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IceCaps game report

Monsters Spook Bulldogs in a Battle of Brothers [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO:  Kyle Hagel | Sylvain Lefebvre  

HAMILTON, ON – There was a compelling storyline Friday night in Hamilton, with local son Marc Hagel in town with the visiting Lake Erie Monsters to face off against brother Kyle Hagel and the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, the 100+ friends and Hagel family members in attendance weren’t in for much of a game, as Lake Erie took it over quickly with a 4-0 advantage which they nursed to a 6-2 victory at the final horn.

Pugilist Kyle Hagel and brother Marc were one of two sets of brothers in Friday night's game (PHOTO: Dario Ayala , Gazette)
Pugilist Kyle Hagel and brother Marc – Hamilton natives – were one of two sets of brothers in Friday night’s game (PHOTO: Dario Ayala, Gazette)

The game started off on a sour note, as Joey Tenute ran Joey Hishon into the boards behind the goal just 13 seconds after the opening buzzer. Hishon lay on the ice for a long while, as Daniel Maggio dropped the gloves with Tenute, pummeling soundly before Jarred Tinordi stepped in to defend the game’s other Hamilton native. Five minute majors to Tenute and Maggio cancelled each other out, but it didn’t matter when seconds later a John Negrin pointshot squeaked through a crowd of bodies before beating starter Dustin Tokarski cleanly.

That first goal would open the floodgates for the Monsters, as defensive lapse after defensive lapse – notably coming from Joe Stejskal – ended up behind Tokarski. First a miscommunication and poor coverage between Stejskal and Peter Merth gave Luke Walker time and space alone in front of Tokarski and an easy tap-in. Then it was an open Andrew Agozzino taking a Tomas Vincour one-time pass and burying it into the empty side of the cage. Finally an individual effort by Paul Carey ended Tokarski’s night, as a pretty little move left the open half of the goal empty for his picking. The only thing the crowd had to cheer about in the first was when Marc Hagel was announced as collecting an assist on Carey’s tally.

A 4-0 Monsters lead did expand the brother factor in the game, as Jacob Gervais-Chouinard stepped in to relieve Tokarski, making his AHL debut. His brother, Joel Chouinard, is a Monsters’ defenseman who was playing in his ninth game of the season.

The second period saw little action, as Lake Erie sat back on their lead, and Hamilton couldn’t muster any offense until the final six minutes, when the team’s best chance came on an Olivier Archambault toe-drag in the slot which was stopped by Calvin Pickard.

Unfortunately, any momentum that may have been built by the home side was quashed just 24 seconds into the third when Agozzino batted a rebound past Gervais-Chouinard to put the visitors up five. They would add one more for good measure, when a Vincent Arsenault shot was popped up by Hamilton’s rookie netminder, and Dean Strong was first on the loose puck with only an empty net in front of him.

While the overall game was a disappointment for those in the crowd, the Hagel clan in attendance would get to see the other brother etch his name on the scoresheet as well. A solo effort by Kyle Hagel had him put a puck between a defender’s legs, skate around him, and fire a shot over a fallen Pickard, breaking the keeper’s shutout bid with his second tally – and first at home – on the season.

With just under five minutes to play, a Michael Bournival shot squeaked through Pickard to make the score 6-2, but it could be read as a mere footnote in the overall game story. One Danny Kristo offensive zone hooking penalty later, and the ugly outing was in the books.

No doubt it was a game to be forgotten for most – and this under the watchful eyes of the full Habs’ brass including Marc BergevinTrevor TimminsMartin LapointePatrice Brisebois, and Larry Carriere – but a night that won’t be forgotten for the Hagel brothers. “I had 70 tickets out, and Marc might have had a couple more, but those are just tickets we got for our family. There are probably more people we knew who got their own tickets,” said Kyle on a big homecoming for the pair. “[Marc] had a good performance. He looks like a really solid pro. I’m proud of him, and I can’t way to see how his career unfolds.”

Hagel being notably the resident enforcer on the Bulldogs’ roster, was there ever a thought of dropping the gloves with his brother? “He came up to me when we were down 4-0 and said, ‘Are you looking for a spark?’ Yeah! I am! And he just shakes his head at me. I don’t know. A lot of people have asked us that. Would it ever happen? Conceivably it could, but it’s not something we would plan. Maybe later down the road in our career if he was having a bad game and needed to prove himself to a coach to stay in the line-up, of course I’d do it for him.”  It is that giving attitude which made Hagel the Bulldogs’ nominee for AHL Man of the Year.

 

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IceCaps game report

Vail Shines but Amerks Come Back to Top ‘Dogs [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Louis Leblanc | Dustin Tokarski | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – Hamilton Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre wouldn’t be the first to struggle to figure out where to play 19-year old Brady Vail. The tryout getting a first taste of American Hockey League action after his Windsor Spitfires failed to qualify for the OHL playoffs was used on three different lines over the past three games, getting limited minutes on a fourth unit in a loss to Abbotsford on Friday.

