Categories
IceCaps game report

St. Pierre, Pateryn Help ‘Dogs Snap Skid vs. Rampage [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Post-game audio: Martin St. Pierre | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON –  It’s do or die time for the Hamilton Bulldogs.

A season characterized by an inability to build any kind of real momentum where every win streak was followed up by a losing streak of equal or greater length left the ‘Dogs in 15th place in the AHL’s Western Conference, eight points out of a playoff spot with 24 games remaining. Thus, every game is a must-win here on out, starting with Sunday’s tilt against the San Antonio Rampage, who sat five points up on Hamilton coming into the game.

Pateryn's two assists and strong defensive play earned him the game's second star. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
Pateryn’s two assists and strong defensive play earned him the game’s second star. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

With their backs up against the wall and with the added hardship of completing a three games in three nights in three different cities, the Bulldogs – against all odds – delivered one of their best performance in weeks, getting ahead early and responding well to a Rampage push back in holding on for a 3-1 victory before their home fans at FirstOntario Centre.

After tentative play from both sides for the first few minutes, Hamilton broke through to open the scoring on an odd-man rush. Greg Pateryn carried the puck across the blueline and put a hard wrister off Jacob Markstrom‘s pad, bouncing right onto the stick of a waiting Martin St. Pierre. The captain made no mistake in one-timing the rebound to the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

Maxim Macenauer came very close to extending the home team’s lead moments later, taking a feed from Sven Andrighetto alone in front, but getting denied by a sprawling Markstrom. Justin Courtnall had an equally promising chance on a solo rush, but couldn’t get proper wood on his shot as he was hacked at by a Rampage defender.

The period ended with penalty trouble for the ‘Dogs. Mike Blunden took a poor offensive zone call, and then his partner-in-crime Gabriel Dumont was given an additional two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for complaining about the referee’s decision, leaving Hamilton down not only two men, but two key penalty killers.

Hamilton survived the dual calls with great work from Joonas Nattinen even creating two rushes while down three-on-five. But a penalty to Louis Leblanc for an defensive zone hook just prior to the midway mark would allow San Antonio to even the score. Ryan Martindale pounced on a rebound loose in front of Dustin Tokarski, and his shot would bounce off Quinton Howden‘s stick before finding the cage.

But the tired ‘Dogs looked anything but, not relenting after letting the visitors back into the game, and restoring their lead with just under eight minutes to go in the middle stanza. In a play reminiscent of the team’s first marker, Nathan Beaulieu fired an accurate point shot that was redirected by St. Pierre in front, but turned aside by Markstrom. However, it was again St. Pierre with a second effort, finding the loose puck bobbled by the netminder and swatting it behind him.

The Rampage looked for an equalizer before the second was through, but a mishandled puck by Garrett Wilson ended one threat, and a diving block by Greg Pateryn broke up an odd-man opportunity.

That set the stage for Hamilton to put the game away early in the third. After a strong shift from Sven Andrighetto and Christian Thomas generated multiple chances, the ‘Dogs were sent to the powerplay, and it didn’t take them long to make good. A Pateryn shot from the line was redirected by Nick Tarnasky, bouncing off bodies in front and landing on the tap of Mike Blunden parked at the side of the goal. The veteran made no mistake in quickly batting it into the empty net to give his side a two goal edge. From there, the defense was able to insulate Tokarski sufficiently to preserve the victory, putting an end to a four game skid at the season’s most critical juncture.

St. Pierre has struggled to produce at even strength this season, but turned in a strong performance with some unfamiliar linemates. Typically paired with fellow skill players like Patrick Holland and Christian Thomas, St. Pierre spent the night on a line with grinders Nick Tarnasky and Stefan Fournier.

“They’re trying to juggle the lines around, and it’s a good thing about our team that we have a lot of depth. Everybody knows their role in the system, and it’s about finding good chemistry. Obviously me, Tarnasky, and Fournier found it today. Kudos to them.  They work hard, and they deserve credit for this,” indicated the captain with a smile.

Part of the reasoning for moving St. Pierre on to a line with bigger bodies is to generate better net-front presence, something the team has lacked all season. “(Markstron) is a big goalie, but we worked on it last week in practice. Getting our cycles going, body position, and getting some traffic. Our D has been getting good shots, but there’s no one in front. I think my second goal was a prime example of that. I’ll take those goals every day.”

Coach Sylvain Lefebvre confirmed that the change was a conscious one, and will be key if the team is to post the kind of winning percentage it needs from here on out to squeak into the post-season. “(Markstrom) is a big guy. Look at our third goal. (Blunden) at the side of the net and Tarnasky in front. That’s why I put Tarnasky on our last two powerplays. We don’t score too many highlight reel goals. We score grind-it-out goals. That’s our trademark. That’s who we are. Some nights we don’t pay the price as much and it shows.”

NOTE: The Bulldogs played without Jarred Tinordi, announced as a healthy scratch during warm-up. This was a surprise at first, given he has been the team’s top blueliner of late, but made more sense when he was announced as a call-up to the Montreal Canadiens just after 5 PM. On the d-man’s progress, his coach had this to say: “He started slow with disappointment probably when he got sent down early in the season, but throughout the rest of the time, he’s been a force back there. He played big minutes, played against top lines. Even scored a few goals lately and had powerplay time yesterday. He deserves this.”

