By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine
POST-GAME AUDIO: Sylvain Lefebvre | Greg Pateryn | Akim Aliu
HAMILTON, ON – A night of undisciplined penalties cost the Hamilton Bulldogs a chance at a perfect opening weekend at home, but the resilient squad managed to salvage a point in a game where they had to kill nine minor penalties. After Akim Aliu tied the game at three with ten seconds remaining in regulation time, all five Bulldog shootout participants were stopped, while Gustav Nyquist would beat Robert Mayer to earn the defending Calder Cup champions a 4-3 victory.
For the second night in a row, the Bulldogs started the game strong, as it was again defenseman Greg Pateryn that opened the game’s scoring. On a powerplay, Patrick Holland took a Griffins’ defenseman hard to the net, screening netminder Petr Mrazek, and helping Pateryn’s blast off a Magnus Nygren feed to find the back of the net.
In the second, Hamilton looked to add to its lead thanks to a strong shift from the experienced trio of Mike Blunden, Gabriel Dumont, and Louis Leblanc. First an offensive zone cycle led to a goal post being struck, and then in the same shift, a Leblanc breakaway and subsequent rebound were somehow kept out by Mrazek. Unfortunately, the play led to two Bulldog forwards lying on the ice behind the goal line, and the Griffins converted rushing the puck the other way. A lucky bounce ended up on the stick of star Gustav Nyquist who made no mistake in beating Robert Mayer.
The Bulldogs didn’t relent, regaining their lead just 18 seconds later, when two Patrick Holland shots were stopped, but Sven Andrighetto was waiting on the doorstep to tap in a rebound for his first professional goal. From there, however, the ‘Dogs indiscipline was the key storyline, as the team took a string of six consecutive penalties, with a strong penalty killing effort finally relenting on the last opportunity late in the second. Nyquist again would this time find Calle Jarnkrok all alone in the slot to one-time a shot past a fallen Mayer, who had made numerous difficult saves to keep the ‘Dogs ahead up till that point.
The parade to the penalty box continued early in the third, and the Griffins would make the Bulldogs pay. With Martin St. Pierre in the box for the second time, Jeff Hoggan collected a rebound of a shot that bounced off two posts and deposited it into the goal behind an outstretched Mayer.
It looked like the game may be done when a miscommunication between Drew Schiestel and Nathan McIver created a too many men call with under 8 minutes to go, but a successful penalty kill allowed the home team to pull Mayer for an extra skater in the game’s final minute. After a Greg Pateryn shot was stopped by Mrazek’s blocker, an Andrighetto shot bounced off a defender and on to the stick of Akim Aliu, whose whack at the puck went up over the Red Wings’ prospect to even the score.
Hamilton – the better team at 5-on-5 (which was rare) for most of the night – failed to carry the momentum of the tying goal into overtime, and the extra frame solved nothing. A shootout was necessary, where the bad ice forced players to keep things relatively simple, and in the end, only a Gustav Nyquist shot would beat either netminder, slipping between Mayer’s legs for the game winner.
The shootout loss drops the ‘Dogs to 1-0-1 to start the season, with the team taking to the road for the first time next weekend for trips to Lake Erie and Toronto.
Hamilton Bulldog lines:
Sven Andrighetto – Martin St. Pierre – Patrick Holland
Mike Blunden – Gabriel Dumont – Louis Leblanc
Erik Nystrom – Ben Duffy – Akim Aliu
Justin Courtnall – Joonas Nattinen – Nick Tarnasky
Joel Chouinard – Greg Pateryn
Drew Schiestel – Darren Dietz
Magnus Nygren – Nathan McIver
1. Gustav Nyquist
2. Robert Mayer
3. Jeff Hoggan
Hardest Working Bulldog: Greg Pateryn
Honourable mentions to Mike Blunden, Louis Leblanc, Sven Andrighetto