Victory requires sacrifice, and it's something OHL defenceman Mike Schwindt knows all about.The Mount Forest native is in the middle of his second year patrolling the bluelines for the Niagara Ice Dogs, and did what he had to do to lift his team to a 4-3 victory recently over the Peterborough Petes.With 2:45 remaining in regulation time, Schwindt hit the ice to block a shot, and helped his team hold on for the timely win. Mike also added an assist on the game-tying goal, as the Ice Dogs battled back from a 3-1 deficit. It was their first win on home ice since Nov. 28, and snapped a five-game losing streak.It has been a difficult season at times for the Ice Dogs, who currently sit in the cellar in the OHL's east division with a 10-19-2-3 record. After 31 games, the team has scored 94 goals and allowed 130. Only the second-place Petes and 9th-place Belleville Bulls have allowed more goals in the division.Schwindt's assist in the Peterborough game was his fifth of the season. He is a textbook defensive defenceman, highly regarded for his ability to break up plays, rather than orchestrate rushes into opposing territory.Testament to his resolve on the blueline, Schwindt boasts a healthy plus-2 rating on a team that sits around minus-35. He believes in adhering to his role on the team and doing whatever it takes to win, even if that means sacrificing the body to block a shot or break up a rush.Head Coach Mike McCourt says Schwindt gives an honest on-ice effort every night, works extremely hard, and has gotten stronger. He has logged a lot more ice time this season, and is emerging as a leader amid the young Ice Dogs defensive corps. Shaking off early season pressures, Schwindt feels he and his Niagara mates are finding their game as the season unfolds.The one place the Ice Dogs are not concerned about any slumping, is on their impressive new team bus. The Niagara franchise upgraded its old player transport this year for a sharp new rig, one featuring images of present and former players along both sides of the bus.A recent article in the St. Catharines Standard detailed how the customized bus caters to larger players such as the six-four, 220 lb, defenceman from Mount Forest. Thanks to the removal of a number of seats in the first-class ride, players can stretch out at their leisure.Schwindt was quoted in the article as saying "the extra room is great when you have a long trip to Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie, and it gives players a better chance to relax." He said he has no trouble sleeping on the bus, and often uses the travel time to catch up on some rest.The bus also features satellite TV and flat screen monitors for a post-game movie, NHL game or highlights. The professional approach to detail offers Schwindt a taste of what it can be like in the big leagues, which is something he may have to get used to. Mike is in his NHL draft year this season, and has the potential to be a first or second round pick come draft day."I think it shows us they want us to have success and win," Schwindt said in the Standard story. "It shows us they care."If you plan to catch Schwindt in action, the Ice Dogs hit the road to face the 8th place Owen Sound Attack on Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m., and then travel to Kitchener on Sunday, Jan. 10 for a 6 p.m. start against the third-place Rangers.
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