Categories
Feature

Down on the Farm – Snakebitten ‘Dogs Hit the Road

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – It was a weekend of ups and downs for the Hamilton Bulldogs. Despite solid efforts that had their head coach proud in all three outings, a 6-2 Saturday night offensive outburst on the road was sandwiched between two snakebitten losses at Copps Coliseum. The 1-2-0 weekend  means the ‘Dogs have now lost four of their last six games on the heels of a season-high six-game win streak, dropping them out of a playoff spot for the time being, though they of course remain in the thick of the race.

Hamilton was dealing with the absence of some top players during this stretch, as both Nathan Beaulieu and Louis Leblanc were up in Montreal. Moreover, Sunday’s game required a gutsy effort by the d-men who were in the line-up, as not only was it a third game in less than 72 hours, but the club lost Morgan Ellis – he who I mentioned last week had taken on a far bigger role with the squad – to an apparent shoulder or arm injury midway through the game, forcing them to play out the final period and a half with just five blueliners. It is unknown how long Ellis will be out for, but as a security measure, the ‘Dogs signed ECHL’er Myles Harvey – a 25-year old 6’5”, 225 lbs pro rookie – to a professional tryout agreement.

TRENDING UPWARDS

Thomas joins the Canadiens with goals in his past two AHL games. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
Thomas joins the Canadiens with goals in his past two AHL games. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

– Christian Thomas: Thomas and Sven Andrighetto (who I mentioned last time as trending upwards, and I’m trying to avoid using the same players in consecutive installments) have been Hamilton’s best two forward of late, and coach Sylvain Lefebvre has stuck them together on a line in Louis Leblanc’s absence. In his second year as a pro, the 5’9” 21-year old winger missed the first part of the season with a sports hernia, produced when he returned to the line-up, then seemed to hit a bit of a wall which could have been a conditioning issue due to the time off. Of late however, he frequently leads the team in scoring chances, which helped him collect two goals and an assist over the course of the weekend. While not as feisty as fellow little man Brendan Gallagher, Thomas doesn’t shy away from going to the net. He’s just as comfortable hanging around the high slot, though, as that is where he can unleash his greatest weapon: a rocket launcher arsenal of powerful shots. As a reward for his recent good play and to see how he can handle tougher competition, the Canadiens called Thomas up Thursday evening. The timing is especially nice for the prospect given Montreal plays Tampa Bay on Saturday, and Thomas’s father – former NHL’er Steve Thomas – is a player development consultant with the Lightning.

– Maxime Macenauer: With skilled wingers like Andrighetto and Thomas on the first line, one might expect an equally skilled center like Martin St. Pierre to be the trio’s pivot. But one would be wrong, as that honour has been bestowed upon Macenauer, who has been a coach’s favourite in Hamilton right from the start of the season. You’ll never be “wow’ed” watching him play, but the 25-year old Laval native seems to do all the little things right on the ice. He plays a jack-of-all-trade, master-at-none type of role, capable of killing penalties, winning face-offs, clearing the puck in defensive situations, and dishing to teammates. At 6’0” and 200 lbs, he’s average sized, which about sums up most of his other abilities as well. He works hard and will rarely put you in a trouble situation for sending him out on the ice. For these reasons, Lefebvre may see him as a safety net, which has resulted in significant ice time at even strength, on the powerplay, and on the P.K.

– Jarred Tinordi: If you were to compare Tinordi’s play in Hamilton to how he looked in Montreal during this year’s training camp, it has been a disappointing season for the 21-year old. At 6’6” and 218 lbs, you would hope to see him working on his physical game at the AHL level, but the hits have been few and far between this season, deciding his style was better suited to playing a positional defensive game rather than running around and chasing the opposition. Unfortunately even that has taken some time, as he is far from an impermeable forcefield in his own end, but part of that may simply be confidence. Undoubtedly Tinordi had illusions of grandeur starting the year in the NHL, and the return to the American League was a difficult transition, but since being moved to the top pairing with Greg Pateryn, his game has taken a step forward. Playing with a partner that he doesn’t have to worry about covering for, he seems more confident in his own skates. Though still not throwing big hits, the American behemoth is an adequate crease-clearer, and unlike a Doug Murray or Hal Gill, is a very smooth skater, able to pick his spots and support offensive breakouts despite what his low point total would make one think. If not overly physical during game action, Tinordi never shies away from after the whistle scrums, always there to stand up for a teammate and dropping the gloves with semi-regularity.

 

IN A RUT

There's nothing wrong with a powerplay specialist that leads your team in scoring, but the Bulldogs had greater hopes when signing St. Pierre. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
There’s nothing wrong with a powerplay specialist that leads your team in scoring, but the Bulldogs had greater hopes when signing St. Pierre. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

– Martin St. Pierre: It is imperative that Sylvain Lefebve separates St. Pierre from linemate Patrick Holland to get at least one of the two should-be-AHL-stars going. They have been paired at five-on-five for some time now, and the line has become a virtual black hole for the Bulldogs, generating little in the way of offensive opportunities despite the skill sets of its members. Though he may lead the team in scoring, captain St. Pierre has been a disappointment this season, unable to play an offensive catalyst role at even strength, and frequently guilty of poor or lazy penalties. In the face-off dot, the team relies heavily on Macenauer and Joonas Nattinen, effectively limiting St. Pierre to a role of powerplay specialist. While that definitely has its uses, it’s not the high impact signing the Bulldogs believed they had bagged when inking the veteran last summer. Plus-minus may not be a high quality statistic, but his -7 being second worst on the team to only Nick Tarnasky is very reflective of his play this year.

