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.
By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
HAMILTON, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs entered their second game in three nights on a good note, as they defeated the rival Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum on Friday by a score of 4-1. It was a good outing for the Bulldogs, who have secured at least a point in their first four games played, but tonight, the Bulldogs could not come out on top, as the San Antonio Rampage took the game by a score of 4-2.
The Rampage opened the scoring in the first period, as John McFarland rushed the Bulldogs net and tucked the puck past goaltender Mike Condon. The Bulldogs then tied the game after Michael Bournival made a nice pass to Sven Andrighetto, who shot the puck past Rampage netminder Michael Houser to tie the game at one a piece.
The game would see a lot of back and forth chances for both teams, which saw the ‘Dogs hold possession of the puck for a good chunk of the period.
Midway through the opening period, Bournival stole the puck from the Rampage defender and created an odd man, 2-on-1 rush with Charles Hudon, the Bulldogs leading scorer, who then sniped the puck past Houser’s blocker side.
About five minutes later, the Bulldogs were awarded a power-play, but it wouldn’t go as planned. Rampage forward Brett Olsen was able to score his second goal of the season after Bulldogs defenceman Nathan Beaulieu coughed the puck up on the blueline, giving the Rampage the opportunity to create an odd man rush.
The second period would see the Bulldogs go scoreless and the Rampage extend their lead by two goals. Defenceman Steven Kampfer would deke by Hamilton’s defenders to score a nice backhand goal. It was a pretty nifty goal and it was Kampfer’s second tally of the season.
San Antonio’s second goal of the period and fourth of the game came with five minutes remaining in the period as MacKenzie Weager built momentum on an odd man rush and fed Bobby Butler a sweet cross-crease pass that was shot high over Condon’s blocker side.
In the third, there wasn’t much action expect for a few chances from both the Rampage and Bulldogs. But towards the end of the period, the ‘Dogs were trying hard to get on the board and tie as they were neatly cycling the puck in the offensive zone, potting a few shots on goal but the Rampage held on to secure the 4-2 win in Hamilton.
Dan Lawrie Player of the Game: Mike Condon
Mike Condon was awarded the Dan Lawrie Player of the Game for his outing tonight between the pipes. Condon had to make several game changing saves, which kept the Bulldogs within reach.
The Bulldogs are back at it tomorrow, as they conclude their three games in three nights series against the Rampage at 3:00 p.m. ET.
By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
TORONTO, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs travelled down the 403 to Toronto to take on the Marlies for the second time this season. The Marlies spoiled the Bulldogs home opener at FirstOntario Centre exactly one week ago and tonight it was the Bulldogs with the victory, defeating the Marlies by a score of 4-1.
In the first period, the Hamilton Bulldogs would take the first lead of the game, as recently-recalled Nathan Beaulieu would score his first AHL goal of the season. Michael Bournival, who was also sent down this week by the Montreal Canadiens, was credited with the primary assist after he made a nice feed to Beaulieu. The young defenceman tucked the puck behind Marlies goaltender Antonie Bibeau.
The Bulldogs would see two power-play opportunities in the first period, but they struggled to get out of their own zone and to create scoring chances in the offensive zone. On top of that, the Marlies also had several chances on the penalty-kill. To be more specific, they had more chances down a man than the Bulldogs did up a body.
Hamilton goaltender Joey MacDonald faced 10 shots on goal in the opening period, and he made at least four big gloves saves to keep the Bulldogs up 1-0. MacDonald played a key period for the ‘Dogs, which allowed them to enter the first intermission up 1-0.
In the middle frame, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 3-0, with goals coming from Sven Andrighetto and Eric Tangradi. Andrighetto scored the Bulldogs second goal with a nice top shelf snipe two minutes into the period, and Tangradi scored his first as a Bulldog’ on the power-play, after he chipped the puck over Bibeau’s right shoulder.
MacDonald continued his strong play in the second period, and made two more nifty gloves saves, keeping Hamilton in the lead.
Towards the end of the period, both the Marlies and Bulldogs started to get under each others skin as there were multiple scrums with players ready to drop the gloves.
The remainder of the period saw a lot of back and forth play between the two clubs. The Bulldogs managed to outshoot the Marlies 11-5 in the second with a much stronger period offensively and defensively.
Moments after the third period started, Marlies forward Sam Carrick ran over MacDonald, causing his helmet to fly off his head. MacDonald showed some discomfort and was helped by the trainer, but was fine to continue the game.
The Marlies scored their first and only goal of the game on the power-play. Greg McKegg scored his first of the season as hhis inital shot snuck past MacDonalds glove side and into the net.
Charles Hudon then went off moments after the the Marlies power-play goal for slashing and this is when the game started to pick up. However, the Bulldogs killed off the minor with very little issue.
