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IceCaps game report

Second Period Collapse Sinks Bulldogs Against Griffins [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Martin St. Pierre | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – Military Appreciation Night won’t go down as one to remember in Hamilton. Despite the Bulldogs playing the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapid Griffins relatively evenly most of the night, a total defensive and goaltending collapse midway through the second period saw the visitors deposit four pucks into the ‘Dog net in a 1:13 span to take over the game en route to an easy 6-1 victory.

Sven Andrighetto drew even with Louis Leblanc and Nick Tarnasky for the team lead with his 5th goal of the season in the blowout loss.
Sven Andrighetto drew even with Louis Leblanc and Nick Tarnasky for the team lead with his 5th goal of the season in the blowout loss.

The Bulldogs had generated the better early-game chances when a harmless looking shift in their defensive end saw a puck pop up to Cory Emmerton. The long-time veteran of the Detroit organization caught the puck, dropped it and fired a quick shot with perfect accuracy, wringing off the post and in past a slow-to-react Robert Mayer.

In an ironic twist on Military Appreciation Night, it was a lack of discipline that then got the home team in further trouble, as first a Greg Pateryn board and then a Maxime Macenauer high stick left Hamilton two men short. A unit of Gabriel DumontNathan Beaulieu, and Jarred Tinordi collapsed tight to the net to protect Mayer, but after Dumont took a shot off the right hand leaving him hobbled, AHL superstar Gustav Nyquist found 22-year old Swede Calle Jarnkork at the top of the face-off circle to blast a one-time shot to the back of the net.

There was reason to suspect another comeback effort may have been in the cards for the Bulldogs as they buzzed out of the gate to start the second period. One wraparound chance looked like it may have crossed the goal line, but video review could not conclusively prove that the puck had gone in under Petr Mrazek.

Truthfully, there was no reason to suspect the meltdown that would occur next, starting at the 10:52 mark of the middle stanza. In fact, while it didn’t entirely reflect the balance of play, Hamilton led 22-10 on the shot clock at that point. But then, just after the ‘Dogs had failed to draw within one on a powerplay opportunity, a harmless looking wrister from just inside the blueline off the blade of Andrej Nestrasil somehow went right through Mayer. And the Griffins were hardly done there. Twenty-three seconds later it was Jarnkrok, again on a Nyquist feed, firing his second past the ‘Dogs starter. If that wasn’t enough, a quick rush off the ensuing face-off saw Mayer leave a Nestrasil rebound just outside the blue paint where Mitch Callahan was able to tap it in past the floundering keeper. Three goals in 33 seconds made it a 5-0 game and ended the night for Mayer, paving way for Dustin Tokarski.

Even if a 5-0 game seems out of reach, sometimes changing netminders can help to settle a side down, but that wasn’t the case on this night. The Bulldogs would surrender their fourth goal in a 1:13 span as Teemu Pulkkinen got his stick on a Ryan Sproul shot off the rush on the first shot Tokarski would face.

Typical of a blowout, the third period was a penalty-filled affair as refs kept whistles in their mouths to keep things in check. Despite the numerous powerplays, there were few chances either way, until Sven Andrighetto spoiled Mrazek’s shutout bid with the man advantage on a shot from just inside the blueline in the game’s final minute.

Post-game, captain Martin St. Pierre was at a loss to explain how this game got away from his troops. “It was just a mental breakdown. There’s no fatigue or anything else to blame. It doesn’t matter who’s on the ice after a disallowed goal or after they score one or two really quick. It’s just a matter of bouncing back and forgetting about that. But we just dwelled on it and we shot ourselves in the foot. There’s no one else to blame except us.”

The Bulldogs will take what they can out of this one with less than 48 hours to think about it before they are back in action at home again Sunday against the struggling Utica Comets – a perfect opportunity to rebound.

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IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Penalty Kill Powers Team to Home Opener Win [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Sylvain Lefebvre | Patrick Holland | Magnus Nygren

HAMILTON, ON – If the expectations of this year’s Hamilton Bulldog team is to bring a more exciting brand of hockey to Copps Coliseum than the squad that finished in the American Hockey League’s basement last season, consider opening night a success. The Bulldogs took an aggressive style of play to the St. John’s IceCaps right from the start, skating to a 3-2 win on the strength of two shorthanded goals in the team’s season and home opener.

Greg Pateryn - named an alternate team captain earlier this week - scored the opening goal of the Hamilton Bulldogs' 2013-14 season. (PHOTO: Dan Hickling)
Greg Pateryn – named an alternate team captain earlier this week – scored the opening goal of the Hamilton Bulldogs’ 2013-14 season. (PHOTO: Dan Hickling)

The Bulldogs started their season on a strong note as, while killing a penalty, Mike Blunden and Greg Pateryn broke in on a 2-on-1. The former set one on a tee for the latter, who put his full weight into blasting one past veteran netminder Eddie Pasquale. But the IceCaps would battle back on another man advantage, when an Andrew Gordon point shot found its way through a maze of bodies and beat Dustin Tokarski cleanly.