– Mike Blunden: It’s hard to dislike Mike Blunden. The former second round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks is a model teammate and works hard every shift. He can play a physical game with his 6’3” frame, and positions himself well in the slot to obtain scoring chances nightly. Unfortunately his weak skating and mediocre hands have betrayed him this season, as the ‘Dogs needed him to take on a more offensive role on a team with little experienced firepower. Though he remains the team’s fourth leading scorer, he has been ice cold in 2014, with only 1 assist and a -2 rating in his past nine games. When the team is winning, it’s easy to laugh at the number of great Gabriel Dumont set-ups that Blunden fans on or fires wide. But when the goals are tougher to come by, what should be a dependable and productive line has been letting the team down at times.

– Greg Pateryn: This isn’t to say that Pateryn has been bad, but just as I spoke so very highly of him earlier this season, it’s fair to point out that the Pateryn of the past five or so games hasn’t been playing up to that level. Part of it may be learning to play with Jarred Tinordi after spending significant time beside Nathan Beaulieu, but Pateryn has only a single point to go with a -1 rating in his past nine games while looking more human in his own end following a dominant start. The injury to Ellis and the absence of Beaulieu will put a lot of pressure on Pateryn and Tinordi as the Bulldogs head out for an extended road trip, so the team needs the 23-year old to be at his best, rather than committing the kind of turnovers we’ve seen most recently.

The Bulldogs head out west this weekend for two games against the Abbotsford Heat, and remain on the road for stops in Rockford, Milwaukee, Binghamton, and Toronto. They’ll return home to the newly renamed FirstOntario Place (formerly Copps Coliseum) for a date with the Texas Stars on February 15. As the team finds itself in a playoff battle in the second half of the regular season, home crowds been gaining steam in Hamilton creating a great atmosphere, so be sure to check the team out if you’re in the area, with tickets available at http://www.hamiltonbulldogs.com/.

 

Categories
IceCaps game report

‘Dogs Lose Ellis in Thrashing by the Wolves [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Maxime Macenauer | Jarred Tinordi | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – Since the beginning of the season, the Hamilton Bulldogs have been a hot-and-cold hockey club. Thus it shouldn’t come as a surprise to many that after their offense exploded for six goals on the road on Saturday, it would go cold again at home Sunday, managing only a single tally while being thoroughly outplayed and outshot in a 4-1 loss, dropping them back out of a playoff position in the American Hockey League’s tight Western Conference standings.

Macenauer - promoted to Hamilton's top line - thought he had a marker that would have gotten his side back in the game. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
Macenauer – promoted to Hamilton’s top line – thought he had a marker that would have gotten his side back in the game. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

Like the weekend’s two prior outings, the Bulldogs again got off to a good start with Jarred Tinrodi cutting to the net on the opening shift before having his backhand stopped by Chicago’s Matt Climie. Hamilton would also head to the game’s first powerplay a couple of minutes later, but the man advantage has been ice cold of late (0/13 in Friday and Saturday’s games combined) and produced little in the way of chances.

A questionable call on Gabriel Dumont allowed Chicago to open the scoring past the midway point of the period. Dumont was in a one-on-one race with a Wolves skater away from the puck as Hamilton broke out, and by virtue of being stronger than his rival, stayed on his feet while the defender fell. Dumont was whistled for interference, and despite two big Nathan McIver shot blocks on the penalty kill, a rebound out to Dmitrij Jaskin was roofed over a fallen Robert Mayer.

Tinordi would be the beneficiary of two other Bulldog set-ups for great scoring chances, as the speedy big man showed no reluctance to pinch in on the rush. Unfortunately, for all the power in the behemoth’s slapper, it lacks in accuracy, and both opportunities sailed wide.

The Wolves added to their lead just over a minute later, when Jaskin again led a rush down the wing. A weak, off-angle shot was stopped by Mayer, but the goaltender awkwardly deflected the puck right to the crowd in the front of the net, helplessly seeing it bounce off Tyler Shattock and into the cage behind him.

The decision to start Mayer on Sunday was a curious one from the outset. Dustin Tokarski has emerged as not only the team’s true starter, but one of the best goaltenders in the league. While you want to give both goaltenders action in a three games in three nights stretch, Mayer had started Saturday’s 7 PM game ahead of Sunday’s 4 PM afternoon tilt. Certainly, Mayer got the win (2 GA) Saturday compared to Tokarski’s Friday loss (2 GA), but you need to go with the starter you believe gives you the best chance to win, and Tokarski boasts a .928 save percentage, not having allowed more than two goals in his past nine starts (6-2-1 record in that span). Coach Sylvain Lefebvre made it evident early in the season that he was prepared to give Mayer as much as ice time as he could “merit,” while quickly taking it away from Tokarski when the team couldn’t pull through for a win. The platoon system works when you have two netminders of comparable quality, but that is not the current situation with the Bulldogs.

That isn’t to say Mayer was solely to blame for his side trailing 2-0 after twenty minutes, as Hamilton was also outshot 17-5, but his rebound control was off all night.