The game would now get intense with the Marlies producing multiple chances, but MacDonald was able to shut the door and Tangardi scored his second goal of the game with the empty net. 4-1 final for the Bulldogs who lost back-to-back games last weekend.
The season series between the 403 rivals is now at one a piece with 10 more games on tap this season.
The Bulldogs are back in action tomorrow as they play host to the San Antonio Rampage at FirstOntario Centre.
HAMILTON, ON – With three home games in three days, this weekend was pivotal for the Hamilton Bulldogs to climb back into the AHL Western Conference playoff race. As the team plays 13 of their final 18 games on the road, it was critical for them to close the gap on the 8th and final spot in front of their own fans. But as much as the team got off to good starts, taking an early lead in all three contests, they failed to collect the four or six points they critically needed. And on Sunday, playing to salvage some positives out of the despair, they failed to even pick up two, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Lake Erie Monsters, who leap-frogged the Bulldogs in the process, dropping Hamilton to last place in the West.
Pre-game in Hamilton was unusually eventful, as first there was a notable absence from the team’s warm-up. Captain Martin St. Pierre was announced as a healthy scratch; the latest development in what has been a trying season for the veteran, despite his two assists yesterday. Though St. Pierre may lead the Bulldogs in scoring, almost all of his production has come with the man advantage, nearly invisible at even strength, and frequently guilty of poor penalties. Regardless of his play, benching your team’s top scorer and dressing room leader when as a club you struggle to produce is a bold move. So bold, one might argue, that it represented coach Sylvain Lefebvre‘s last straw tactic to try to get his team to play up to their potential, conceivably putting his own job on the line in doing so.
Next, there was almost a second curious storyline as the Bulldogs had only four skaters on ice throughout the national anthems. Nick Tarnasky was missing in action after being announced as part of the starting line-up. The pugilist raced down the hallway from the dressing room and on to the ice just prior to puck drop, ending any conspiracy theories, and then immediately dropped the gloves with Guillaume Desbiens off the opening face-off.
In Devan Dubnyk‘s second start since joining the Bulldogs, it was his teammate Morgan Ellis who made certain the netminder was sharp early on. Two blatant defensive zone giveaways gave the Monsters the game’s first two quality scoring opportunities, but both times the 6’6″ keeper had the last word, swallowing up any rebounds.
After their goalie’s heroics, Sven Andrighetto got the home team’s offense rolling. A solo rush saw him weaver between defenders before firing a wrister on goal, but despite the ensuing scramble, neither he nor Maxime Macenauer could tap a rebound past Calvin Pickard.
Andrighetto would make good later on in the frame, finding Christian Thomas alone at the top of the face-off circle, with the sniper making no mistake in firing a one-timer top shelf to open the scoring. The Swiss winger would nearly got on the scoreboard himself moments after the first tally, taking a delayed feed from Davis Drewiske during 4-on-4 play, but again Pickard resisted.
Strong firsts are nothing new for this year’s Hamilton Bulldogs squad, but the second frame has been their nemesis. A slow start was reversed following a Sylvain Lefebvre timeout, with the ‘Dogs carrying the play for much of the middle stanza without being able to add to their lead. The best chance came as Hamilton was awarded a penalty shot on a call most recently seen at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. With the puck on Louis Leblanc‘s stick in the attacking zone, a Monster defenseman inadvertently batted a broken stick along the ice at the puck-carrier, and the refs were quick to whistle play down and point to center ice signalling a penalty shot.
Coach Lefebvre went with his most dangerous skater for the shot, but Sven Andrighetto‘s quick backhand to forehand deke was matched with an equally quick Pickard pad.
A common problem for the boys from the Hammer as been failing to capitalize on chances, and thus allowing other teams to hang around for too long. That was the case again in this one, as Nathan McIver would leave his side shorthanded, guilty of an extra two minute penalty prior to a fight with Daniel Maggio. Immediately off the face-off in the ‘Dogs end, David van der Gulik fired a hard wrister up and over a falling Dubnyk to tie the game.
Another common problem has been second period collapses, and in a case of “jamais un sans deux,” van der Gulik was again Johnny on the spot just three minutes later, accepting a dish from Andrew Agozzino completely uncovered the slot and beating Dubnyk with a heavy release.
If the team’s season was on the line in the third period, they disappointingly didn’t play like it. Managing only four shots the entire frame, any hopes of a comeback were wiped out when Matt Hunwick pinched into the high slot on the powerplay, converting on a van der Gulik pass and beating Dubnyk just under the bar blocker side. Michael Schumacher added a fourth tally off a Hamilton turnover, sliding a backhand five hole on the Hamilton netminder in a game that was already out of reach.