Hamilton’s lead was restored early in the second. Fresh out of the box, Blunden again joined a rush of a very aggressive Bulldog penalty kill, receiving a feed from Joonas Nattinen and firing a wicked wrister just under the bar from the top of the face-off circle. Nattinen – starting the season on Hamilton’s fourth line – had a good hard-working game, engaging physically and generating offensive chances.

A ‘Dogs powerplay generated multiple chances for the home team to extend their lead, and a Magnus Nygren rocket beat Pasquale, but found post and stayed out. After a Joel Chouinard shot met the same fate, a gassed unit was left to defend against Ryan Schnell joining a counterattack out of the box, and defenseman Ben Chiarot was allowed to skate right in on goal to shelf a backhander over Tokarski’s shoulder.

Nygren had another chance to bag a goal in his North American regular season debut, when he charged the net out of the box, but his redirection of a Patrick Holland centering dish met Pasquale’s extended pad. It seemed Nygren barely left the ice in the second, playing eleven minutes attributed to strong performance, a Nathan McIver misconduct, and getting caught on a couple of long shifts.

Another shorthanded rush in the third period’s opening minutes saw Holland break in one-on-one. A slick move around the Ice Caps defender gave him an open shot on Pasquale, who only managed to get a piece of an off-speed snap that trickled into an empty cage.

The Bulldogs looked to be in good position to hold on to their advantage heading to a powerplay with just over six minutes to go, but it proved fruitless, and Mike Blunden was guilty of a lazy accidental hook at centre ice moments after its expiry. During the delayed call, Tokarski was forced to stretch out the left leg to rob a St. John’s skater on the doorstep, one of his 33 stops on the night.

Hamilton’s penalty killers would do the work from there, aggressive and on puck carriers throughout the night. Gabriel Dumont first killed significant time skating the puck around the neutral zone, and then Justin Courtnall picked off an Ice Caps’ pass, driving hard to the net and forcing Will O’Neill to take a hooking call. With the net empty for an extra attacker, St. John’s did buzz at 5-on-5, but Tokarski was again solid in preserving the opening night victory.

The Bulldogs return to action right away Saturday night, as they host the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins at Copps Coliseum.

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

Dustin Tokarski
Robert Mayer

Three Stars:

1. Mike Blunden
2. Patrick Holland
3. Eddie Pasquale
Hardest Working Bulldog: Greg Pateryn

Honourable mentions to Magnus Nygren, Dustin Tokarski, and Joonas Nattinen

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IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Breeze by Heat with 5-3 Win [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Brady Vail | Alex Belzile | Joey Tenute

HAMILTON, ON – They say the first game home after a lengthy road trip is one of the toughest to win. But if Wednesday night was an indication, the Hamilton Bulldogs aren’t familiar with that expression.

After posting a 1-3-0 record on the road over the last two and a half weeks, the ‘Dogs returned to Copps Coliseum with a decisive victory, chilling the Abbotsford Heat by a 5-3 final score in a game they controlled for two periods but would ultimately have to survive a third period collapse. 

Bournival's 8th tied Patrick Holland for 2nd in goals among active 'Dogs this season (PHOTO: GETTY / RDS.CA)
Bournival’s 8th tied Patrick Holland for 2nd in goals among active ‘Dogs this season (PHOTO: GETTY / RDS.CA)

Hamilton got off to a good start with the game’s first quality scoring chance as Alex Belzile narrowly missed getting to the rebound of a Joey Tenute shot. Belzile was promoted to the Bulldogs’ top line with Tenute and Patrick Holland for the night – despite it being only the third AHL game of the tryout’s career – based on his production (a goal and two assists) in his two prior outings.

The Bulldogs would make good of their second opportunity however. Michael Bournival took a couple of strides off a Nathan Beaulieu pass and fired a hard wrister off the post and in on netminder Danny Taylor. With Gabriel Dumont in Montreal Bournival led the ‘Dogs in scoring coming into the game with 24 points in 56 contests, and the marker tied him with Patrick Holland for second on the team in goals with 8.

As rare as it has been for Hamilton to score first this season, on this night, they wouldn’t stop there. First Frederic St. Denis would one-time the rebound of a Philippe Lefebvre shot past a helpless Taylor. Brady Vail picked up his first professional point (in his third game) with an assist on the tally. Then just five minutes later, feel-good story Hamilton local Joey Tenute would collect a Belzile pass and fire a rifle top shelf.

