HAMILTON, ON — Well, after 19 years, AHL hockey in Hamilton is now over.
The Hamilton Bulldogs finished their regular season in a shootout at the FirstOntario Centre on Saturday night against the Lake Erie Monsters in front of 10,326 loud fans. It was an exciting game, but the Bulldogs came up short in their first shootout of the season.
The match marked the final game of AHL hockey in the City, as the team is relocating to St. John’s, Newfoundland for the 2015-16 season.
The Lake Erie Monsters opened the scoring with a goal from Cody Corbett who tucked the puck behind Bulldogs goaltender Brandon Whitney.
Shortly after the Corbett goal, the Bulldogs got one back to tie the game courtesy of Eric Tangradi.
The Bulldogs entered the first intermission tied, 1-1, with the Monsters. However, the second period would see much more action.
In the middle frame, TJ Hensick buried his 19th goal of the season giving the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. But then the Monsters responded on the power play after Stefan Fournier went off for too-many men and Stefan Elliott notched the tying goal.
Lake Erie’s goal scoring did not end there, as they regained the lead.
Freddie Hamilton scored his 11th goal of the 2014-15 campaign on the power-play just after the Monsters tied the game.
At this point, the Bulldogs were really pressing hard for a tying goal, but they finished the period down by one after forty minutes of play.
The Bulldogs were able to tie the game about five minutes into the frame with Christian Thomas blasting one by Calvin Pickard after a nice pass from Sven Andrighetto.
The Bulldogs and Monsters did not find the score sheet in the final exciting 15 minutes of the period, which saw several chances at both ends of the ice, so 60 minutes was not enough and the game needed an overtime period.
The overtime period did not have a goal scorer, but let me tell you this: That overtime period was the entertaining seven minutes of hockey I have watched this season. The Bulldogs had over five chances to end the game in overtime but Pickard stopped everything, including a sprawling glove save. It’s unfortunate, the game needed to be decided in the shootout, where the Monsters came out on top.
By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
HAMILTON, ONT — On Friday, the Hamilton Bulldogs played their first game of three game weekend set against the American Hockey League leading team, Utica Comets, and defeated them by a score of 3-0 – in a game that was well deserving of a win.
Tonight, the Bulldogs played their second game in two nights against the Lake Erie Monsters, the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche at the FirstOntario Centre, and were defeated by a score of 2-1.
The first period came to an end at the FirstOntario Centre with a scoreless game. However, there was a ton of action and good scoring chances.
It didn’t take long for another scary incident to happen. This time, involving Connor Crisp, who was checked from behind by Daniel Maggio and that would spark a scrum with Joe Finley and Darren Dietz defending their teammate. Crisp then went off to the dressing room.
Surprisingly, Maggio did not receive a game misconduct and only went off for two minutes for roughing. But when he made his return to the ice after serving the minor penalty, Bulldogs forward Jack Nevins dropped the gloves with him and Nevins would have the advantage by landing a handful of punches and bringing him down to the ice. The crowd then loudly cheered and both players continued to chirp each other from the penalty box.
Fast forward two periods and we saw forty minutes of hockey played in Hamilton and still, there was no goal scoring.
It’s quite clear that the Monsters are not making many friends in Hamilton. Why? Well because they were hitting players way too many times from behind and the refs still did not kick a player out for it. Crisp, who was hit from behind in the first period, did not return and that raised a few eyebrows.
Putting the shenanigans to the side, there were a few good scoring chances for both teams, and the Monsters did score, but it was waved off due to a hand pass. So the game remained scoreless. For a time, at least.
But in the third period, the first official goal of the game came just 28 seconds into the frame, thanks to Joey Hishon who scored the nice breakaway goal giving the Monsters a 1-0 lead over the Bulldogs.
So in the third period we finally saw some scoring action and this time, the Bulldogs answered with rookie Charles Hudon slapping home a beautiful one timer to make it a tie game. It was Hudon’s 11th goal of the season, too.
With 3:15 to go, the Monsters then took a late 2-1 lead thanks to a goal from Trevor Cheek who scored from inside the slot with a crowded net in front of Mike Condon.
The Bulldogs called a timeout with a minute or so left and Condon sat on the bench for the extra attacker, but they could not find the back of the net and the Monsters held on for the 2-1 win on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs are back in action tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. as they host the Oklahoma City Barons, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.
