By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
HAMILTON, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs entered this afternoon’s contest having won their last on Saturday in Toronto to division rivals Marlies by a score of 4-2. Hamilton had 24 points in the North Division, which was good enough for third place, with a record of 11-10-2. But tonight, the Bulldogs fell to the Texas Stars in overtime by a score of 2-1.
The first period saw a lone goal come from the Texas Stars on the power-play. Scott Glennie scored his second goal of the 2014-15 AHL season after tapping away the loose puck in front of the Bulldogs net.
Hamilton’s goaltender Mike Condon made a huge cross-crease save in the final minutes of the first period on a Stars’ 2-on-1 break.
As the buzzer sounded after the first twenty minutes of play, the Stars led the Bulldogs 1-0. It was an entertaining period, with end-to-end action, but the Bulldogs still struggled on the power-play, as they could not convert on two opportunities. They were a little sloppy to start, with multiple turnovers, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt as they were playing their third game in three nights. The third game is always the toughest.
The second period saw no scoring. There were, however, multiple chances for both teams but the goaltenders would make the saves. The Bulldogs had two more power-play opportunities, but they failed to convert, again. They spent most of the time trying to enter the zone, and when they entered it, they struggled to stay there.
After forty minutes of play, the Stars led 1-0.
The first half of the third period featured a few solid chances for the Bulldogs to get on the board and tie the game, but Stars netminder Anders Lindback was the game changer. At the other end, Condon made more saves that would keep the ‘Dogs within reach.
Gabriel Dumont got a nice breakaway chance, but was denied and a Stars defenceman collided with Lindback. And then around the twelve minute mark, Charles Hudon wristed shot the puck right off the post. Close call. Just about tied the game.
With only 1:32 left in the third period, T.J. Hensick fired a one-timer past Lindback that went top shelf. Really nice goal on a wicked shot.
Sixty minutes would not be enough, off to overtime we go!
It took about five minutes for the game to end.
Texas won the game with a goal coming from Maxime Fortunus who would sneak one by Condon.
Who was in, who was out?
Hamilton: Magnus Nygren, Connor Crisp.
Texas: Mike Dalhuison, Justin Dowling, Kevin Henderson, Connor Hardowa.
HAMILTON, ON – Sometimes all it takes is one win to rebuild a team’s confidence. Losers of six straight, the Hamilton Bulldogs snapped out of that skid Saturday night, with a shootout road win over Lake Erie. The momentum gained accompanied the team back to Copps Coliseum Tuesday night, where the team’s anemic offense came to life in a dominating 6-1 victory against a strong visiting club in the Texas Stars.
Despite the team’s struggles of late, one cannot criticize the way the Bulldogs have been coming out of the gate. Tuesday night was no exception, as Justin Courtnall – one of the team’s better forwards over the past five games – got the offense rolling, bowling Texas defender Hubert Labrie at the Hamilton blueline and skating down ice, creating a 2-on-1 rush with Mike Blunden, whose shot would be turned aside by Christopher Nilstorp.
But moments later, the line drew the game’s first powerplay, and with William Wrenn in the box for a trip, Hamilton got on the board. Martin St. Pierre spotted a pinching Christian Thomas – who plays the point on the man advantage – and he in turn sent a cross-crease pass to Nick Tarnasky. It took three whacks at the puck, but the tough winger eventually made contact, batting it through a sliding Nilstrop for his sixth of the season.
Much of the rest of the first was spent in the Bulldogs’ end, as the team’s defenders – notably Jarred Tinordi – were guilty of poor breakout passes and frequent turnovers. Fortunately, Dustin Tokarski, now firmly entrenched as Hamilton’s rightful number one netminder in making his second straight start and fourth in the team’s past five games, was sharp, with a handful of stops on heavy shots from the perimeter.