Post-game, coach Lefebvre wasn’t entirely happy with his team’s effort, but saw Sunday as a game that could have gone either way. “The powerplay didn’t come up big. Tonight if Andrighetto scores on the penalty shot, it’s 2-0. Our second periods have been nowhere to be found this year. We gain momentum in the first period, then we come out in the second and we’re flat. I don’t know what it is.”
Certainly one of the “what it is” is a lack of scoring, for which the coach also has few answers. “We work on scoring everyday. I wish we could score more goals, but that’s how it is right now and we have to play well defensively. Last night, the empty net goal was the thirteenth this year. We’re in games, but we just can’t find a way to win games when we have to comeback from behind, and scoring is part of it.”
How does a last place team stay motivated with eighteen games remaining in the season and the already slim hope of a playoff berth now requiring nothing short of a miracle? “If we stop believing and we quit, no one is going to benefit from that. It’s our job as coaches and our job as players not to quit, and to battle till the end. Guys are playing for their lives, playing for their livelihoods and their jobs. That’s the plain and simple truth,” summarizes the coach, alluding to the fact that at least on an individual basis, players remain in competition for NHL call-ups.
And then there’s the captain. The team’s lone goal scorer on the night, Christian Thomas, didn’t hide his disappointment in St. Pierre’s absence from the line-up. “It was definitely tough. He’s a presence in the room. He’s a good leader; older guy, brings veteran status out there, but we come to the rink and whatever the lines are, we can’t change it and just have to do our thing out there. He definitely helps, but today I’m not going to blame it cause he wasn’t playing, but we should have showed up more.”
Coach Lefebvre didn’t shy away from tackling the issue of his controversial line-up decision head on. “[St. Pierre] was a healthy scratch tonight. Not happy with his game. Been talking to him a few times, sending him messages here and there not happy with his game. Sometimes as a coach, you have ways to get guys going. Hopefully he’ll rebound and get to playing the way he can play. He’s our captain. He’s the guy that sets the tone, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Things won’t get any easier from here on out, as after three-in-three at home this weekend, they’ll play three-in-three in different cities on the road next week.
HAMILTON, ON – If it was the Hamilton Bulldogs’ mission to make new goaltender Devan Dubnyk feel at home in his debut with the team, they certainly succeeded. Dubnyk turned in a solid performance, but was faced with an overwhelming barrage of scoring chances all night from the Oklahoma City Barons – something he had become accustomed to in backstopping the Edmonton Oilers – unable to help his new squad prevail in a pivotal game for the Western Conference playoff race. Despite the netminder’s 38 saves, the Bulldogs were unable to generate much offensively, finding themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision.
Things started off well for the home team. The Bulldogs were gifted a 5-on-3 powerplay early in the game when Austin Fyten was guilty of a flagrant high stick on captain Martin St. Pierre with Taylor Fedun already sitting in the box. A Gabriel Dumont slash subsequently reduced the advantage to 4-on-3, but just as the first Barons’ penalty expired, Greg Pateryn found Nathan Beaulieu with a cross-ice pass, and the offensive blueliner rifled a shot that beat Richard Bachman up high for a 1-0 lead.
Oklahoma City – a team with a roster far better than you’d expect of a ninth place squad – took over the opening stanza from there, pouncing on numerous Hamilton defensive lapses. First it was Pateryn – exhausted at the end of a near three minute shift – with a turnover to Matthew Ford forcing Dubnyk into a quick save on a break. Dubnyk wouldn’t be agile enough to make up for a second giveaway, however, as Gabriel Dumont deflected a puck in the defensive zone right out to Mark Arcobello at the midway mark of the period. Arcobello, who spent time on the Edmonton Oilers’ powerplay earlier this season as a teammate of Dubnyk’s, made no mistake in shelfing a backhander off the crossbar and in to tie the score.
Dubnyk would finish the first with 12 saves as the visitors held a 13-5 shot advantage. Hamilton would manage to generate more offensive pressure in the second, with the best chance coming as Louis Leblanc picked off a Baron defender to skate in alone on a breakaway in the early minutes. But his backhand to forehand attempt was turned aside by Bachman, as was a quick shot on a Martin St. Pierre break later in the frame.
After the wasted opportunities, a tough shift for Maxime Macenauer would prove costly. The two-way center coughed a puck up in his own end bailing on a play to dodge a hit and then was called for a clear hook in trying to cover his error. Oklahoma City would quickly capitalize on the powerplay, as top prospect Anton Lander found Arcobello again with a cross-rink feed, and his quick one-timer fooled Dubnyk between the legs as he slid across the net. Through forty minutes, the shots stood a highly one-sided 30-17.