AHL BOARD OF GOVERNORS APPROVES DIVISION ALIGNMENT FOR 2014-15
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced that the league’s Board of Governors has approved the following division alignment for the 2014-15 AHL season (National Hockey League affiliates in parentheses):
Eastern Conference Atlantic Division
Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)
Portland Pirates (Arizona)
Providence Bruins (Boston)
St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg)
Worcester Sharks (San Jose)
Albany Devils (New Jersey)
Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders)
Hartford Wolf Pack (N.Y. Rangers)
Springfield Falcons (Columbus)
Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay)
Binghamton Senators (Ottawa)
Hershey Bears (Washington)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia)
Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh)
Western Conference North Division
Adirondack Flames (Calgary)
Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal)
Rochester Americans (Buffalo)
Toronto Marlies (Toronto)
Utica Comets (Vancouver)
Chicago Wolves (St. Louis)
Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit)
Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado)
Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville)
Rockford IceHogs (Chicago)
Charlotte Checkers (Carolina)
Iowa Wild (Minnesota)
Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton)
San Antonio Rampage (Florida)
Texas Stars (Dallas)
Changes from last season include:
• Calgary’s affiliate relocating from Abbotsford, B.C., to Glens Falls, N.Y., and playing in the North Division
• Philadelphia’s affiliate relocating from Glens Falls, N.Y. to Allentown, Pa., and playing in the East Division
• Syracuse moving from the East Division to the Northeast Division
• Lake Erie moving from the North Division to the Midwest Division
• Iowa moving from the Midwest Division to the West Division
The format for the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs has also been approved by the Board of Governors and remains the same as 2014: Eight teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason, with the three division winners earning the top three seeds and the next five best teams in order of regular-season points seeded fourth through eighth. The conference quarterfinals will be best-of-five series; the conference semifinals, conference finals and Calder Cup Finals will be best-of-seven series. Teams will be re-ordered after the first round so that the highest-remaining seed plays the lowest-remaining seed.
The playing schedule for the 2014-15 regular season, which begins Oct. 10, will be announced later this summer.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 13th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2013-14.
The Adirondack Flames (Calgary Flames) join the Hamilton Bulldogs in the North Division replacing the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche.)
HAMILTON, ON – With three home games in three days, this weekend was pivotal for the Hamilton Bulldogs to climb back into the AHL Western Conference playoff race. As the team plays 13 of their final 18 games on the road, it was critical for them to close the gap on the 8th and final spot in front of their own fans. But as much as the team got off to good starts, taking an early lead in all three contests, they failed to collect the four or six points they critically needed. And on Sunday, playing to salvage some positives out of the despair, they failed to even pick up two, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Lake Erie Monsters, who leap-frogged the Bulldogs in the process, dropping Hamilton to last place in the West.
Pre-game in Hamilton was unusually eventful, as first there was a notable absence from the team’s warm-up. Captain Martin St. Pierre was announced as a healthy scratch; the latest development in what has been a trying season for the veteran, despite his two assists yesterday. Though St. Pierre may lead the Bulldogs in scoring, almost all of his production has come with the man advantage, nearly invisible at even strength, and frequently guilty of poor penalties. Regardless of his play, benching your team’s top scorer and dressing room leader when as a club you struggle to produce is a bold move. So bold, one might argue, that it represented coach Sylvain Lefebvre‘s last straw tactic to try to get his team to play up to their potential, conceivably putting his own job on the line in doing so.
Next, there was almost a second curious storyline as the Bulldogs had only four skaters on ice throughout the national anthems. Nick Tarnasky was missing in action after being announced as part of the starting line-up. The pugilist raced down the hallway from the dressing room and on to the ice just prior to puck drop, ending any conspiracy theories, and then immediately dropped the gloves with Guillaume Desbiens off the opening face-off.
In Devan Dubnyk‘s second start since joining the Bulldogs, it was his teammate Morgan Ellis who made certain the netminder was sharp early on. Two blatant defensive zone giveaways gave the Monsters the game’s first two quality scoring opportunities, but both times the 6’6″ keeper had the last word, swallowing up any rebounds.