If the way Hamilton ended the opening period was a concern for the second, the Bulldogs didn’t waste much time putting that fear to rest. Less than three minutes into the middle stanza, Joonas Nattinen centered a puck for Stephen MacAulay – called up from the ECHL and playing his first career AHL game – whose shot deflected to Steve Quailer standing just outside the blue paint. Quailer was able to swiftly kick the puck up to his stick, and one-touch a shot just inside the post for his first marker this year.
MacAulay and the Bulldogs kept coming, making this a night to remember for the native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia (pretty sure he’s the first ever decent hockey player to come from there). Steve Qualier and Louis Leblanc combined to start a dangerous-looking odd-man rush, and Leblanc spotted a wide open MacAulay at the opposite side of the net, with the former Halifax Moosehead winger making no mistake in one-timing a shot past Nilstorp.
The home team would add one more goal to their lead before the second was in the books. Maxime Macenauer won an offensive zone face-off, and a Jarred Tinordi point shot was tipped in front by Tarnasky, whose second of the night tied him with the injured Sven Andrighetto for the team lead in goals on the season and put the ‘Dogs up 4-0.
Typical of a team with such a big lead, the Bulldogs came out sluggish to start the third, and it would cost Tokarski his shutout bid. American Hockey League leading scorer Travis Morin spotted winger Colton Sceviour in the slot, and his one-timer beat Tokarski far side, reducing the Hamilton lead to three.
While it was an unfortunate turn of events for Tokarski, his teammates weren’t about to let this one slip away. Erik Nystrom fired over the net on a breakaway, but shortly thereafter picked the pocket of blueliner Cameron Gaunce for another chance in alone, and this time lifted the puck over Allen York – in for Nilstrop after Hamilton’s fourth goal – but under the bar. Rounding out the scoring on the night, the goal was Nystrom’s first tally since crossing over to North America this season, coming in his fifteenth contest.
Other than the offensive explosion, the other story on the night was the physical undertone of the game. Five separate fights broke out throughout the evening, all real tussles with punches thrown. Justin Courtnall was involved in two of the altercations, while Gabriel Dumont and Steve Quailer suqarely pounded their opponents, and a Steve Quailer third period bout completed a Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Hamilton won the night both on the scoreboard and in the back alley in their hardest fought game to date.
Named the game’s first star, MacAulay was understandably all smiles about his AHL debut after the game. “I thought I was playing pretty well in Wheeling, but I didn’t even score a goal in twelve games. (The Hamilton coaching staff) kinda liked me in training camp but they thought I could learn a bit in Wheeling. They want me to be strong in my own end, kill penalties when asked, and compete every night. That’s what I tried to do tonight and luckily I got the bounces offensively,” said the 21-year old.
Sylvain Lefebvre felt this win was a long time coming, having seen improvement in his troops over the past couple of outings. “Guys were ready for the battle from the start of the game, and I want to say it’s the first sixty minutes we played. We played well Friday and Saturday too, and this is a continuation of our play. We understand that we have to play hard every night. We have to battle, and we have to work harder to get our goals. A game like tonight will hopefully snap as out of little funks as a team, and as individuals,” summarized the head coach.
Riding a two-game win streak, the Bulldogs next travel to Montreal for the first of their biannual games at the Bell Centre Friday night. After a debut like this one, it’s safe to say MacAulay has earned a prolonged stay in the team’s line-up.
With the injury to Alexei Emelin in the first period of Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins, the Canadiens may be in need of a defenseman who can add a physical presence and clear the front of the net. Hamilton Bulldog defenseman Jarred Tinordi performed well during his call-up earlier in the season and would fill the bill. On Saturday against the Texas Stars, Tinordi dished out a clean hit on Scott Glennie and then answered the bell against Francis Wathier.
HAMILTON, ON – After displaying neither bark nor bite in a 3-0 loss on Friday, the Hamilton Bulldogs battled back with a much greater effort against the Western Conference-leading Texas Stars Saturday. Led by a 36-save performance by netminder Robert Mayer, Hamilton came out the winning end of a 2-1 decision after Greg Pateryn broke a deadlock with 3:32 to play.