Home fans got excited in the period’s dying seconds, when a shorthanded Gabriel Dumont rush drew a penalty which prevented the pesky center from shooting. Dumont did manage to spot Mike Blunden at the side of the net, but Blunden was well after the buzzer with his tap-in goal, resulting in a quick wave-off.

It was another Mayer gaff that gave Chicago an insurmountable advantage early in the second. Joel Edmundson fired a shot on a harmless looking rush that caught the Bulldog keeper slightly off his angle and found the corner of the net, stretching the lead to 3-0.

A similar rush the other direction saw Hamilton climb back to within two on a rare second period scoring chance, with Christian Thomas rifling a wrister from the top of the face-off circle past Climie. For Thomas, it was his second goal and third point in his past two games, as he and Sven Andrighetto have taken over as the team’s best forwards. The two were united on a top line with center Maxime Macenauer for the night.

Despite being outplayed and badly outshot, it appeared momentarily like the Bulldogs had pulled within one. After a slick move, Andrighetto fired over the net, but the puck bounced back out in front, off some part of the crowd, and into the net. It looked like it may have caromed off netminder Climie’s back, but the referee ruled that it had in fact gone off Macenauer’s high stick and in, immediately being called no goal with no review of the play.

Before the period was out, the Wolves restored their three goal advantage. A difficult shift for the duo of Darren Dietz and Nathan McIver resulted in a turnover and set-up for Mark Cundari. Mayer was again slow to come out and challenge as Cundari’s shot found the back of the goal.

Adding injury to insult, Morgan Ellis – who had taken on a significant role on the Hamilton blueline of late – slid awkwardly into the boards in the period’s final minutes, laying painfully on the ice until a trainer could reach him. Though he skated off under his own strength, he was tended to immediately on the bench and did not return for the final frame.

Maxime Macenauer had a chance to help the Bulldogs’ climb back into the game before the third period’s midway mark when he finished off a solo rush with a wrister that found only iron. His line and the fourth unit anchored by Joonas Nattinen and Justin Courtnall were  the only ones that seemed to be clicking on the afternoon, causing Coach Lefebvre to shuffle his deck mid-game.

Climie hadn’t been tested much throughout the net, but needed to come up big in the closing moments to stymie a comeback effort. First it was a kick save on a Jordan Owens attempt set-up by a spinning Martin St Pierre dish. Next it was a glove stop on Sven Andrighetto who had been alone at the side of the goal after accepting a feed from Jarred Tinordi.

With those stops, the Wolves were able to sit on their lead the rest of the way, handing the fatigued home side their fourth loss in the past six games.

After the game, Macenauer confirmed he did in fact touch the puck on the disallowed goal which could have completely changed the night’s course. “Ya, I touched it. I mean it’s a close call. I felt like they should have probably reviewed it. It was probably a high stick, but you never know. I felt like I might have touched it just below the cross bar.” On his own promotion to the top line, the pivot feels the coach’s confidence in his game has helped him progress throughout the season. “I always thought I could play a lot of minutes in every situation, and that’s what I’ve tried to prove since the start of the season.”

While it wasn’t the outcome he had hoped for, Lefebvre was proud of his team’s compete level after a tough weekend. “Really tough physical game last night. Guys gave everything they had. They emptied the tank big time. Can’t be not satisfied with the effort. It’s tough, but we have guys that can log some minutes. We got to Lake Erie at 4 o’clock Saturday morning, and then back here at 4:30 this morning.”

On his injured blueliner Ellis, the coach also confirmed that the situation may have been just as bad as it looked. “I haven’t talked to doctors yet, but it’s an upper body injury, and he’ll probably miss some time.”

The Bulldogs embark on a lengthy road trip next which will hopefully allow them to regroup from the current struggles. They’ll visit five cities as visitors for their next six games, only returning home to Copps Coliseum for a tilt with the Texas Stars on February 15th.

 

Categories
IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Lack Killer Instinct in Shutout Loss [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Morgan Ellis | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – After having a six-game win streak snapped two weeks ago, the Hamilton Bulldogs all spoke of how important it was to avoid the peril of their early season: following each step forward with an equivalent or worse step back. Despite a valiant effort to prevent a new skid, firing 32 shots on Toronto Marlies’ goaltender Drew MacIntyre, the boys from the Hammer were unable to find the back of the net Saturday night, dropping a 2-0 decision for their third loss in the past four outings.

ThomasHamilton
Christian Thomas had the best ‘Dogs chances on the night, but couldn’t beat Drew MacIntyre (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

The Bulldogs – looking to rebound from last week’s loss to the bottom feeding Utica Comets – started strong, as an early Christian Thomas scoring chance off a Sven Andrighetto set-up forced Drew MacIntyre into a tough save and Wade MacLeod into a hooking penalty. Thomas would also have the best chance with the man advantage on a Morgan Ellis rebound, but MacIntyre was sharp right from opening puck drop.

Frustrations began to mount as the ‘Dogs saw two powerplays and a Sven Andrighetto breakaway go unrewarded, prompting Jarred Tinordi to drop the gloves with tough guy David Broll in a clash of heavyweights. Lots of swinging, but few punches landed either way, so Sam Carrick and Gabriel Dumont decided to keep the intensity high later in on the period in a lightweight bout.