After their goalie’s heroics, Sven Andrighetto got the home team’s offense rolling. A solo rush saw him weaver between defenders before firing a wrister on goal, but despite the ensuing scramble, neither he nor Maxime Macenauer could tap a rebound past Calvin Pickard.
Andrighetto would make good later on in the frame, finding Christian Thomas alone at the top of the face-off circle, with the sniper making no mistake in firing a one-timer top shelf to open the scoring. The Swiss winger would nearly got on the scoreboard himself moments after the first tally, taking a delayed feed from Davis Drewiske during 4-on-4 play, but again Pickard resisted.
Strong firsts are nothing new for this year’s Hamilton Bulldogs squad, but the second frame has been their nemesis. A slow start was reversed following a Sylvain Lefebvre timeout, with the ‘Dogs carrying the play for much of the middle stanza without being able to add to their lead. The best chance came as Hamilton was awarded a penalty shot on a call most recently seen at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. With the puck on Louis Leblanc‘s stick in the attacking zone, a Monster defenseman inadvertently batted a broken stick along the ice at the puck-carrier, and the refs were quick to whistle play down and point to center ice signalling a penalty shot.
Coach Lefebvre went with his most dangerous skater for the shot, but Sven Andrighetto‘s quick backhand to forehand deke was matched with an equally quick Pickard pad.
A common problem for the boys from the Hammer as been failing to capitalize on chances, and thus allowing other teams to hang around for too long. That was the case again in this one, as Nathan McIver would leave his side shorthanded, guilty of an extra two minute penalty prior to a fight with Daniel Maggio. Immediately off the face-off in the ‘Dogs end, David van der Gulik fired a hard wrister up and over a falling Dubnyk to tie the game.
Another common problem has been second period collapses, and in a case of “jamais un sans deux,” van der Gulik was again Johnny on the spot just three minutes later, accepting a dish from Andrew Agozzino completely uncovered the slot and beating Dubnyk with a heavy release.
If the team’s season was on the line in the third period, they disappointingly didn’t play like it. Managing only four shots the entire frame, any hopes of a comeback were wiped out when Matt Hunwick pinched into the high slot on the powerplay, converting on a van der Gulik pass and beating Dubnyk just under the bar blocker side. Michael Schumacher added a fourth tally off a Hamilton turnover, sliding a backhand five hole on the Hamilton netminder in a game that was already out of reach.
Post-game, coach Lefebvre wasn’t entirely happy with his team’s effort, but saw Sunday as a game that could have gone either way. “The powerplay didn’t come up big. Tonight if Andrighetto scores on the penalty shot, it’s 2-0. Our second periods have been nowhere to be found this year. We gain momentum in the first period, then we come out in the second and we’re flat. I don’t know what it is.”
Certainly one of the “what it is” is a lack of scoring, for which the coach also has few answers. “We work on scoring everyday. I wish we could score more goals, but that’s how it is right now and we have to play well defensively. Last night, the empty net goal was the thirteenth this year. We’re in games, but we just can’t find a way to win games when we have to comeback from behind, and scoring is part of it.”
How does a last place team stay motivated with eighteen games remaining in the season and the already slim hope of a playoff berth now requiring nothing short of a miracle? “If we stop believing and we quit, no one is going to benefit from that. It’s our job as coaches and our job as players not to quit, and to battle till the end. Guys are playing for their lives, playing for their livelihoods and their jobs. That’s the plain and simple truth,” summarizes the coach, alluding to the fact that at least on an individual basis, players remain in competition for NHL call-ups.
And then there’s the captain. The team’s lone goal scorer on the night, Christian Thomas, didn’t hide his disappointment in St. Pierre’s absence from the line-up. “It was definitely tough. He’s a presence in the room. He’s a good leader; older guy, brings veteran status out there, but we come to the rink and whatever the lines are, we can’t change it and just have to do our thing out there. He definitely helps, but today I’m not going to blame it cause he wasn’t playing, but we should have showed up more.”
Coach Lefebvre didn’t shy away from tackling the issue of his controversial line-up decision head on. “[St. Pierre] was a healthy scratch tonight. Not happy with his game. Been talking to him a few times, sending him messages here and there not happy with his game. Sometimes as a coach, you have ways to get guys going. Hopefully he’ll rebound and get to playing the way he can play. He’s our captain. He’s the guy that sets the tone, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Things won’t get any easier from here on out, as after three-in-three at home this weekend, they’ll play three-in-three in different cities on the road next week.