The ‘Dogs played a much stronger game than being outshot 37-23 would normally indicate, generating far more scoring opportunities than they did the previous night, including forcing Stars’ goaltender Jack Campbell to turn aside a pair of breakaways by Louis Leblanc and Kyle Hagel. Leblanc was one his side’s more dangerous forwards on the night, displaying a high level of skill on multiple zone entries and narrowly missing teammates with several set-ups before ultimately assisting on Pateryn’s winner by taking the initial shot on the play.
Hamilton battled hard right from opening puck drop, looking competitive with one of the AHL’s top squads in a scoreless first period. The Bulldogs were forced to kill off a 44-second 5-on-3 disadvantage, but as they surprisingly often have this season, they managed to escape unscathed. They say your goaltender needs to be your best penalty killer, and the rule applied in this case, as Mayer made some of his best tops during the two first period minors, aided towards the end by a strong diving clear from Alexander Avtsin, who was dressed for just the 11th time this season.
Despite the strong play from the ‘Dogs, it was Texas that got on the board first. Mayer – who had been making things look easy up to that point – gave up one of what was not more than a handful of real rebound on the night at 4:41 of the second and Luke Gazdic was Johnny on the spot to tuck it under the goaltender’s leg.
While Hamilton didn’t let up after falling behind, it took some fortune for them to draw even. With a delayed penalty call coming to the ‘Dogs and Campbell on the bench, Alex Chiasson attempted a pass back to the point from beside the Bulldog cage. His pass lacked accuracy, however, and ended up going down the full length of the ice and into his own empty goal. Jason DeSantis, who had been desperately trying to break up Texas passing plays as Hamilton had been stuck in its own end on a long shift, got credit for the tying goal.
Both sides had opportunities in the third, with the Bulldogs twice benefiting from man advantage situations, but their powerplay showed just why it now has a league-worst 9.5 per cent efficacy. With the ‘Dogs buzzing late in the period, a blocked Leblanc shot was kicked out into the slot and a pinching Pateryn – playing big minutes in every situation paired with Nathan Beaulieu – made no mistake in one-timing it to the back of the goal. Add in a few frantic final saves from Mayer in the dying seconds, and Hamilton had registered its second win in the past three outings.
The hero on this night, Pateryn, missed considerable time with injury in this his rookie campaign at the professional level, but has played a big role on the squad since returning. “For six weeks I was back on the ice, from Christmas on. I knew conditioning was a big part because I knew there’s a big difference between practicing and being in a game.”
Winning the game was an even bigger feat when you consider the ‘Dogs were forced to play without some of their core contributors. Frederic St. Denis remains out with an undisclosed injury, while all of Jarred Tinordi, Michael Bournival, and Steve Quailer suffered minor injuries on Friday night and were unavailable Saturday. Tinordi’s likely comes as a result of a fight which saw him take a couple of solid punches, while Bournival limped off the ice after taking a shot off the foot. Late in the game against Texas, Morgan Ellis was nearly added to the injury list on a similar play to that which injured Bournival, and the last thing the team needs is another injury on defense. All players are considered day-to-day at this point.
We’ve asked outselves numerous times throughout the course of the season if a strong Bulldog performance could be the start of something, but the team’s inconsistencies have them sitting 15 big points out the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. It would take nothing less than a miracle for the team to go on a sufficiently dominant run that would see them continuing to play hockey deep into the Spring, and the players seem aware of that fact.
“The pressure is gone for us. I don’t think we can play with any pressure. We’ve had a tough season. Now it’s just about enjoying the moment, be happy to be out there. Really don’t think. Just play and enjoy the moment,” summed up Mayer, who has been one of the few pleasant surprises on this year’s team. “Guys still have to play their best because there can be injuries in Montreal, and you never know what’s gonna happen. You could be called up, so you have to be at your best every game.”