The third period was quiet, with the Barons effectively shutting down the ‘Dogs, stifling them from any sustained offensive zone pressure even during two powerplays. Any hope of a last-minute comeback was stymied when an all-out brawl in the crease erupted after a questionable Dumont goalie interference call, resulting in a face-off outside the blueline as both Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu left the points to defend their tackled forwards.
While two critical points escaped Hamilton on the night, the positive news was the play of the new masked man guarding the team’s cage while Dustin Tokarski is up in Montreal. “Arcobello’s a pretty good hockey player,” joked Dubnyk post-game on the coincidence of facing his former club’s AHL affiliate in his first game within the Canadiens’ organization.
Dubnyk acknowledged there are challenges ahead playing behind a team that doesn’t score a lot of goals. “You can’t give up bad goals. You have to make the saves you should make, and hope to make some spectacular ones in between. It’s that much more important to make sure that goals that shouldn’t go in don’t go in.”
On his playing future, Dubnyk is taking things one game at a time. “As the weeks went by after the Olympic break, you start to see the writing on the wall. I was happy that I was acquired by a team that wants me here. I’m not sure what the situation is, but whether it’s up there or down here, it’s fun to play hockey again. I’m gonna try to enjoy it and work as hard as I can.” But that doesn’t mean he’s satisfied continuing his career at the AHL level. “Everybody wants to be in the NHL. I want to get back there as soon as I can, but you have to make the best out of it.”
Also making his Bulldog debut was Davis Drewiske, rounding out the team’s top four on the blueline on a pairing with Morgan Ellis. He had a couple of nice touches, but was mostly unnoticeable, which suits the stay-at-home d-man’s game nicely. “I was on the IR all year, so just trying to get into shape, get acquainted with the guys. [Tonight] was ok. About what you’d expect for not playing all year. Ok in some parts, and rusty in others. Room for improvement. Trying to get some confidence back, and just play.”
The old and new Bulldogs won’t have much time to think about Friday’s loss, as they are back in action at home Saturday night against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, before rounding out a three-in-three Sunday as hosts to the Lake Erie Monsters. If they are to not lose further ground in their long-shot playoff hopes, Hamilton must aim to collect all four remaining possible points on the weekend.
HAMILTON, ON – Since the beginning of the season, the Hamilton Bulldogs have been a hot-and-cold hockey club. Thus it shouldn’t come as a surprise to many that after their offense exploded for six goals on the road on Saturday, it would go cold again at home Sunday, managing only a single tally while being thoroughly outplayed and outshot in a 4-1 loss, dropping them back out of a playoff position in the American Hockey League’s tight Western Conference standings.
Like the weekend’s two prior outings, the Bulldogs again got off to a good start with Jarred Tinrodi cutting to the net on the opening shift before having his backhand stopped by Chicago’s Matt Climie. Hamilton would also head to the game’s first powerplay a couple of minutes later, but the man advantage has been ice cold of late (0/13 in Friday and Saturday’s games combined) and produced little in the way of chances.
A questionable call on Gabriel Dumont allowed Chicago to open the scoring past the midway point of the period. Dumont was in a one-on-one race with a Wolves skater away from the puck as Hamilton broke out, and by virtue of being stronger than his rival, stayed on his feet while the defender fell. Dumont was whistled for interference, and despite two big Nathan McIver shot blocks on the penalty kill, a rebound out to Dmitrij Jaskin was roofed over a fallen Robert Mayer.
Tinordi would be the beneficiary of two other Bulldog set-ups for great scoring chances, as the speedy big man showed no reluctance to pinch in on the rush. Unfortunately, for all the power in the behemoth’s slapper, it lacks in accuracy, and both opportunities sailed wide.
The Wolves added to their lead just over a minute later, when Jaskin again led a rush down the wing. A weak, off-angle shot was stopped by Mayer, but the goaltender awkwardly deflected the puck right to the crowd in the front of the net, helplessly seeing it bounce off Tyler Shattock and into the cage behind him.
The decision to start Mayer on Sunday was a curious one from the outset. Dustin Tokarski has emerged as not only the team’s true starter, but one of the best goaltenders in the league. While you want to give both goaltenders action in a three games in three nights stretch, Mayer had started Saturday’s 7 PM game ahead of Sunday’s 4 PM afternoon tilt. Certainly, Mayer got the win (2 GA) Saturday compared to Tokarski’s Friday loss (2 GA), but you need to go with the starter you believe gives you the best chance to win, and Tokarski boasts a .928 save percentage, not having allowed more than two goals in his past nine starts (6-2-1 record in that span). Coach Sylvain Lefebvre made it evident early in the season that he was prepared to give Mayer as much as ice time as he could “merit,” while quickly taking it away from Tokarski when the team couldn’t pull through for a win. The platoon system works when you have two netminders of comparable quality, but that is not the current situation with the Bulldogs.
