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 from Mayer – 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.
(Feature photo courtesy of HamiltonBulldogs.com)