But Saturday night, Coach Lefebvre seemed to have found some magic, placing the natural center who was even forced to spend some time on defense for Windsor between Louis Leblanc and Steve Quailer, with the trio providing a spark that should have been sufficient to get the ‘Dogs back in the win column. Unfortunately, the two goals they produced wouldn’t hold up to a third period rally from the Rochester Americans, who ultimately escaped with a 4-2 win on truly a one period effort.

Quailer may have found a home with Vail and Leblanc, the trio combining for two goals (PHOTO: Cathie Coward/The Hamilton Spectator)
Quailer may have found a home with Vail and Leblanc, the trio combining for two goals (PHOTO: Cathie Coward/The Hamilton Spectator)

To a man, the Bulldogs have spoken about the importance of quick starts to their success this season, and they took it to heart against the Americans. After earlier being denied on back-to-back chances off a Rochester giveaway, Vail opened the game’s scoring by deflecting a Peter Merth point shot past starter Nathan Lieuwen while mucking it up in front of the net. The goal was Vail’s first (and second point) at the professional level, coming in his fifth game.

Greg Pateryn had a couple of good opportunities to add to the lead for the home team, but a powerplay point shot and an uncharacteristic pinching one-timer were both turned aside, as Hamilton held a 13-6 shot advantage through twenty minutes.

An injury scare saw Lieuwen pulled for David Leggio for the visitors to start the second period, a bad omen for the Bulldogs considering the netminder has recorded two shutouts at Copps Coliseum this season. But the Bulldogs didn’t let up, taking the play to the Amerks again in the second set, winning most races for the puck and one-on-one battles.

Vail continues his strong play, working hard on the penalty kill and effective in his own end, notably making one diving interception and clear to break up a dangerous scoring chance. His line would be rewarded again for their hardwork in the period’s final minute when a Louis Leblanc forecheck got the puck back to Jarred Tinordi whose point shot was tipped by Steve Quailer and just trickled across the goal line for a 2-0 lead.

Rochester wouldn’t go quietly into the night, however. After an Evan Rankin wrister on a rush down the wing got the Americans within one, it was Rankin again leading a charge and taking a shot which got through Dustin Tokarski – who hadn’t been tested much through two periods – and sat in the crease. Zack Stortini was first to get a stick on it, but unfortunately for Hamilton, he inadvertently tapped it into his own cage.

Coach Lefebvre tried to settle his side down with a timeout, but the Amerks kept on coming, taking the lead for the first time of the night on a Jerome Gauthier-Leduc shot from the blueline which hit off Tokarski before finding the back of the net. It wasn’t the goaltender’s finest outing of the season, and the crowd let him know, offering up a Bronx cheer for his next save.

The Leggio storyline would pick back up in the third period, as he made numerous high calibre saves, including on rebound chances for Gabriel Dumont and Alex Belzile to preserve the comeback victory, sealed with an empty netter. It marked the second night in a row where a solid home effort from the Bulldogs still saw them leave Copps Coliseum without a point.

“A loss is a loss. And tonight we came up short,” summarized Tokarski, clearly upset over the result but showing a brave face in facing reporters all the same. “I think we came out fired wanting to win the game, but we gotta learn how to win and how to close out games, starting with myself. It’s a mental thing.”

The positive the ‘Dogs can take on the road is the chemistry on the newly formed Quailer – Vail – Leblanc line, provided Quailer won’t miss any time with a banged up knee after being seen with an ice pack taped around it post-game. “It’s been a tough season, but every player has tough seasons. Keep working hard and keep a good attitude. That’s all I can control and that’s all I’m doing,” explained Leblanc after one of his better performances in recent weeks. “I played with Quailer earlier on this season, and Brady is a new young player who brings some energy. It worked well tonight.”

 

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IceCaps game report

Tokarski, Tenute Lead Bulldogs Over Heat [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Joey Tenute | Dustin Tokarski | Coach Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – On a day where former Hamilton Bulldog Cedric Desjardins was called up to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the man he was traded for, Dustin Tokarski, didn’t want to be shown up.

The ‘Dogs netminder has been nothing but stellar since being acquired by the Canadiens, and on Tuesday he recorded his second straight shutout, making 27 saves to earn a 2-0 decision over the Abbotsford Heat.

Tenute's fourth of the season stood up as the game winner. (PHOTO: John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator)
Tenute’s fourth of the season stood up as the game winner. (PHOTO: John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator)

Hamilton played a strong first period – a period that has been a weakness for them much of the season – but came away with nothing to show for it, as goaltender Leland Irving had the last word.

The second period was a relatively even one, as the sparse mid-week crowd had little to get excited about. One could say it was a tight defensive affair with both teams putting up barriers in their own end, but that would be a polite way of describing the unmotivated sloppy “action” (or lack thereof) taking place between the two bluelines.

There were few scoring chances either way, until a solo rush by Hamilton native Joey Tenute produced a highlight-reel goal with just over a minute to go in the period.