That isn’t to say Mayer was solely to blame for his side trailing 2-0 after twenty minutes, as Hamilton was also outshot 17-5, but his rebound control was off all night.
Home fans got excited in the period’s dying seconds, when a shorthanded Gabriel Dumont rush drew a penalty which prevented the pesky center from shooting. Dumont did manage to spot Mike Blunden at the side of the net, but Blunden was well after the buzzer with his tap-in goal, resulting in a quick wave-off.
It was another Mayer gaff that gave Chicago an insurmountable advantage early in the second. Joel Edmundson fired a shot on a harmless looking rush that caught the Bulldog keeper slightly off his angle and found the corner of the net, stretching the lead to 3-0.
A similar rush the other direction saw Hamilton climb back to within two on a rare second period scoring chance, with Christian Thomas rifling a wrister from the top of the face-off circle past Climie. For Thomas, it was his second goal and third point in his past two games, as he and Sven Andrighetto have taken over as the team’s best forwards. The two were united on a top line with center Maxime Macenauer for the night.
Despite being outplayed and badly outshot, it appeared momentarily like the Bulldogs had pulled within one. After a slick move, Andrighetto fired over the net, but the puck bounced back out in front, off some part of the crowd, and into the net. It looked like it may have caromed off netminder Climie’s back, but the referee ruled that it had in fact gone off Macenauer’s high stick and in, immediately being called no goal with no review of the play.
Before the period was out, the Wolves restored their three goal advantage. A difficult shift for the duo of Darren Dietz and Nathan McIver resulted in a turnover and set-up for Mark Cundari. Mayer was again slow to come out and challenge as Cundari’s shot found the back of the goal.
Adding injury to insult, Morgan Ellis – who had taken on a significant role on the Hamilton blueline of late – slid awkwardly into the boards in the period’s final minutes, laying painfully on the ice until a trainer could reach him. Though he skated off under his own strength, he was tended to immediately on the bench and did not return for the final frame.
Maxime Macenauer had a chance to help the Bulldogs’ climb back into the game before the third period’s midway mark when he finished off a solo rush with a wrister that found only iron. His line and the fourth unit anchored by Joonas Nattinen and Justin Courtnall were the only ones that seemed to be clicking on the afternoon, causing Coach Lefebvre to shuffle his deck mid-game.
Climie hadn’t been tested much throughout the net, but needed to come up big in the closing moments to stymie a comeback effort. First it was a kick save on a Jordan Owens attempt set-up by a spinning Martin St Pierre dish. Next it was a glove stop on Sven Andrighetto who had been alone at the side of the goal after accepting a feed from Jarred Tinordi.
With those stops, the Wolves were able to sit on their lead the rest of the way, handing the fatigued home side their fourth loss in the past six games.
After the game, Macenauer confirmed he did in fact touch the puck on the disallowed goal which could have completely changed the night’s course. “Ya, I touched it. I mean it’s a close call. I felt like they should have probably reviewed it. It was probably a high stick, but you never know. I felt like I might have touched it just below the cross bar.” On his own promotion to the top line, the pivot feels the coach’s confidence in his game has helped him progress throughout the season. “I always thought I could play a lot of minutes in every situation, and that’s what I’ve tried to prove since the start of the season.”
While it wasn’t the outcome he had hoped for, Lefebvre was proud of his team’s compete level after a tough weekend. “Really tough physical game last night. Guys gave everything they had. They emptied the tank big time. Can’t be not satisfied with the effort. It’s tough, but we have guys that can log some minutes. We got to Lake Erie at 4 o’clock Saturday morning, and then back here at 4:30 this morning.”
On his injured blueliner Ellis, the coach also confirmed that the situation may have been just as bad as it looked. “I haven’t talked to doctors yet, but it’s an upper body injury, and he’ll probably miss some time.”
The Bulldogs embark on a lengthy road trip next which will hopefully allow them to regroup from the current struggles. They’ll visit five cities as visitors for their next six games, only returning home to Copps Coliseum for a tilt with the Texas Stars on February 15th.
HAMILTON, ON – After having a six-game win streak snapped two weeks ago, the Hamilton Bulldogs all spoke of how important it was to avoid the peril of their early season: following each step forward with an equivalent or worse step back. Despite a valiant effort to prevent a new skid, firing 32 shots on Toronto Marlies’ goaltender Drew MacIntyre, the boys from the Hammer were unable to find the back of the net Saturday night, dropping a 2-0 decision for their third loss in the past four outings.
