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IceCaps game report

‘Dogs Show They Still Have Fight with Win Over Stars [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

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

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.

Pateryn's second professional goal was the game-winner. (PHOTO: The Reusch Blog)
Pateryn’s second professional goal was the game-winner. (PHOTO: The Reusch Blog)

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 TinordiMichael 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.”

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IceCaps game report

Hamilton Drops Heartbreaker in Shootout (with post-game audio)

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Robert Mayer | Brendan Gallagher & Frederic St. Denis | Sylvain Lefebvre

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.

Brendan Gallagher played a strong game, registering a goal and assist, but it wasn't enough. (PHOTO: Peter McCabe , Postmedia News)
Brendan Gallagher played a strong game, registering a goal and assist, but it wasn’t enough. (PHOTO: Peter McCabe , Postmedia News)

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 BlundenJarred 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)

 

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IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Snap Drought, Top Icehogs (with post-game audio)

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO:  Gabriel Dumont | Patrick Holland and Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – The Hamilton Bulldogs hadn’t scored in three consecutive games coming into tonight’s tilt with the Rockford Icehogs, and given Rockford’s far superior record, expectations were low.  So when the ‘Dogs fell behind 1-0 less than two minutes into the first period, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was the same old script repeating itself.

But on this night, the Bulldogs had some bite, finally snapping their drought on a controversial Patrick Holland marker.  Holland deflected a Gabriel Dumont shot past Alec Richards, and though replay seemed to indicate the buzzer had sounded before the puck crossed the line, the goal stood, evening the score through 20 minutes.

Though they were outshot, Hamilton generated a number of quality chances in the first period, likely more than they had in their entire previous outing against the Toronto Marlies.  Thus there was reason to be optimistic, and the team built a lead on a rare powerplay marker with Dumont tipping in a Frederic St. Denis point  blast.

After Robert Mayer made a number of key quick reflex saves (35 total stops on the night) to keep Rockford from adding a second marker of their own, Olivier Fortier found a loose puck and open side of the net staring up at him off a Philipps Lefebvre centering play and buried his first of the season.  That insurance marker was all the team needed, as Hamilton snapped a 3-game losing streak, posting just their second win in their last 10 outings.  Dumont’s goal and assist make him easily the hottest ‘Dog offensively, particularly at home with the team’s previous game at Copps Coliseum being Dumont’s career night of three goals and five points.

Newest ‘Dog Jason DeSantis made his team debut, playing on a pairing with Jarred Tinordi, and was solid, logging big minutes in all situations.  Hamilton is back in action tomorrow night at home again as they take on Lake Erie.  Be sure to tune into Abe Hefter’s Locker Room show on Montreal’s CJAD 800 AM radio from 6 PM to 7 PM, as I’ll join him to tee up the game at 6:45 PM.

(feature photo courtesy of HamiltonBulldogs.com)

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IceCaps game report

Marlies vs Bulldogs: Mayer Backstops Dogs to Home Opener Win

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – A packed house filled the lower bowl of Copps Coliseum as the Hamilton Bulldogs upended the Toronto Marlies 4-1 in the first home game for Montreal’s AHL affiliate this season, improving to 2-0-0 to start the year.

Mayer has stood tall two games into the season (Photo by Jennifer Kuhn)

Many were disappointed when it was revealed an injury would prevent Cedric Desjardins from starting the season with the Bulldogs, but undoubtedly the biggest benefactor from this situation is Robert Mayer.  On at least this night, Mayer – who many have criticized to be lacking confidence in his game at times – was spectacular, turning aside 39 shots, including many highlight-worthy stops, and having his shutout bid broken only by an accurate Jake Gardiner howitzer in the third period.  Deservedly, Mayer was recognized as the game’s first star for his efforts.

The ‘Dogs got off to a bit of a slow start, caused in part by early penalty trouble, but they took cues from their goaltender, and Louis Leblanc – fresh out of the box – buried a pass from Darryl Boyce in the dying moments of the first period.  The play was started by Jarred Tinordi with a good breakout pass from his own end, earning him an assist and thus his first pro point.

Hamilton was outshot 16-6 in the first, yet escaped up 1-0, and the line of Steve QuailerBlake Geoffrion, and Brendan Gallagher had opportunities to add to it.  But ultimately it would be Patrick Holland – with his first professional goal – who found a loose puck in front of the net and doubled the Bulldogs lead.

If the Geoffrion-centered line was Hamilton’s tops through a period and a half, it largely disappeared for the remainder of the game.  Fortunately, other players took over, with Aaron Palushaj being the most dangerous forward for either side throughout the third period. His goal put the game out of reach at 3-0, but he could have had one or two others with the way he handled the puck in the attacking zone.  Of importance, his marker came on the powerplay, an area in which Hamilton had looked really weak up till that point, and definitely something the team needs to improve upon.  But Palushaj converted a precision pass from Holland, finishing the play with a hard snipe, and went on to earn honours as the game’s “Hardest Working Bulldog” (a feature Hamilton runs in addition to the three stars) for a thoroughly impressive 20 minutes.

Corbin has impressively fit right in on Hamilton’s blueline (Photo by Journal de Montréal / Jean-François Chaumont)

There were a significant number of Leaf jerseys in Copps Coliseum, and the Toronto faithful were given something to cheer about on Gardiner’s goal at 10:12.  But the ‘Dogs skaters did a solid job shutting it down the rest of the way, with their impressive defensive unit strutting its stuff.  Jarred Tinordi notably had some good shotblocks and clears, though he also bobbled the puck on a few occasions.  Greg Pateryn certainly follows the adage of playing the man and not the puck, and stood up a few Marlie forwards.  Antoine Corbin impressed, and seems to be establishing himself as a deserving AHL’er after earning his contract through a training camp invite.  And lastly Nathan Beaulieu‘s skating and skill level were on display at several points during the evening with rushes that might remind many of P.K. Subban.

Louis Leblanc with his second of the night sealed the deal into an empty net, and thus game 1 of a home-and-home (to be completed Saturday) went to  the ‘Dogs.  Despite expected animosity when these rival clubs face-off, there wasn’t a significant amount of rough stuff on this night, with just one near-fight between Brendon Nash and Nazem Kadri, the latter of whom used his opponent’s helmet as a weapon at one point, jabbing from behind.  Tempers did flare after the final whistle, which led to Zack Stortini rushing back into the fray from near the Hamilton bench, but the referees were very quick to step in before anything got out of hand.

The Bulldogs kept the same lineup as their season opening shootout win, meaning Alexander AvtsinAlain Berger, and Joonas Nattinen (who may still have the flu) were scratched, while Cedric Desjardins and Morgan Ellis have yet to be cleared to return to action.