“I saw that I had a couple of guys with me, but I know on a play like that, the goalie is going to be thinking I’m going to make the pass and be cheating a little, and I just kinda went to my backhand and put it upstairs,” described Tenute. But the goal was initially waved off, and the referees had to go upstairs to confirm it hadn’t simply bounced off the crossbar. “I saw it go in, but I don’t think the ref did. No doubt in my mind. I saw it, the whole bench saw it. I think maybe the ref was the only one that didn’t.”

The Bulldog penalty kill was proficient throughout the night, limiting the scoring chances on Tokarski, but he came up big in the third period as Abbotsford pressed for an equalizer with Tenute in the box.

“Sometimes in the game you get momentum, sometimes with the powerplay even if you don’t score, and sometimes with the penalty kill. Guys feel very confident right now in their play and that they can keep the lead if they get it,” summed up coach Sylvain Lefebvre.

Tokarski wouldn’t take all the credit for the win, rightfully pointing to his teammates who – while they conceded 27 shots – kept most chances to the outside and allowed few true scoring opportunities.

“We’ve been playing solid 60 minutes of north-south hockey. Playing some good D and capitalizing on chances,” said the always modest netminder nicknamed ‘Ticker’ of a true team effort. “Guys are staying tight, keeping guys to the outside. Giving me the first shot and then clearing the rebound or I’m controlling it. I thought the D core’s been outstanding the last couple of games.”

In addition to usual stand-up efforts from Greg Pateryn and Frederic St. DenisJoe Stejskal had a particularly good game on the back-end, delivering several crunching hits.

The third period saves were all the team would require, as Louis Leblanc sealed the deal into an empty net after starting a rush that drew a late Heat penalty.

The win is Hamilton’s 9th in the last 13 games, but the team has to continue to take things one game at a time, as they remain far out of a playoff spot. “We’ve been in playoffs in our mind for a little while here,” said Lefebvre, concluding by anointing Tokarski the starter for the team’s next game Friday night.

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IceCaps game report

Tokarski Shines but ‘Dogs Winning Streak Ends at Four [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Dustin Tokarski | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – The cellar-dwelling Hamilton Bulldogs entered their Monday afternoon matchup against the Rochester Americans as – surprisingly – one of the AHL’s hottest teams, winners of four straight and five of their last six.  But in this game, the ‘Dogs looked to be at their early season form rather than continuing their recent strong play, unable to generate anything in the way of offense, and coming up on the short end of a 3-0 final, flattering only because of stellar netminding from Dustin Tokarski.

It was another slow start for the Bulldogs, who were outshot 18-7 in the first period and fell behind 1-0 when a Brayden McNabb wrist shot from the point found the corner of the net behind Tokarski. It then became further clear that this wasn’t going to be Hamilton’s night when the second began in the same way, with Luke Adam converting on a two-on-one to double the Americans’ lead.

"If you didn't think Tokarski could stop the puck, now you know," said Sylvain Lefebvre of his message to the team. (PHOTO: Dan Kramer, AllHabs.net)
“If you didn’t think Tokarski could stop the puck, now you know,” said Sylvain Lefebvre of his message to the team. (PHOTO: Dan Kramer, AllHabs.net)

The ‘Dogs seemed to steady the ship a bit around the midway mark of the period, and drew a penalty looking to get on the board. But a terrible powerplay saw the team struggle to even gain entry into the offensive zone, and the ice re-tilted in Rochester’s favour thereafter, with the visitors holding a dominant 37-13 shot advantage through 40 minutes.

“I won’t lie, I haven’t faced that many in a long time. But as a goaltender, you gotta be ready to make 20 saves or 50 saves. Ultimately, they scored more than we did, and their goalie outplayed me. I gotta be better,” said Tokarski post-game, clearly his own harshest critic.

Tokarski notably came up big on one goalmoth stand as the Americans crashed the net, but on four occasions couldn’t slipped one passed the newest member of the Bulldogs.

Despite the lack of effort, down just 2-0, Hamilton seemed to find some stored up energy for the third, increasing their shot total to a respectable 30 on the night, and making David Leggio earn his second shutout of the season (the first also came against the Bulldogs). Sylvain Lefebvre‘s new top six combinations of Mike BlundenJoey Tenute, and Patrick Holland and Gabriel Dumont, Michael Bournival, and Louis Leblanc both had their chances, particularly after Tokarski was pulled for an extra skater with 2:47 to play.

“Nothing was happening before that, so might as well pull him right away and see if we can get one quick, and it’s a 2-1 game,” explained Lefebvre on a night where his squad looked weak at both ends of the ice for two periods.

It’s easy to say that Hamilton had earned an off-night based on their recent strong performances, but still near the basement of the AHL standings, there is no room for error if the team wants to get back into playoff contention. Thus, every game is a must-win as the team moves on to the Bell Centre in Montreal for a rematch with Rochester Friday night.