HAMILTON, ON – Losers of five straight, the Hamilton Bulldogs needed to turn a page Friday night if they wanted to avoid squandering a good start to the 2013-14 season, finding themselves a game below .500 entering action at Copps Coliseum. Whatever coach Sylvain Lefebvre said to the team during a lengthy meeting the day prior looked like it was going to prove effective early on, with the Bulldogs building an early lead, but the same old mental lapses crept back into their game come the middle stanza, ultimately costing the club a chance to take the first half of a key divisional home-and-home. A third period insurance marker by former Hab J.T. Wyman sealed the deal, solidifying a 5-3 victory for the visiting Lake Erie Monsters.
There was good news for the Bulldogs before the game got underway, as it was announced that Christian Thomas had been cleared medically from the sports hernia he suffered during Montreal Canadiens’ training camp, and could thus officially join the team, set to make his season debut. He began on a line with Martin St. Pierre and Nick Tarnasky, while also playing the point on Hamilton’s top powerplay unit beside Nathan Beaulieu.
But it would be another line that would allow the Bulldogs to open the scoring midway through the first period. A great individual effort saw Gabriel Dumont work a puck out front, eventually finding Justin Courtnall for an easy tap-in. The period ended with the Monsters getting into penalty trouble, resulting in them starting the second two men short.
When a team fails to cash in on a 5-on-3 powerplay, it can sometimes be a turning point for their opposition. It looked for a moment like this would be the case, as Lake Erie generated a solid chance off the rush in the moments after the second penalty had expired, but Robert Mayer staved off the attack. The Bulldogs ensured they would maintain momentum by turning the puck back up ice, as a great burst of speed from Stefan Fournier created a two-on-one opportunity, with Joonas Nattinen diving to reach a pass and deflect it by a sliding Sami Aittokallio for a 2-0 lead.
It never comes easy for a team looking to snap a skid, however. Less than three minutes after Nattinen’s goal, the Monsters won an offensive zone face-off back to Gabriel Beaupre, whose point shot beat Mayer cleanly – one he’d undoubtedly like to have back. Lake Erie immediately resumed buzzing off the ensuing draw, and Guillaume Desbiens completed a passing play at the lip of the crease just thirty five seconds later, evening the score and forcing Lefebvre to call a timeout in the efforts of settling his troops down.
Any effect of the timeout was shortlived, as two minutes after the tying goal, the Monsters forced Mayer into a highlight-reel one-timer save. The netminder was unable to avoid kicking out a rebound on to a Lake Erie stick, and Lady Luck smiled on the visitors when a centering pass deflected into the Bulldogs net off Magnus Nygren‘s skate without a maroon sweater in sight.
When it rains, it pours, and for the second time in a week, a full second period storm struck Hamilton. While it didn’t come close to matching the dubious team record set the previous Friday against Grand Rapids – allowing four goals in 1:13 – the team would surrender its fourth consecutive marker, as Mitchell Heard collected his third point of the game with a lucky deflection of a point shot that bounced way up high over Mayer and into the cage. The line of Tarnasky, St. Pierre, and Thomas – a source of excitement pre-game – fell to -3 on the night on the insurance marker. The goal signaled the end of the night for Mayer, replaced by Dustin Tokarski for the second time in as many starts.
Facing a sixth straight defeat, undoubtedly Lefebvre has started to feel some pressure for his own job security, and his second intermission speech awoke the slumbering ‘Dogs. Led by the bottom six lines of Gabriel Dumont, Mike Blunden, and Justin Courtnall, and Joonas Nattinen, Steve Quailer, and Stefan Fournier, Hamilton fired whatever they could at Aittokallio, looking to get back into the game, and it was Blunden who would corral a puck in the slot and fire a shot just inside the post to draw back within one. The Finnish netminder would stymie any further attempts, however, untilWyman benefited from an off-balance Tokarski to bank a wraparound in off his pad, giving the Monsters all the production they needed for a win in Steeltown.