As often happens in hockey, when a team has the better scoring chances but fails to cash in, it only takes one opportunity for the other team to open a lead. Martin St. Pierre was called for a poor penalty late in the first, interfering with a forechecking Brad Staubitz, something the captain has been guilty of far too frequently this season. Greg Pateryn was caught hobbled in front of Dustin Tokarski after blocking a hard point shot, allowing Greg McKegg to beat him to a rebound and tuck the puck just inside the post on the Hamilton netminder, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The ‘Dogs were again the better team at five-on-five in the second period, but a continued failure to make anything of their rushes or powerplay opportunities bit them once again. After Joonas Nattinen deftly set up linemate Stefan Fournier with a quick drop pass, only to be turned aside by  MacIntyre, Hamilton was handed a powerplay opportunity when a scrum near the benches resulted in a too many men call against Toronto. Rather than seizing the opportunity, however, the home side allowed Jerry D’Amigo to break in alone. While being hooked to the ice, D’Amigo managed to direct the puck towards the net, fooling Tokarski who followed the sliding man rather than the abandoned disk, which trickled past him and into the cage.

Hamilton was given a great chance to get back into the game in the third period, as Brandon Kozun – making his debut for the Marlies after being acquired for Andrew Crescenzi a couple of days ago – took back-to-back penalties, giving the trailers four minutes of near uninterrupted powerplay time. The Bulldogs failed to generate much in the way of sustained possession or pressure, squandering their chances once again, and running into a wall of MacIntyre on the best opportunity as Gabriel Dumont and Mike Blunden batted away at a Greg Pateryn rebound.

Toronto was able to coast the rest of the way, preserving ex-Bulldog MacIntyre’s first shutout of the season. The struggling powerplay – 0 for 7 on the night – was an easy target on which to pinpoint the night’s defeat. “For me on the powerplay, I have to shoot pucks, get the pucks through,” suggested Morgan Ellis, whose team-high five shots came with a good dose of powerplay ice time thanks to Nathan Beaulieu‘s call-up to Montreal. “[Beaulieu] is a good puck-moving defenseman. He finds seams. For me, being out there, I just have to keep it simple and get pucks through, and hopefully one of them goes in.”

Coach Sylvain Lefebvre wasn’t as concerned about how Beaulieu’s loss impacted his man advantage, but reiterated the need fo it to be better. “Our powerplay was not good tonight. Our powerplay wasn’t doing very well even when Nathan was here. It’s been a current theme right now. Even when we were playing well and getting some wins, the powerplay wasn’t much of a factor. We have to find a way to grind it out. Maybe we’re doing too much. When we did well on the powerplay, it was getting shots from the point and traffic in front.”

The coach also scoffs at the notion of his team being streaky. “I’m tired of hearing that we’re streaky. We try to win every game. We try to put some wins together, and obviously we’re not trying to put some losses together. We want to get back on track. We think we’re a good team. We gotta get better and stronger mentally.”

Lefebvre’s troops will have a chance to prove they are strong mentally by getting right back on the ice Saturday night in Lake Erie to take on the Monsters. They’ll then return home to complete an always difficult three games in three nights stretch Sunday against Chicago.

 

Categories
IceCaps game report

Americans Snap Bulldogs Streak at Six [with POST-GAME AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Greg Pateryn | Robert Mayer | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – The Hamilton Bulldogs came home from a four-game road trip riding a six-game win streak, but a strong first period was insufficient to extend the streak to seven Saturday night against the Rochester Americans. It looked through twenty minutes as though the ‘Dogs might continue the dominance they displayed on the road, but the visiting Amerks got revenge from the first half of the teams’ home-and-home, slowly taking control starting at the game’s halfway point, and then controlling the flow in the final minutes to secure a 3-1 victory.

Greg Pateryn's powerplay marker gave Hamilton an early end, but the home team couldn't keep up the rest of the way. (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
Greg Pateryn’s powerplay marker gave Hamilton an early end, but the home team couldn’t keep up the rest of the way. (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

The game marked Robert Mayer‘s first start since winning the Spengler Cup during a brief loan to Genève-Servette. Mayer was phenomenal in the tournament’s final, particularly as Genève-Servette held on under siege during the third period.

Mayer’s shaky confidence has often been a knock against him throughout his professional career, so the hope was that the championship might give him something to build on back in the American Hockey League, but the extended time off between games saw him look hesitant off the bat. The first shot his way – coming from the blueline – squeaked through him, but fortunately trickled just wide of the cage.

From there, the Bulldogs took over the first period. On the team’s first powerplay at the midway mark of the period, Greg Pateryn took a feed from Christian Thomas along the blueline and took a few strides in from the point before firing a hard wrister past Nathan Lieuwen for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Pateryn’s seventh of the season, putting him just two behind Louis Leblanc‘s team leading nine. As much as Pateryn could help the Montreal Canadiens as an upgrade on D immediately, he has been Hamilton’s MVP through the first half of the season, and would be an enormous loss for the ‘Dogs.

Nathan Beaulieu and Sven Andrighetto had quality scoring chances looking to extend the Hamilton lead before 20 minutes were through. Beaulieu accepted a drop pass and displayed soft hands in weaving through the Amerks’ defense before firing a shot that rang off the post. A few shifts later, Andrighetto’s stickhandling ability allowed him to find open ice in the offensive zone, but his shot was narrowly wide.

The Bulldogs picked up right where they left off in the second period. Gabriel Dumont battled hard in front of Lieuwen on an early powerplay, finally leaving the puck for Mike Blunden to crash the goal and try to sneak one through the Rochester netminder, but to no avail.