The second period saw the Bulldogs add to their lead with a powerplay marker to make it 4-0. Nathan Beaulieu showed great agility in executing a quick spinorama at the point before feeding back to Patrick Holland. Holland would in turn send the puck cross-ice to Greg Pateryn whose slapshot found the back of the net for his 6th in just 27 games. Robert Mayer would close out the period with a number of quality stops as Abbotsford held a 27-16 shot advantage through 40 minutes, though those totals hardly reflected the balance of play.

Nothing has come easy for the boys from Steeltown North this season and this game would not be an exception. The Heat came out buzzing to start the final stanza and markers from Max Reinhart and Roman Horak quickly made it a two-goal affair. Hoping to settle his troops down, coach Sylvain Lefebvre wisely called a timeout.

And it seemed to work. Again the new top line went to work with Holland flashing skill to break in alone on goal, and while he was stepped, Tenute was Johnny on the spot for his second of the night, restoring a three-goal lead. Belzile registered his second helper of the game on the goal – his fifth point in just his third game – and was impressive throughout the night, regularly going hard to the Heat net.

Ben Street would reduce the Heat deficit to two, but that was as close as this one would come, as the Bulldogs pick up a hard-fought and well-deserved win despite what the shot clock might have one think. The win was made all the more impressive by the fact that no fewer than six players were making their Copps Coliseum debuts in the game.

“It’s a little weird for me, just cause I’ve never experienced anything like this,” explained Vail who – given his young age – will return to the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires in the Fall. “I’m here to experience what it’s like at the next level and learn from the pro guys; what it takes, the work ethic, off-ice stuff. All the little things really. Good to get [the first point] out of the way, and hope I get a few more.”

Belzile, playing his first year outside of Quebec and a little self-conscious about his English, is also looking at this as a learning opportunity. “[The AHL] is way faster [than the ECHL]. Just the intensity – you can’t compare them. You have to be smarter – know what you’re going to do with the puck before it comes. Those little details, and I hope [my adjustment] is going to continue the same way.”

 

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IceCaps game report

Beaulieu and Holland Power ‘Dogs Past Ice Caps [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Nathan Beaulieu | Patrick HollandSylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – The Hamilton Bulldogs continue to put their struggles of the first half of the 2012-13 season behind them, as goals from Stefan ChaputJoe Stejskal, and a pair by Nathan Beaulieu powered the club to a 4-3 victory over the St. John’s Ice Caps – their sixth win in the past eight outings.

“We weren’t really happy (with the way we played) to be honest. In the second intermission we talked about it. But you gotta grind out wins. You gotta battle back. We’re not used to playing with the lead, so tonight we showed a little bit of character keeping the lead and never giving up,” summarized Beaulieu, the star on the night.

Beaulieu scored his 5th and 6th goals of the season in Hamilton's win (PHOTO: Joe Gibbons/Canadian Press/St. John's Telegram)
Beaulieu scored his 5th and 6th goals of the season in Hamilton’s win (PHOTO: Joe Gibbons/Canadian Press/St. John’s Telegram)

As Beaulieu alludes to, it wasn’t always pretty. Two face-off losses drained a Bulldog 5-on-3 in the first, but Hamilton managed to convert before the second penalty ended when Stefan Chaput picked a corner from a tough angle. Some stellar goaltending from Robert Mayer ensured the ‘Dogs would take 1 -0 lead into the intermission despite being outshot 13-11 in the period.

The Ice Caps tied the game early in the second when a Jason Gregoire wraparound beat Mayer – a shot he’d likely want a second look at. Jarred Tinordi was slightly late getting to Gregoire on the goal, allowing the winger to take an extra step out front and improve his angle.

But Hamilton would show resiliency – or “battle back” as Beaulieu put it. After buzzing on some unsuccessful powerplay chances, a Joe Stejskal point shot squeaked through Mark Dekanich, with Patrick Holland standing all over him at the top of the crease. It looked like Holland may have earned the goal with a deflection, but it was awarded cleanly to Stejskal.

“It hit me in the shin pad, but that’s between us. I’ll let Joe keep it. It was his first,” joked Holland at game’s end.

Nathan Beaulieu added to the Bulldogs’ lead with a quick move at the offensive blueline and firing of a quick accurate wrist shot into the corner of the net. Michael Bournival initially got credit on a tip, but it was later corrected to have officially gone in cleanly off Beaulieu’s stick. Not an easy night to be a scorekeeper, no doubt.

And if those scorekeepers were busy trying to figure that one out, they may have missed the next goal, as the Ice Caps didn’t waste time clawing back to within one less than a minute later. Mayer was unable to control the rebound of a Derek Meech point shot and Aaron Gagnon was first on the loose puck, beating the fallen netminder.