Where do you go from here? The optimist would say the only place is “up,” but other than eventual returns of the injured Patrick Holland and Darren Dietz, no further roster upgrades are in sight, given the Canadiens’ improving health. Sometimes it only takes a single win to reverse the trends and find some positives to build on, and Hamilton will get that chance right away on Saturday, as they visit the Monters before returning home for a rare Tuesday night game against the Texas Stars.
10/09/2013 11:26 AM
Hamilton Bulldogs’ Press Release
HAMILTON, ONTARIO – The Hamilton Bulldogs announced today that Sportsnet 360 will televise three of the team’s games this winter, two of which will feature the heated rivalry with the Toronto Marlies.
The complete schedule is as follows (all times Eastern):
Sunday, February 9th, 2014, 3:00 p.m. – Hamilton Bulldogs at Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) Sunday, March 9th, 2014, 3:00 p.m. – Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche) at Hamilton Bulldogs Sunday, March 16th, 2014, 3:00 p.m. – Hamilton Bulldogs at Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs)
These three games are part of a 10-game schedule of American Hockey League games for Sportsnet 360 this season. AHL games will be broadcast on the station weekly starting with Hamilton and Toronto on February 9th. The games can also be seen on NHL Network in the United States.
In addition to the 10-game regular-season package, Sportsnet ONE will broadcast two-day coverage of the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic between the AHL All-Stars and the Swedish Hockey League’s Farjestad BK, including the Skills Competition and All-Star Game, from St. John’s, Newfoundland on February 11th and 12th.
Hamilton’s next game is its regular season and home opener, scheduled for Friday, October 11th at 7:30 p.m. against the St. John’s IceCaps at Copps Coliseum. The club will host a home opener street party starting at 5:00 p.m., which will feature food provided by Maple Lodge Farms, family entertainment, sponsor vendors and a beer garden serving Molson products. Y108 will also be hosting its Drive Show live at the street party from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
HAMILTON, ON – There was a compelling storyline Friday night in Hamilton, with local son Marc Hagel in town with the visiting Lake Erie Monsters to face off against brother Kyle Hagel and the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, the 100+ friends and Hagel family members in attendance weren’t in for much of a game, as Lake Erie took it over quickly with a 4-0 advantage which they nursed to a 6-2 victory at the final horn.
The game started off on a sour note, as Joey Tenute ran Joey Hishon into the boards behind the goal just 13 seconds after the opening buzzer. Hishon lay on the ice for a long while, as Daniel Maggio dropped the gloves with Tenute, pummeling soundly before Jarred Tinordi stepped in to defend the game’s other Hamilton native. Five minute majors to Tenute and Maggio cancelled each other out, but it didn’t matter when seconds later a John Negrin pointshot squeaked through a crowd of bodies before beating starter Dustin Tokarski cleanly.
That first goal would open the floodgates for the Monsters, as defensive lapse after defensive lapse – notably coming from Joe Stejskal – ended up behind Tokarski. First a miscommunication and poor coverage between Stejskal and Peter Merth gave Luke Walker time and space alone in front of Tokarski and an easy tap-in. Then it was an open Andrew Agozzino taking a Tomas Vincour one-time pass and burying it into the empty side of the cage. Finally an individual effort by Paul Carey ended Tokarski’s night, as a pretty little move left the open half of the goal empty for his picking. The only thing the crowd had to cheer about in the first was when Marc Hagel was announced as collecting an assist on Carey’s tally.
A 4-0 Monsters lead did expand the brother factor in the game, as Jacob Gervais-Chouinard stepped in to relieve Tokarski, making his AHL debut. His brother, Joel Chouinard, is a Monsters’ defenseman who was playing in his ninth game of the season.
The second period saw little action, as Lake Erie sat back on their lead, and Hamilton couldn’t muster any offense until the final six minutes, when the team’s best chance came on an Olivier Archambault toe-drag in the slot which was stopped by Calvin Pickard.
Unfortunately, any momentum that may have been built by the home side was quashed just 24 seconds into the third when Agozzino batted a rebound past Gervais-Chouinard to put the visitors up five. They would add one more for good measure, when a Vincent Arsenault shot was popped up by Hamilton’s rookie netminder, and Dean Strong was first on the loose puck with only an empty net in front of him.