After successfully killing ten penalties in Rochester the night previous, Hamilton was again set on not making the night an easy one for themselves. The Americans – who began to find their legs as the period moved on – hemmed the ‘Dogs in their own end for an extended period of time, eventually earning a powerplay thanks to a Christian Thomas failed clear attempt that sailed over the glass. Mayer was forced to make a big save lying on the ice in snow angel formation to help his ‘mates survive the kill.

But Rochester’s momentum only grew from there. Mayer – who also settled down as the game wore on – made the initial stop on a rush, but kicked the rebound all the way back to the point where Chad Ruhwedel was waiting. The blueliner’s shot would be tipped in front by Brandon MacLean to tie the game before Mayer could recover.

The third period started with both teams afraid to make mistakes. The biggest moment in the early-goings was a successful Hamilton kill of a Greg Pateryn penalty. It took till the midway point of the frame for the first real scoring chance, when Maxim Macenauer and Louis Leblanc broke in on a two-on-one. Macenauer opted to keep the puck and identified the nearside top corner, but Lieuwen got the blocker up in time.

Seconds after the unsuccessful rush, Luke Adam – always a thorn in Hamilton’s sign – deftly stickhandled inside the Bulldogs blueline to create room before spotting Johan Larsson alone in the slot. Larsson – acquired from Minnesota as part of last season’s Jason Pominville trade – quickly redirected the pass into an empty net as Mayer attempted to slide cross-crease, giving Rochester its first lead of the night.

By this point, the Americans had taken control of the flow of the game, and coasted the rest of the period with Hamilton unable to generate much in the way of chances to tie the game. Mayer skated to the bench following a Bulldog dump-in, but Rochester recovered, and Luke Adam – yes, him again – lobbed a puck into the empty cage with just under a minute to play, sealing the Amerks victory and ending Hamilton’s run.

“That first goal was really big for us, and I thought we were going to be able to feed off that, but we played one and a half periods of hockey, and that third period we gave the game away,” summarized the night’s second star, Greg Pateryn. “It happens sometimes. We have to break away from it.”

Pateryn was perhaps the biggest reason outside of Dustin Tokarski for Hamilton’s recent success, having found solid chemistry on a pairing with Jarred Tinordi after spending much of the early season beside Nathan Beaulieu. The 23-year old believes he and his new ‘mate can make a solid shutdown duo. “We’re starting to really build some chemistry. We’re talking out there, always trying to get better with the little things. He’s a really good player and I’m really happy to play with him.”

Critical for the Bulldogs is not to fall into the same trap they have earlier this year, where multi-game win streaks were essentially negated by extended losing streaks. They’ll have a chance to put tonight’s loss behind them quickly, as they hit the season’s official halfway point with a home date against the Iowa Wild Sunday. In the words of Pateryn: “We need to not let this loss get to us and take the positives from it. There are a lot of games in the season.”

 

Categories
Feature

Down on the Farm – State of the ‘Dogs

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – As the Hamilton Bulldogs approach the halfway point of their 2013-14 season, If one were to summarize it in a single word, it would be inconsistency.

A strong start with only two regulation losses in their first ten games was quickly wiped out by a five game losing streak. Then just when it looked like this season may be a repeat of the last, the ‘Dogs rattled off four straight wins, backed by stellar netminding from Dustin Tokarski.

The two men most responsible for Hamilton's success this season are goaltender Dustin Tokarski and defenseman Greg Pateryn (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
The two men most responsible for Hamilton’s success this season are goaltender Dustin Tokarski and defenseman Greg Pateryn (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

The club then idled for a spell, with a 3-3 record over their next six contests, before going cold once again with a second five-game skid in the first half of the year.

But Santa had some renewed hope tucked away in his sack for Bulldog fans, as the holidays brought with them a five-game surge for the boys from Canada’s Steeltown that now has them right in the thick of a playoff race in the AHL’s Western Conference.  It has been a rollercoaster, to say the least, and the real Hamilton Bulldogs will need to rise to the occasion early in 2014 to continue to gain ground on rivals who currently hold games in hand.

In Hamilton’s favour is that they sit in the American Hockey League’s weakest division, only three points back of the leading Toronto Marlies (who have two games in hand, mind you) despite being just three games above .500.

Also arguably in their favour is that they haven’t depended on a single player – or even single line – to carry them offensively this year. When the team is losing, this can be seen as a negative, as there hasn’t been a single forward they can go to for offense in a time of need. In fact, their inability to score often mirrored the problems of their parent club in Montreal. But in the American Hockey League, relying on a single player is a risky strategy, as not only do you live in fear of losing that player himself to injury as you would in any league, but you’re also at risk of losing that player to any injury or trade by your NHL affiliate.

Sure Martin St. Pierre has a sizeable lead on his teammates in terms of points with 25 in 32 games, but the undersized AHL veteran has been rather ineffective at even strength this season, padding his stats with the man advantage. Despite what the stat sheet says, his play thus far can be qualified as underwhelming.

Louis Leblanc’s nine goals lead the Bulldogs, but his game has been hot and cold, disappearing for stretches much like many of his fellow skaters. To his credit, Leblanc has managed to simplify his game this season – perhaps realizing his professional forte won’t be as a finesse/skill player – and cut down on poor undisciplined penalties.