The Bulldogs – looking to rebound from last week’s loss to the bottom feeding Utica Comets – started strong, as an early Christian Thomas scoring chance off a Sven Andrighetto set-up forced Drew MacIntyre into a tough save and Wade MacLeod into a hooking penalty. Thomas would also have the best chance with the man advantage on a Morgan Ellis rebound, but MacIntyre was sharp right from opening puck drop.
Frustrations began to mount as the ‘Dogs saw two powerplays and a Sven Andrighetto breakaway go unrewarded, prompting Jarred Tinordi to drop the gloves with tough guy David Broll in a clash of heavyweights. Lots of swinging, but few punches landed either way, so Sam Carrick and Gabriel Dumont decided to keep the intensity high later in on the period in a lightweight bout.
As often happens in hockey, when a team has the better scoring chances but fails to cash in, it only takes one opportunity for the other team to open a lead. Martin St. Pierre was called for a poor penalty late in the first, interfering with a forechecking Brad Staubitz, something the captain has been guilty of far too frequently this season. Greg Pateryn was caught hobbled in front of Dustin Tokarski after blocking a hard point shot, allowing Greg McKegg to beat him to a rebound and tuck the puck just inside the post on the Hamilton netminder, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The ‘Dogs were again the better team at five-on-five in the second period, but a continued failure to make anything of their rushes or powerplay opportunities bit them once again. After Joonas Nattinen deftly set up linemate Stefan Fournier with a quick drop pass, only to be turned aside by MacIntyre, Hamilton was handed a powerplay opportunity when a scrum near the benches resulted in a too many men call against Toronto. Rather than seizing the opportunity, however, the home side allowed Jerry D’Amigo to break in alone. While being hooked to the ice, D’Amigo managed to direct the puck towards the net, fooling Tokarski who followed the sliding man rather than the abandoned disk, which trickled past him and into the cage.
Hamilton was given a great chance to get back into the game in the third period, as Brandon Kozun – making his debut for the Marlies after being acquired for Andrew Crescenzi a couple of days ago – took back-to-back penalties, giving the trailers four minutes of near uninterrupted powerplay time. The Bulldogs failed to generate much in the way of sustained possession or pressure, squandering their chances once again, and running into a wall of MacIntyre on the best opportunity as Gabriel Dumont and Mike Blunden batted away at a Greg Pateryn rebound.
Toronto was able to coast the rest of the way, preserving ex-Bulldog MacIntyre’s first shutout of the season. The struggling powerplay – 0 for 7 on the night – was an easy target on which to pinpoint the night’s defeat. “For me on the powerplay, I have to shoot pucks, get the pucks through,” suggested Morgan Ellis, whose team-high five shots came with a good dose of powerplay ice time thanks to Nathan Beaulieu‘s call-up to Montreal. “[Beaulieu] is a good puck-moving defenseman. He finds seams. For me, being out there, I just have to keep it simple and get pucks through, and hopefully one of them goes in.”
Coach Sylvain Lefebvre wasn’t as concerned about how Beaulieu’s loss impacted his man advantage, but reiterated the need fo it to be better. “Our powerplay was not good tonight. Our powerplay wasn’t doing very well even when Nathan was here. It’s been a current theme right now. Even when we were playing well and getting some wins, the powerplay wasn’t much of a factor. We have to find a way to grind it out. Maybe we’re doing too much. When we did well on the powerplay, it was getting shots from the point and traffic in front.”
The coach also scoffs at the notion of his team being streaky. “I’m tired of hearing that we’re streaky. We try to win every game. We try to put some wins together, and obviously we’re not trying to put some losses together. We want to get back on track. We think we’re a good team. We gotta get better and stronger mentally.”
Lefebvre’s troops will have a chance to prove they are strong mentally by getting right back on the ice Saturday night in Lake Erie to take on the Monsters. They’ll then return home to complete an always difficult three games in three nights stretch Sunday against Chicago.
HAMILTON, ON – The Hamilton Bulldogs’ welcome home from a 4-0-0 road trip wasn’t a happy one Saturday, dropping a decision to the Rochester Americans, but the warriors from the Hammer got back in the win column Sunday by outworking the Iowa Wild. Goals from Gabriel Dumont, Nathan Beaulieu, and an empty netter from Nick Tarnasky supported a strong night of work from Dustin Tokarski to earn a 3-1 victory.
The Bulldogs started the night off on a strong note when the initial shift by the line of Christian Thomas, Maxime Macenauer, and Louis Leblanc drew a penalty to Hamilton-native Marc Hagel (brother of former Bulldog Kyle Hagel). The powerplay buzzed for the first minute, with Sven Andrighetto getting the best chance on a deflection of a Martin St. Pierre centering pass, but Johan Gustafsson resisted and the game remained scoreless.
