By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine
POST-GAME AUDIO: Frederic St. Denis, Joey Tenute, and coach Sylvain Lefebvre
HAMILTON, ON. — No doubt that the Hamilton Bulldogs are used to playing catch-up hockey. But on Friday night, another slow start was too much to overcome, with the home side finding themselves down 2-0 to the Binghamton Senators before the game was ten minutes old, never able to draw even and ultimately dropping a 3-2 decision at Copps Coliseum.
Robert Mayer‘s starts have been less frequent since the acquisition of Dustin Tokarski, and perhaps signs of rust were showing early on as the typically sound and stable netminder was giving up uncharacteristic rebounds. Both Cole Schneider and Corey Cowick took advantage of second chance opportunities that no Hamilton blueliner could get to first to put the visitors up by two.
Giveaways were a problem throughout the night as Jarred Tinordi notably struggled in his own end, though he’d make up for it before the first was out in helping his side get on the board. After his first point shot was stopped by former Bulldog Nathan Lawson, he got a second chance, this one tipped on its way through by Patrick Holland, who has been one of the team’s more dangerous players offensively over the past few games. Lawson gave up a big rebound on the redirect and Joey Tenute cashed in, scoring his third of the season to climb within one.
While Mayer had settled down in making 11 first period stops despite the goals, another conceded rebound put the comeback plans on hold. Jean-Gabriel Pageau was the beneficiary this time around, uncovered in front, re-establishing a two goal Senator lead.
An unexpected tally made things close once again, coming just at the expiration of an unsuccessful powerplay. Mike Blunden led a rush before offering up a soft drop pass to Louis Leblanc who one-timed a puck top shelf. The tally seemed to turn the tide in Hamilton’s favour as the ‘Dogs controlled most of the remainder of the game, but were unable to sneak a third marker past Lawson, even with pulling Mayer with a full 2:25 still up on the clock.
Despite the loss, Hamilton is 7-3-0 in its past 10 games, though the team remains in a deep hole, 15th in the Western Conference and three points behind their nearest rival. With just 22 games to play in the regular season, making up the 11 points that separated them from 8th-seed Chicago at the start of the night is unlikely. But as the AHL is a development league, the players know there is a lot more to play for.
“We’re trying to win as many games as we can. We’ll see what happens here,” summarized coach Sylvain Lefebvre.
There was a bit of good news on the day for ‘Dogs fans. One being the return of defenseman Frederic St. Denis to the line-up after sitting a few weeks with a lower-body injury. St. Denis conducted post-game interviews with a large bag of ice taped around his left knee, but felt his comeback was successful at least on a personal level. “I feel really good. Maybe the first period I was kinda tired cause the timing wasn’t really there, but I think the second and third period were pretty good. [As a team] we watched the game a little too much in the first period. We have to do much better for tomorrow’s game for sure.”
The other positive was the announcement earlier in the day that the club had extended agreements both with the Montreal Canadiens and the city of Hamilton to remain the Habs’ affiliate at Copps Coliseum for the next three seasons. “It’s exciting. Though I’m not looking past this year,” commented Joey Tenute, one of the team’s two Hamilton locals along with Kyle Hagel. “I’m just doing my part to be a leader and contribute to this team right now. I like the way things are going here and it’s exciting for the fans and city to have a commitment from the Canadiens and Bulldogs going forward. It’s a great place to play.”