HAMILTON, ON – “We need to get back to .500. That’s our goal for Christmas,” is what Cedric Desjardins told a small media scrum following a Hamilton Bulldogs victory back on December 11th. With the team having won only one game in four attempts between then and tonight, the clock was ticking; Hamilton’s record stood two games below .500 with just two games remaining till December 25th, leaving no margin for error. And on this night, it was not to be, with the team coming up short offensively once again and dropping a 2-1 decision to the St. John’s Ice Caps.
The standout for the ‘Dogs in this game was Brendan Gallagher who converted a no-look Olivier Fortier pass into a highlight reel goal – his 9th marker of the season. Nathan Beaulieu also had a strong game, but was unable to keep his points-streak alive. Desperately searching for more offense, coach Sylvain Lefebvre even shifted Patrick Holland to the blueline – where he plays on the man advantage – beside Beaulieu, but it did not produce the desired results.
Unfortunately, despite outshooting the Ice Caps 27-25, the sputtering Hamilton offense was all too familiar of a scene. The lack of a dynamic scoring veteran forward has hurt the club as it is forced to rely on rookies and secondary players to lead the charge. The team is particularly lacking down the middle, forced to convert wingers to the center position on its top units. There is hope general manager Marc Bergevin will seek to replace Darryl Boyce, who was released early from his PTO, with a player who better fits such a role, but it was easier to find one last summer than it will be mid-season – even during an NHL lockout.
“We have to realize what kind of team we are. We’re not a team with a bunch of 50-goal scorers. We have to outwork teams,” said Gallagher on a night where he was the only one to bulge the twine. This may be true, but Hamilton is also a team with a young defense core who could use a few cushion-y leads to develop in a less pressure-packed environment than the current one where it seems any single mistake can end a game.
The loss drops the ‘Dogs to 10-13-1-2, the furthest they’ve been from their goal of a .500 record in two weeks courtesy of their third defeat in a row. Development is a work in progress for this young squad, and the fact that the injury list on this night included Aaron Palushaj (shoulder), Blake Geoffrion (head), Mike Commodore (groin), Greg Pateryn, and Frederic St. Denis (flu) isn’t helping get the team in getting back into the win column.
The injury situation on defense allowed the newly-signed Cody Wild to make his Hamilton debut, and he didn’t look out of place, jumping in the rush at times and nearly contributing to an equalizer in the third after crashing through the crease. He took a spot on the second powerplay unit with Brendon Nash.
The ‘Dogs will have to keep taking this season one game at a time, growing and learning with each bump and bruise along the way. They won’t have much time to dwell on this defeat, however, as they’re back in action for a final pre-Christmas match-up tomorrow evening.
(Featured photo courtesy of HamiltonBulldogs.com)