceDogs’ seventh pick (9th round, 167 overall) at the 2000 OHL Priority Selection. He is a product of the Mississauga Senators midget system and made the jump to the Mississauga Chargers this season. The two-way winger had a strong season posting 44 points in the 45 games he played. The six-foot, 160 pounder lead the Chargers in penalty minutes for 2000-2001 spending 112 minutes in the “sin bin”.

Jason Francis is a diminutive (5’ 6”) but quick forward who plays with a lot of spunk. He is definitely not afraid to throw his body around and doesn’t back down from the larger OHL opponents. He has made a huge impact playing along side Oliveria and first year winger Brandon Robinson. The three teamed up late in the third period to bring the IceDogs within one goal of visiting St. Mike’s Majors on Wednesday night. Robinson’s goal was his 10th of the year while Oliveria and Francis picked up their first career assists.

The trio suited up for their first OHL game on Sunday in an exciting match up against a surging Sarnia Sting hockey club. The Sting have been one of the hottest teams in the league and entered the contest with a 8-1-1 record in their past ten contests. It was seesaw battle with plenty of action at both ends of the rink. The new recruits showed a lot of confidence and blended into the IceDogs’ lineup right from the get-go. Unfortunately, Sarnia squeaked out a 2 -1 road win to spoil their impressive debuts.

Three nights later Mississauga’s Central division rivals, the Toronto St. Mike’s Majors, made a mid-week appearance at the Hersey Centre. The ‘Dogs got on the board first when Nathan O’Nabigon potted his first of two on the night eleven minutes into the opening period. The home team played an inspired first frame and maintained a 1-0 lead until the Majors replied two minutes into the second. The game remained tied until just a little past the three-minute mark of the third. The ‘Dogs got sloppy in their own end and the Majors struck for two quick goals in eleven seconds. Four minutes later the clubs traded markers and then St. Mike’s clamped down on their two-goal lead. With four minutes to play Oliveria and Francis got together on a Brandon Robinson goal to give Mississauga and their fans a ray of hope. They could not muster up enough of an attack to get Michael Moles to the bench and, for the second straight game, they had to settle with a one goal defeat.

With eight games remaining in the season the new recruits should soak up a lot of valuable OHL experience and have the chance to leave a lasting impression on the decision makers for next season.

IceDogs Schedule

Thursday, March 8@Brampton
Friday, March 9@Kitchener
Sunday, March 11Ottawa
Wednesday, March 14@Peterborough
Friday, March 16North Bay
Saturday, March 17@Toronto
Sunday, March 18@North Bay
Friday, March 23@Ottawa