IceDogs carry on without world junior stars

Brothers Dougie (left) and Freddie Hamilton chat after a Team Canada photo at the WinSport Canada...

Brothers Dougie (left) and Freddie Hamilton chat after a Team Canada photo at the WinSport Canada Athletic & Ice Complex in Calgary, Alta., Dec. 14, 2011. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

CALGARY - The Niagara IceDogs are missing a big part of their team.

Four big parts, to be exact.

Team Canada plucked four players -- goaltender Mark Visentin, sniper Ryan Strome and brothers Freddie and Dougie Hamilton -- off the IceDogs roster last month.

The OHL squad would have been forgiven if it had done a lipstand after the heart of its squad left Dec. 10.

Team Canada forward Boone Jenner, who plays with the Oshawa Generals, wouldn't have lost any sleep if the IceDogs went on a lengthy losing streak.

"That's absolutely fine by me," said Jenner, whose Generals are a big rival of the IceDogs. "As long as we keep winning and they keep losing, I'm fine with that.

"Niagara and us usually have some good battles.

"Those four players are a big part of their team. That's, like, their powerplay, and (Visentin) is a great goalie."

Jenner and the rest of the league didn't get its wish.

IceDogs head coach Marty Williamson's squad has managed to win four of six games since the Big Four left.

Putting his dislike for the IceDogs aside, Jenner admits putting four players on Team Canada is an incredible feat.

"You don't see that," Jenner said "Not for the same tournament, like the world juniors. You might see that for different teams. But all on Team Canada, that's pretty special.

"They have a good core of guys."

Only three other CHL teams have put four players on a Team Canada world juniors roster -- the Windsor Spitfires (2010), the Kamloops Blazers (1996) and the Medicine Hat Tigers (1988).

The Spitfires' foursome of d-man Ryan Ellis and forwards Greg Nemisz, Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique took silver two years ago.

The other two quartets won gold.

Blazers Nolan Baumgartner, Hnat Domenichelli, Jason Holland and Jarome Iginla won it all in Boston.

And the Tigers crew of Rob DiMaio, Trevor Linden, Scott McCrady and Mark Pederson claimed gold in Moscow one year after the Punch-up in Piestany.

Team Canada defenceman Dougie Hamilton said the IceDogs foursome appreciates the rare accomplishment.

"I guess it ties the record with the Windsor team, and they were a pretty good team," Hamilton said of the Spitfires, who won back-to-back Memorial Cups.

"It's an honour for us and the organization. It's pretty cool to be able to share this experience with your friends and your brother, as well."

Hamilton said the other three 'Dogs are keeping a close eye on what happens back home.

"We've followed all of the games so far," said Hamilton, who leads the IceDogs in scoring with 45 points in 30 games. "We have friends on the team, so we want to see how they're doing and how your team is doing."

"Guys are stepping up and filling the roles, but I think they're fine. I think they realize they have to step up. Guys are going to have to score and take spots on the powerplay.

"So far, they've done OK."

Team Canada bench boss Don Hay said the IceDogs are doing something right.

"That's pretty impressive," Hay said. "There have been some teams I've been on in Kamloops that have had three guys.

"To have have four is really impressive. They must a real good development program there -- and good coaching, and, obviously, good players to play with.

"These players have all made their presence felt, and they do a real good job."

Hay knows firsthand how thin a roster can get when a group of all-stars leave to play in tournaments over the holiday season.

"I hope they have some real good, young callup players," said Hay, whose Vancouver Giants are missing Brendan Gallagher (Canada), David Musil (Czech Republic) and Marek Tvrdon (Slovakia).

"Because it is tough when those top, core players leave. But somebody else is going to get an opportunity, so that's a good thing. But the skill level drops off.

"It's a sign of how good your team's going to be. If other guys pick up the load, then they have a real good team."

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher


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