Hamilton continued to press as the far better team in the opening stanza. A strong forecheck from Thomas created a turnover, and the winger himself narrowly missed tapping in the rebound of a Louis Leblanc half-pass half-shot.
One of the few Iowa scoring chances in the first came with the man advantage while Macenauer sat in the box for interference. A miscue between Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi left former Bulldog Tyler Murovich alone in the slot, but his one-time attempt was stymied by a sprawling Dustin Tokarski. The Wild carried the momentum through the rest of the powerplay, and moments later captain Jake Dowell‘s shot beat Tokarski but found pipe.
With the penalty killed, the Bulldogs returned to the attack. Martin St. Pierre led a rush that drew a Corbin Baldwin hooking penalty, and early on in the powerplay, it was St. Pierre again spotting Gabriel Dumont at the side of the goal. Dumont showed quick hands, spinning around and flipping the puck over to his forehead before lifting a shot over Gustafsson for a 1-0 lead – a deserved advantage as the home side led 18-8 on the shot clock.
The Bulldogs looked to continue their dominance in the second, and it was again the line of Thomas, Macenauer, and Leblanc that almost extended the lead. Thomas picked off a puck behind the Wild net and spotted Leblanc all alone in front of Gustafsson, but the winger fanned on his wide-open scoring attempt.
That same shift, Macenauer picked up his second minor penalty of the game, this one in the offensive zone for a trip, in a moment that seemed to swing the game’s momentum around a bit. Iowa’s puck movement on the powerplay was again crisp, and a perfectly-executed give-and-go between Warren Peters and Marc Hagel left the latter with an easy tap-in for a tie game, drawing applause from his hometown friends and family in the crowd.
Key for the Bulldogs was to not fall into the same trip they had a night before, being to play a strong first half, but then sit and watch as the visitors slowly took over after the midway mark. Sven Andrighetto showed there was still fight in the ‘Dogs on this night, as he and Patrick Holland battled hard on the forecheck, before Andrighetto himself worked magic with the puck, weaving around the offensive zone and firing a hard shot from just inside the blueline. His attempt was stopped by Gustafsson, but the rebound came right out to Nathan Beaulieu who ripped it over falling bodies and just under the bar to restore the lead.
A scary moment shortly after the go-ahead marker, as Jim McKenzie boarded Patrick Holland from behind in the Hamilton end. Holland lay on the ice for about a minute following the hit, as Beaulieu was quick to drop the gloves with McKenzie in his defense. Holland was eventually able to get up, leaving the ice under his own strength and returning to action in the third period, while for Beaulieu, the fight completed a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
The period’s final minute saw the Bulldogs with another penalty to kill as Joonas Nattinen was given the only minor from a large scrum. Heavy pressure from the Wild forced Tokarski to be on top of his game, and the 24-year old was up to the task with numerous key pad saves.
The first half of the third saw both sides squander powerplay opportunities after looking so sharp in periods one and two. During one Bulldog kill, Gabriel Dumont blocked a heavy point shot with his foot and retreated to the dressing room under great distress. He would return to the bench minutes thereafter sporting a noticeable limp, and remained seated there the rest of the night.
Hamilton had a glorious chance to put the game away late in the period, as Nick Tarnasky and Joonas Nattinen swarmed the crease with the puck behind a fallen Gustafsson, but somehow the pair was unable to find the vacated cage.
Tarnasky would redeem himself in the game’s final minute, however. After two key face-off wins from Martin St. Pierre, the hulking forward pressed the Iowa defense with a forecheck, scooping a bobbled puck into the net with the goalie out for an extra attacker. Tarnasky’s ninth drew him even with Louis Leblanc for the team lead in goals.
Coach Sylvain Lefebvre indicated post-game that the Dumont shot block was a big lift to his players that helped carry them through the final minutes. “We know what Dumy’s all about. He’s an inspiration to all the players here. He plays hard every night. To block that shot, sometimes you like to think it’s a game changer. It’s as big as a goal sometimes,” credited the team’s bench boss.
“Yesterday we let the game slip away from us, so today we were on a mission,” summarized one of the night’s heroes, Nathan Beaulieu. Beaulieu has now amassed two goals and three assists in five games in the month of January, and he owes his personal success to satisfaction with his defensive game, which has allowed him to open up his play on a more regular basis. “The first half of the year, I was focused on the defensive half of my game. Now I can jump in a little more and start putting up some numbers.”
Hamilton’s star offensive rearguard came out post-game wearing some unusual headgear. When asked about it, he explained that it was awarded every game to the team’s best player, chosen by its previous wearer. His claim that the tradition had been going on for two years was met with skepticism from the assembled journalists, which led him to clarify, “I’m the only one that actually wears it cause it only fits my head. I have a small head.” Ironic if you consider what some in the media have made of Beaulieu, but he has been nothing but a professional on and off the ice of late as a key contributor to the Bulldogs’ current run.
