Sports

Corneil surpasses 100-point plateau

By Rod Mawhood, Special to The Standard

The Niagara IceDogs celebrate a second period goal against the Flint Firebirds in OHL action at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines Friday. Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard

The Niagara IceDogs celebrate a second period goal against the Flint Firebirds in OHL action at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines Friday. Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard

In 28 seconds late in the middle stanza Friday night at the Meridian Centre Johnny Corneil’s season was summed up.

Corneil scored two goals to give him a team-leading 18 on the campaign as the Niagara IceDogs defeated the Flint Firebirds 5-2 in front of a sellout crowd.

Corneil’s first goal of the night came off a turnover as he patiently waited to beat Firebirds goaltender Connor Hicks with a beautiful move on a breakaway to give him 100 points on his OHL career.

Seconds later Corneil moved over the century mark in an IceDogs uniform when he snapped home his second of the game, as the homeside would never looked back.

Corneil says he’s relishing his role as a veteran leader on a rookie-laden team.

“I think it’s a young team here, and I realize I’m older and kind of have a job to do,” said the Lindsay Ontario native who scored a career high 20 goals last season.

“I think I’ve been leading in other ways, but to start doing it on the ice is huge. The last few games I’ve been really bearing down and making sure I’m putting them in.”

As for moving over the 100 point mark as an IceDog?

“I knew I was close. I think I forgot I was sitting at 99,” Corniel said.

Dave Bell is a no nonsense coach, but you can hear and see the sincerity when asked about Corneil.

“Johnny doesn’t say a lot in the room but when he does – he speaks for the right reasons, and about the right things,” said the IceDogs bench boss.

“When he scores he’s a genuinely as happy for when (one of ) his teammates score. He’s just a great kid. He’s zero maintenance, and he just shows up every night and plays the same way.

“And I’ll tell you this, there was a lot of interest from other teams (at the trade deadline) but there was zero interest for us to move him.”

And while Corneil’s two goals turned the game around, rookie Akil Thomas continued to impress as well.

Thomas bulged the twine twice himself to give him 16 goals on the campaign.

Niagara has now won three straight home games and visit Barrie Saturday night.

“I think the biggest thing tonight was blocked shots,” added Bell.

“We challenged these guys before the game, and I bet we blocked more shots tonight than we have all year.”

Dog Biscuits: The IceDogs wore Pink Jerseys that were auctioned off after the game in support of Women’s Cancer Research.... Pavel Demin and Justin MacPherson were scratched for Niagara.... St. David’s native, and former Niagara North Star, Hunter Holmes plays for Flint.

The SCOOP

IceDogs 5 Firebirds 2

Standard Star of the Game: IceDogs forward Johnny Corneil with two more goals.

For Niagara: Akil Thomas 2 (16) Johnny Corneil 2 (18) and Aaron Haydon (5).

For Flint: Kole Sherwood (21) and Alex Peters (6).

Game stats: Shots on goal by the IceDogs on Connor Hicks (43); by the Firebirds on Stephen Dhillon (40). Penalty Minutes: Niagara (23); Flint (23). Powerplays: IceDogs: 1-for-7; Firebirds 0-for-7. Attendance: 5, 300 (sellout)

Up Next: The IceDogs visit Barrie Saturday night, before opening a home and home series with Guelph on Tuesday night. The two teams will meet back at the Meridian Centre Thursday. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.