Gabriel Dumont didn’t have a start to the season anywhere near like the past year, but one can’t question his effort level, and he has kicked it up a notch over the most recent win streak. At the moment, I would imagine he heads the call-up list among forwards.

Outside of Dumont, Mike Blunden is the other “safe” call-up at forward, but he’s often a Bulldog equivalent of Travis Moen; frequent recipient of scoring chances only to miss the net.

Patrick Holland got a deserved taste of NHL action earlier this season, and has progressed his game by showing intensity in all three zones. That said, he has failed to improve on his productivity from his rookie AHL season. A player who scored 109 points in his final year in the WHL, Holland was expected to take on more of the offensive load than he has thus far.

If there’s a forward who has delivered well throughout the season up front, it’s pro rookie Sven Andrighetto. The Swiss winger has eight goals and 15 points in his first 23 AHL games, despite missing a full month of the season with injury. Andrighetto is a rather one-dimensional offensive player, so the Montreal brass is likely to want him to mature further before any call-up.

While the forwards have been inconsistent, Hamilton’s MVP to date (perhaps outside of Tokarski) has been their rock on the blueline. Though Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi get all the press in Montreal as former first round picks, it’s Greg Pateryn that anchors the Bulldog defense. Both Beaulieu and Tinordi have struggled as sophomores, with the former frequently looking disinterested on ice, and the latter neither playing physically nor being air-tight defensively. But Pateryn has been getting it done at both ends of the ice (his 15 points in 28 games and plus-11 both lead all Bulldog blueliners) and appears about as ready to make the jump to the NHL as any second year pro could be.

A revelation of late has been the resurgence of Morgan Ellis, practically written off earlier this season as he bided his time as a healthy scratch. Ellis has a strong reputation as a leader on and off the ice, and to his credit, took it in stride, seizing his opportunity when given and establishing himself as a top four blueliner on the squad.

Expanding our coverage of the Hamilton Bulldogs here at AllHabs.net, this column will be a weekly feature on Thursdays for the remainder of the season, updating which Bulldog players are trending upwards or downwards, and highlighting some names you may be less familiar with down on the farm.

 

Categories
Multimedia

Bulldogs in Pictures: A Frosty Day at Practice [GALLERY]

By Rabita, Photojournalist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON,ON. — It was cold, very cold as I walked through the blowing snow on the way into Copps Coliseum for morning practice. Funny thing is that it didn’t get any warmer inside the arena as the drills began.

(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)
(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)

Gone was the light-hearted banter, replaced by the coaches being more stern and barking their commands. Yes they definitely were yelling a lot more.  Rink-side, there was a chilly mood indeed.

There was a new arrival, Jordan Owens, who had been signed to a professional try out contract earlier in the week. The coaches spent more time on individual instruction, including with Owen, who was wearing number 26.  But with the Bulldogs playing  a game later in the day, the skate was kept shorter than usual.

Attending the game, it was incredible to see the boys put the effort and hard work from practice into the game against the Toronto Marlies.  It was also interesting to see players show the same characteristics that I had witnessed at the practices.  It was weird at first to see such a full stadium — I’m used to just empty seats.  But I was happy to see such a good turn out!

Enjoy the photos!

 

Categories
Multimedia

Bulldogs in Pictures: Sometimes Jerseys Are Optional [GALLERY]

By Rabita, Photojournalist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON,ON. — You might think that a hockey practice is rather routine: stretching, skating and drills. That may be partly true but there’s always something different.  It’s a time to watch the skills of the players but more importantly see the interactions between teammates and the coaches. Last time, I told you (and showed you photos) of the small fight between Darren Dietz and Nick Tarnasky.

(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)
(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)

Today started like any other practice. The players got on the ice and started their drills right away, split into white and red jerseys. It was good to see the older players being vocal, encouraging the younger players in the drills.  Something I found interesting (and wouldn’t have seen otherwise) is that the coaches actively participated in the drills rather than just instructing the players.

But what was the most fascinating to me was when goalie Dustin Tokarski returned to the ice without a jersey or protective gear and began going through the motions of saving phantom pucks and recovering for the next stop in his mind. He is a very focused athlete.

Enjoy the photos. I look forward to your comments.

 

Categories
IceCaps game report

Top Line Carries Bulldogs to Win Over Crunch [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Gabriel Dumont | Mike Blunden | Louis Leblanc | Sylvain Lefebvre

MONTREAL, QC –  Coach Sylvain Lefebvre has long talked about needing a 60-minute effort, and it seems his team is finally listening. For the second night in a row, the Hamilton Bulldogs competed hard from puck drop to final whistle, defeating a quality opponent in the Syracuse Crunch by a 4-1 final. The game was the Bulldogs’ first of two trips to the Bell Centre in Montreal this season, and represented their third straight victory, coming immediately on the heels of what had been a six-game losing straight, and propelling the team back above the .500 mark.

Mike Blunden has brought life to Gabriel Dumont and Justin Courtnall, with the three forming Hamilton's best line this week. (Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)
Mike Blunden has brought life to Gabriel Dumont and Justin Courtnall, with the three forming Hamilton’s best line this week. (Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)

Though the most dominant players on ice in a sloppy opening period were the Crunch’s Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov, it was Hamilton’s most dangerous line – that of Mike BlundenGabriel Dumont, and Justin Courtnall – that opened the scoring. Dumont led a great individual rush, opening up a 2-on-1 with Blunden, and forcing the lone defender to commit before dropping the puck on to Blunden’s stick. From there, all Blunden had to do was fire a shot through Cedric Desjardins and up just under the bar for a 1-0 lead. Blunden, Dumont, and Courtnall have been Hamilton’s best unit since being put together a few games ago.