While the overall game was a disappointment for those in the crowd, the Hagel clan in attendance would get to see the other brother etch his name on the scoresheet as well. A solo effort by Kyle Hagel had him put a puck between a defender’s legs, skate around him, and fire a shot over a fallen Pickard, breaking the keeper’s shutout bid with his second tally – and first at home – on the season.
With just under five minutes to play, a Michael Bournival shot squeaked through Pickard to make the score 6-2, but it could be read as a mere footnote in the overall game story. One Danny Kristo offensive zone hooking penalty later, and the ugly outing was in the books.
No doubt it was a game to be forgotten for most – and this under the watchful eyes of the full Habs’ brass including Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins, Martin Lapointe, Patrice Brisebois, and Larry Carriere – but a night that won’t be forgotten for the Hagel brothers. “I had 70 tickets out, and Marc might have had a couple more, but those are just tickets we got for our family. There are probably more people we knew who got their own tickets,” said Kyle on a big homecoming for the pair. “[Marc] had a good performance. He looks like a really solid pro. I’m proud of him, and I can’t way to see how his career unfolds.”
Hagel being notably the resident enforcer on the Bulldogs’ roster, was there ever a thought of dropping the gloves with his brother? “He came up to me when we were down 4-0 and said, ‘Are you looking for a spark?’ Yeah! I am! And he just shakes his head at me. I don’t know. A lot of people have asked us that. Would it ever happen? Conceivably it could, but it’s not something we would plan. Maybe later down the road in our career if he was having a bad game and needed to prove himself to a coach to stay in the line-up, of course I’d do it for him.” It is that giving attitude which made Hagel the Bulldogs’ nominee for AHL Man of the Year.
HAMILTON, ON – It was another slow start for the Hamilton Bulldogs, with a trademark first period of stymied scoring chances and an unfortunate goal against, but for the second time in as many nights, the young squad showed resiliency, battling back and deserving a better fate than the 3-2 shootout decision they would end up dropping.
An early Mike Blunden offensive zone turnover led to an odd-man Monsters rush on which a shot snuck through Robert Mayer, and it seemed to awaken Lake Erie who at one point was being outshot 12-6. The Monsters dominated much of the rest of the period, but Hamilton battled back in the second, with all of the top 3 lines contributing offensive chances.
Ultimately it was a Brendan Gallagher and Patrick Holland 2-on-1 that led to the tying goal in the middle frame, with Gallagher taking a pass fromMayer – getting his second consecutive start – and opting to keep the puck, beating netminder Calvin Pickard with a quick and hard shot. Gallagher’s 10th of the season tied him for the team lead with red hot Gabriel Dumont, who was also frequently buzzing in the offensive zone but could not extend his home point streak.
A critical moment of the game came midway through the third when penalty trouble left the ‘Dogs to kill off a 3-on-5, but thanks to some strong work from the unit of Mike Blunden, Jarred Tinordi, and Frederic St. Denis, and a few key Mayer saves, the game remained tied. That set the stage for another Brendan Gallagher-led 2-on-1, with the diminutive winger this time dishing to a pinching St. Denis to net his third of the season and give the home team their first lead of the night.
In a season of a number of disappointments for the Bulldogs, the play of Mayer – who most had locked in as a clear #2 behind Cedrick Desjardins but who has been challenging hard for playing time – has been perhaps the biggest bright spot. The ‘Dogs found themselves shorthanded for the game’s final two minutes, and Mayer made perhaps his best stop of the night from a splits position with 8 seconds to play. Yet, in a moment of heartbreak, it wouldn’t be enough, as off the ensuing face-off, Lake Erie crashed the net and the puck trickled by a helpless ‘Dogs goaltender, sending the contest to overtime.
In the extra frame, a Lake Erie double minor with 3:38 to play meant the ‘Dogs’ struggling powerplay was given a golden chance to end things. But the team’s woes with an extra skater continued, unable to generate much in the ways of quality scoring chances, and moving very little in the offensive zone, making it easy for the Monsters to contain them to the outside.
The game thus proceeded to a shootout, and despite the team leading with 4 seconds to play and having a three-and-a-half minute powerplay in overtime, it ended in heartbreak. Mark Olver ended a back-and-forth battle, one of 2 Monsters to beat Mayer in the decider, and Hamilton had to settle for collecting 3 of a possible 4 points on the weekend as they try to climb out of the AHL’s cellar.