Louis Leblanc slashing penalty put the ‘Dogs in some danger early in the third period, but big shot blocks in succession from Gabriel DumontJoe Stejskal, and Mike Blunden got the team out of trouble. The team carried the momentum through to another offensive burst from Beaulieu, who with time and space at the line, was able to fire a shot just inside the post for the second time of the game, extending the lead to 4-2. Patrick Holland collected his second assist of the night on the goal, and that’s with no point on the team’s first goal that he very well may have scored.

In a season where nothing has come easy for Hamilton, we were in for another struggle to the finish, as Leblanc’s second penalty of the period proved more costly than the first. Raymond Sawada‘s 10th of the season beat Mayer for his third point of the night, as the never-say-die Ice Caps made it 4-3. But that was all the Ice Caps could muster, and the Bulldogs posted their sixth win in the last eight games, pulling within a point of visiting St. John’s in the basement of the AHL standings.

After the game, Holland was quick to clarify a Tweet he put out earlier in the day, alluding to an epic battle between he and a zipper.

hollandtweet

“Ellis would probably know better. He’s my roommate and I was screaming. I had something in my coat pocket and I couldn’t get it open. It was hooked on the inside like everybody’s dealt with before. But I just couldn’t get it. And it’s so frustrating. Cause you can’t calmly just open it, you have to like… and it starts to build rage. And it’s not against another person, so there’s nothing you can do to retaliate. It’s a coat. What am I gonna do to it? It doesn’t care!”

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IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Heat Up, Primed for Big Second Half [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

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

HAMILTON, ON – In a first game previewing what a post-NHL CBA American Hockey League might look like, the Hamilton Bulldogs got the better of their rival Toronto Marlies winning a 2-1 decision on a luck late Gabriel Dumont goal.  The Bulldogs registered five of a possible six points on their three-game home-stand and have been playing competitive hockey, critical as the season reaches its midway point and the team has an enormous chasm to make up in the standings.

Robert Mayer made 23 stops in his third straight start for the 'Dogs. (PHOTO: Bradley Kalpin)
Robert Mayer made 23 stops in his third straight start for the ‘Dogs. (PHOTO: Bradley Kalpin)

Despite the NHL lockout being settled and the new CBA all-but-ratified, both squads dressed the majority of their AHL rosters, with the Marlies holding out just Matt Frattin and the injured Jake Gardiner, while all of Mike CommodoreFrederic St. DenisGabriel DumontBrendan Gallagher, and Louis Leblanc played for the Bulldogs despite their possible presence at Montreal’s camp next week.  The fact is that even if the five might get a short stint with the Canadiens, they are all likely to return to the Bulldogs’ line-up before long with 23 players (once P.K. Subban is signed) on NHL deals already.  Realistically, only Dumont perhaps has a chance of getting some time with the team at this stage due to an injury to Petteri Nokelainen, but his presence on the roster would mean no tryout for the team’s top prospect in Alex Galchenyuk.  In fact, though the Bulldogs still sit 30th overall in the American Hockey League, they are a team that should remain relatively intact while opposing squads are weakened, perhaps setting them up for a stretch run and shot at a post-season berth.

The game matched the Hamilton Bulldogs usual script early on, with the ‘Dogs leading the Marlies in shots through a scoreless first period but without much in the way of discernible scoring opportunities.  The Marlies got on the board first in the second with a Nazem Kadri goal off an offensive zone face-off, then looked to add to their lead and take over the game with a lengthy 5-on-3 powerplay.

But for the second time in as many games, the ‘Dogs came up with a huge kill, without so much as even giving up a quality scoring chance.  In the final minutes, Hamilton was on a powerplay of their own, and as it expired, Jason DeSantis made a great play at the blueline, jumping to keep a puck in the zone, and finding Mike Blunden in front. With a mess of players including a pinching Nathan Beaulieu crashing the net, Blunden found Patrick Holland at the other side of the crease and he buried the puck, scoring in the final second of a period for the second time in the past three games.

The third was a strange period of unsuccessful man advantages for both sides, and the teams remained tied entering the final minute.  It was then that Dumont centered the puck which took a couple of funny bounces of Marlie defenders before finally banking in off Jussi Rynnas for his team-leading 11th.

“He’s greasy like that. That’s typical of him (Dumont) for sure,” half-joked Holland about the winning goal after the game.  “We even tell him to shoot from there all the time cause he just has a knack for tricking goalies. It’s tough for a goalie to stop that I’m sure.”

The ‘Dogs held on for the rest of the final minute allowing the Dumont tally to stand up as the winner.  Dumont himself says he has no indication if or when he’ll get a call to pack a bag for Montreal, so for the time being, he and the rest of the Bulldogs can only look ahead to try to keep their streak going when they visit the Rochester Americans this Friday night.

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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

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.