With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 7-1-1 in their past nine games and avoided the plague of their early season: following up every win streak with a slide of equal length. The team begins the second half of their 2013-14 AHL season at home next Saturday, January 18th, against the Utica Comets.
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.
HAMILTON, ON – Losers of five straight, the Hamilton Bulldogs needed to turn a page Friday night if they wanted to avoid squandering a good start to the 2013-14 season, finding themselves a game below .500 entering action at Copps Coliseum. Whatever coach Sylvain Lefebvre said to the team during a lengthy meeting the day prior looked like it was going to prove effective early on, with the Bulldogs building an early lead, but the same old mental lapses crept back into their game come the middle stanza, ultimately costing the club a chance to take the first half of a key divisional home-and-home. A third period insurance marker by former Hab J.T. Wyman sealed the deal, solidifying a 5-3 victory for the visiting Lake Erie Monsters.
There was good news for the Bulldogs before the game got underway, as it was announced that Christian Thomas had been cleared medically from the sports hernia he suffered during Montreal Canadiens’ training camp, and could thus officially join the team, set to make his season debut. He began on a line with Martin St. Pierre and Nick Tarnasky, while also playing the point on Hamilton’s top powerplay unit beside Nathan Beaulieu.
But it would be another line that would allow the Bulldogs to open the scoring midway through the first period. A great individual effort saw Gabriel Dumont work a puck out front, eventually finding Justin Courtnall for an easy tap-in. The period ended with the Monsters getting into penalty trouble, resulting in them starting the second two men short.
When a team fails to cash in on a 5-on-3 powerplay, it can sometimes be a turning point for their opposition. It looked for a moment like this would be the case, as Lake Erie generated a solid chance off the rush in the moments after the second penalty had expired, but Robert Mayer staved off the attack. The Bulldogs ensured they would maintain momentum by turning the puck back up ice, as a great burst of speed from Stefan Fournier created a two-on-one opportunity, with Joonas Nattinen diving to reach a pass and deflect it by a sliding Sami Aittokallio for a 2-0 lead.
It never comes easy for a team looking to snap a skid, however. Less than three minutes after Nattinen’s goal, the Monsters won an offensive zone face-off back to Gabriel Beaupre, whose point shot beat Mayer cleanly – one he’d undoubtedly like to have back. Lake Erie immediately resumed buzzing off the ensuing draw, and Guillaume Desbiens completed a passing play at the lip of the crease just thirty five seconds later, evening the score and forcing Lefebvre to call a timeout in the efforts of settling his troops down.
Any effect of the timeout was shortlived, as two minutes after the tying goal, the Monsters forced Mayer into a highlight-reel one-timer save. The netminder was unable to avoid kicking out a rebound on to a Lake Erie stick, and Lady Luck smiled on the visitors when a centering pass deflected into the Bulldogs net off Magnus Nygren‘s skate without a maroon sweater in sight.
When it rains, it pours, and for the second time in a week, a full second period storm struck Hamilton. While it didn’t come close to matching the dubious team record set the previous Friday against Grand Rapids – allowing four goals in 1:13 – the team would surrender its fourth consecutive marker, as Mitchell Heard collected his third point of the game with a lucky deflection of a point shot that bounced way up high over Mayer and into the cage. The line of Tarnasky, St. Pierre, and Thomas – a source of excitement pre-game – fell to -3 on the night on the insurance marker. The goal signaled the end of the night for Mayer, replaced by Dustin Tokarski for the second time in as many starts.
Facing a sixth straight defeat, undoubtedly Lefebvre has started to feel some pressure for his own job security, and his second intermission speech awoke the slumbering ‘Dogs. Led by the bottom six lines of Gabriel Dumont, Mike Blunden, and Justin Courtnall, and Joonas Nattinen, Steve Quailer, and Stefan Fournier, Hamilton fired whatever they could at Aittokallio, looking to get back into the game, and it was Blunden who would corral a puck in the slot and fire a shot just inside the post to draw back within one. The Finnish netminder would stymie any further attempts, however, untilWyman benefited from an off-balance Tokarski to bank a wraparound in off his pad, giving the Monsters all the production they needed for a win in Steeltown.
Where do you go from here? The optimist would say the only place is “up,” but other than eventual returns of the injured Patrick Holland and Darren Dietz, no further roster upgrades are in sight, given the Canadiens’ improving health. Sometimes it only takes a single win to reverse the trends and find some positives to build on, and Hamilton will get that chance right away on Saturday, as they visit the Monters before returning home for a rare Tuesday night game against the Texas Stars.