The Bulldogs won’t have to dwell on this loss for long, as they are next in action Tuesday night at home against the Toronto Marlies. Join me for live Tweets (@DanKramerHabs) from Copps Coliseum, and check back in the game review section of AllHabs.net for post-game reports and audio.
TORONTO, ON – The early season struggles of the Hamilton Bulldogs have been a popular topic of discussion among Hab fans who find themselves virtually as locked out as the players themselves. In a normal season, with less focus on the AHL squad, the concerns of most would be placated by the valid excuses of the team’s youthful inexperience, some undisciplined depth players, and a lack of bona fide scoring talent. But this season, though we’re just 20 games in, the scrutinizers are already talking about Sylvain Lefebvre‘s suitability as a Head Coach or management’s effectiveness at assembling a balanced roster.
The reality of the situation is – just as things always are with the big club – the team’s difficulties have been greatly overblown. With 20 points, they do sit tied for 2nd to last in the American Hockey League, but they remain just 1 game below .500 and also hold games in hand on most of the other clubs. In fact, last night’s 1-0 win over the Lake Erie Monsters was big for keeping pace with other teams even at such an early point of the year, moving within 6 points of their divisional rival in 4 fewer games. This is also important as the Monsters are currently holding down the 8th and final playoff position in the AHL’s Western Conference, meaning it is far too early to give up hope on the baby Habs’ season.
In many ways, last night’s game illustrated much of both the good and bad we’ve seen from Hamilton this year. As many predicted it would be, scoring is a challenge for the Bulldogs who lack veteran stars to lead the offense. Yes, Aaron Palushaj and Louis Leblanc are proven at this level and have NHL experience, but the loss of Blake Geoffrion has left the team searching for new sources of goal-production. Finishing ability is not a strength of the team, even of leading point-producer Brendan Gallagher, and it was apparent last night with just one goal on 45 shots, due to a combination of a hot opposing goaltender and few second chance opportunities with limited traffic in front of the net. But when your golden opportunities land on the stick of a Kyle Hagel, or Mike Blunden holds down a spot on your top powerplay unit (over a player like Leblanc) – both of which occurred yesterday evening – it is to be expected that goals are hard to come by.
With veteran Zack Stortini sitting as a healthy scratch (being one of those underperforming depth players whose lack of discipline has hurt the club), it was an unexpected source that could have hurt the squad with an untimely penalty. The Bulldogs were already down a man when netminder Cedrick Desjardins was bumped by the traffic in the crease. Angered by the lack of a call, mid-play, Desjardins rose and slammed his blocker and stick against the crossbar, knocking the net off its moorings and stopping play, leading to a delay-of-game call.
Explained Desjardins after the game, “There was a lot of traffic in front and I couldn’t see anything, so I was frustrated. I put my team in a situation, so I had no choice but to bail them out.” And that he did, with some of the Monsters’ best chances of their 29 shots coming during that 5-on-3 advantage in the 2nd period.
On the positive side, the team’s defenders and group of defensive forwards were successful in shutting down the Lake Erie attack with it certainly not being Desjardins’s busiest night or most difficult shutout. The recently inked Mike Commodore has been getting increasingly comfortable on the back end and brings a calming veteran influence to a group of youngsters.
The hero on this night was – eventually – Steve Quailer, with a brilliant individual rush on a powerplay that had been dying for one to go in. After making a nice move to enter the zone, Quailer drove to the net, and though the finish wasn’t quite what he was going for – the puck was swatted into the net by a sweeping defender’s stick – it filled the arena with joy, allowing stuffed animals to rain down and litter the ice on the team’s charitable Teddy Bear Toss night.
“I was going for the Forsberg move, but he (the defenseman) actually made a good play and jammed my stick. The goalie followed me and it went in, so it was pretty lucky I guess,” admitted Quailer post-game. Lucky in this instance perhaps, but Quailer did what few ‘Dogs have this season aside from Gallagher, which was charge the net, and that – plus the fact that the marker came with the man advantage – is something that the team must work on doing more of in the games to come.
After assembling their first back-to-back wins since the opening 2 games of the season, the ‘Dogs now head out on a 4-game road trip. They return to Hamilton on December 21st for a two-game stand pre-Christmas.