GLENDALE – The Niagara IceDogs will enter the Ontario Hockey League championship series later this week with an eye-popping 10-game winning streak.
Coyotes prospect Brendan Perlini, a key cog on the club, is not shocked his team is dominating at the right time.
“I knew this was going to be a good team this year and that this was kind of our year to try to make a run for it,” Perlini said. “I’m not surprised how well we’ve done so far.”
Niagara won 35 regular-season games, the fewest of any OHL finalist since 2007. But the IceDogs are 12-1 in the playoffs heading into the title series vs. the London Knights, which starts Thursday at London.
|Photo by Getty Images. |
“I don’t think we played as well as we should have throughout the year,” Perlini said. “We’ve always had good players, but we didn’t live up to what we were. Now we’re playing our game, and we’ve fine-tuned a couple of things and guys are playing great. It will be fun to play London. I’m eager for Game 1 to start and I’m not even playing in it.”
Perlini, a left wing, will be a spectator for the first two games of the series. That’s because he’s serving a three-game suspension for cross-checking in a game against Barrie played April 25.
“I’m not the type of player that will do anything deliberate,” Perlini said regarding the play that led to his suspension. “I was kind of just trying to protect myself. It’s an emotional game and things happen. What’s done is done. We just have to move on. Hopefully the guys can play well in the first two games and, for myself, I’ve just got to prepare for Game 3.”
Perlini, whom the Coyotes drafted 12th overall in 2014, ranks second on Niagara with six playoff goals. In the regular season, he was tied for third on the team with 25 goals and fourth with 45 points. Last season, Perlini notched 26 goals and 65 points in 14 fewer games.
“This year was a different kind of year for me,” Perlini said. “I think it was a lot more of a learning year. Statistics-wise, maybe I would have wanted it to be a bit better this year, but I think I’ve grown in a lot of other parts of my game. I’ve definitely tried to round out my game this year and not be just an offensive player. I want to be a 200-foot player and that’s been my focus this year, and I’m always trying to get better at it. In the playoffs is where everything really shows. If you’re going to play just one style – an offensive game – you’re going to get punished in the playoffs.”
Niagara and London split two games in the regular season; Niagara won, 3-2, on Feb. 4 and London won, 3-1, on Feb. 12.
|Brendan Perlini. Photo by Getty Images. |
Perlini expects the series to be competitive and he’s looking forward to playing against fellow Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak, who is London’s first-line center.
“It’s going to be a lot fun to play against him,” Perlini said. “He’s one of my better friends when we’re at camp in Arizona, and every time we play each other we usually chitchat on the ice, or before and after the game… London has a lot of high-end talent and they’ve definitely done well to get to this point in the playoffs. Our game plan is to play really good ‘D’ against an offensive team. We’re going to have to work hard.”
The team that prevails will advance to the 2016 Memorial Cup as OHL champ.
Perlini, playing in his final junior season, would like to reach that highly regarded and anticipated tournament.
“That would be huge,” Perlini said. “I want to win something in this league before turning pro next year. It would be awesome to get the chance to go out and compete for that. You always want to do the best you possibly can in any situation, whether it’s in hockey or in other sports or in everyday life.”
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