If the first period was relatively even, Hamilton took the play to Syracuse in the second. Desjardins held the Crunch in the game as long as he could – notably robbing Greg Pateryn on a hard shot from the blueline and Christian Thomas on a quick one-timer – but in a period where the ‘Dogs outshot Syracuse 15-8, he could only resist for so long. At the 11-minute mark, Martin St. Pierre led a rush and dropped the puck on to the stick of Morgan Ellis, who stepped right into a big one-timer, netting his first goal of the season.

Next it was the top line going back to work, as Geoff Courtnall pressed hard on the forecheck, and caused the Syracuse defense to turn over the puck. It bounced out to Blunden, who returned the earlier favour to Dumont, receiving a pass with an empty side of the net in front of him, and making no mistake in one-touching it for his first of the year and a 3-0 advantage.

Syracuse looked like they had gotten one back shorthanded, when the Kucherov – Namestnikov pair led a breakout, but after a first shot block by a diving Christian Thomas, the goal scored when the puck was kicked back out front was waved off as the net had been knocked off its moorings. It was the second disallowed goal for the Crunch on the night, after earlier having one reversed due to incidental contact with Dustin Tokarski in front of the net.

Hamilton reverted into a defensive shell for much of the third, clearly intent on making Tokarski earn the win. The goaltender stood tall until a goalmouth scramble with under five to play saw a puck trickle through him, with credit given to former Hab defenseman J.P. Cote. While losing the shutout was unfortunate for Tokarski on a personal level, the Bulldogs held the lead the rest of the way, with Blunden finishing a great night at the office by hitting an empty net. The 4-1 victory was Hamilton’s third straight straight win, coming immediately on the heels of what had been a six-game losing straight, and propelling the team back above the .500 mark.

Other than the sixty minute effort, the talk post-game focused on the jackpot Lefebvre hit by putting Dumont, Blunden, and Courtnall together. Not only were they the team’s spark offensively, but they matched up against Kucherov and Namestnikov most of the evening, shutting down the pair that looked far too good to be playing at the American Hockey League level.

“I just saw him out there. We practice 2-on-1s pretty often, and we try to go together because we know we’re on the same line. I knew he was gonna post out there. I knew if I had [that defenseman] beat, if I left it there for [Blunden], he was gonna score,” described Dumont of his set-up on Blunden’s first marker.

“Justin came in and we didn’t know much about him. He fought for his place on the team, and since the beginning of the year, he improves every game. He works very hard. Fearless. He completes us pretty well since we play a pretty simple north-south game,” Dumont added on the third member of his trio, whose name didn’t appear on the scoresheet on this night, but whose eff0rt was instrumental to creating Dumont’s goal.

Blunden had equally as glowing reviews for his linemates. “Justin and Gab just work their butts off. I try to do the same thing. We work the D down low, and we scored a couple of goals tonight. We talk a lot, and it’s going well, so hopefully we can keep it going. I’ve really enjoyed our line.”

The Bulldogs complete a “home and home” with Syracuse, travelling to visit the Crunch Saturday night, with the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate looking for revenge.

 

Categories
Multimedia

Emotions On Display at Hamilton Bulldogs Practice [PHOTO GALLERY]

If you are a regular reader of All Habs Hockey Magazine, you know that we do things differently and you tell us that it’s one of the reasons you keep coming back. In addition to our comprehensive coverage of the Montreal Canadiens, we also commit to providing you the most in-depth coverage of prospects in the organization.  Being a Canadiens fan means you want to keep current on the progress of future stars too.

One of our Senior Writers, Dan Kramer, is in his second full season of providing you game-by-game reports for the Hamilton Bulldogs from the press box.  We are pleased to introduce to you Rabita, another member of All Habs team who will be providing you with images from Copps Coliseum.  Her experience in sports photography will tell you the story from Hamilton in pictures.

We have more changes in store for you that are just around the corner. We think that you’ll like them.

By Rabita, Photojournalist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON,ON. — I’m used to be on the field as a sidelines photographer. But I knew that this photo assignment was going to be different when the pucks slammed against the glass, quite startling when one is looking through a camera lens. And the speed. Being rink-side gave a whole new appreciation for the speed, even at this level. The guys are really fast which made it a challenge to capture them in motion sometimes.

(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)
(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)

The Bulldogs wasted no time getting warmed up and beginning their drills. The team worked hard all through the practice in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Texas Stars. There was plenty of chatter on the ice with teammates encouraging each other. Players seemed to pair up reserving conversation with one partner. And the coaches showed their fun and joking side at times too.

At one point, the ‘communication’ became intense. Nick Tarnasky, playing the role of the veteran, felt that a rookie defenceman wasn’t taking things seriously enough. He and Darren Dietz exchanged rough language and eventually dropped the gloves. The minor dispute was settled quickly by the coaches and fellow teammates. Just the emotion of the game.

All in all, today was an incredible experience photographing the Bulldogs. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to capture the skills and emotions of these talented players.

I am pleased to join the All Habs team. I will be telling you the stories of Hamilton Bulldogs through pictures this season. I hope that you enjoy them. I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave me a note in the comment box.