HAMILTON, ON – On paper, the 1-8-2 Utica Comets seemed like the perfect visitors to cure what had been ailing the Hamilton Bulldogs of late. But just two days after what should have been the most complete roster the ‘Dogs had iced on the year was embarrassed 6-1 at the hands of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the team again showed up to Copps Coliseum without a high enough compete level to get back into the win column. Rather than rise to the occasion, Hamilton played down to the level of its opposition, trading chances evenly with Utica for most of the evening, only to end up on the wrong side of a 3-1 decision.
Trying to rebound from Friday’s tough loss, the Bulldogs found themselves shorthanded Sunday – missing Greg Pateryn and Gabriel Dumont due to call-ups to Montreal, and Patrick Holland with a fresh minor injury.
Despite this, the ‘Dogs seemed to respond well out of the gates, outshooting the Comets 17-7 in the first period, even if there were few quality scoring opportunities for either side. The home team’s best chance come on a near-perfect powerplay set-up in the slot for Magnus Nygren, but the Swede failed to get sufficient wood on the puck to one-time it past Joacim Eriksson. While the less busy of the two netminders, Dustin Tokarski also came up big with a pair of glove saves on odd-man rushes.
Whatever momentum the ‘Dogs had built through twenty minutes failed to carry over into the second. Utica had Hamilton pinned in its own end for the first five minutes, but a lucky break would be needed to help them open the game’s scoring. The Bulldogs defended well backchecking to try to break up a 2-on-1 rush, when a seemingly broken pass from Pascal Pelletier towards Zach Hamil bounced off his skate and slid slowly past a sliding Tokarski.
Throughout the period, the Comets had numerous chances to add to their lead, as due to a combination of questionable defense and bad ice, pucks were regularly pinballed around the Hamilton end. Solid play from Tokarski and a little luck kept a second puck from penetrating the Bulldog goal, setting the stage for a Sven Andrighetto equalizer in the frame’s final minute. A play at the Utica blueline was ruled onside by the linesman despite the overhead view strongly suggesting the puck had left the zone, and ensuing offensive zone pressure culminated with Andrighetto’s potting of the rebound of a Mike Blunden shot from the lip of the crease to tie the game at one. The goal was Andrighetto’s sixth and his tenth point, both categories in which he leads the team despite his rookie status.
Late period goals are said to be key momentum-changers, yet just like between the first and second periods, the ‘Dogs seemed to lose any advantages they’d earned in the dressing room once again. Also in similar fashion to the second, the early third period would see the Comets fail to capitalize on multiple manufactured opportunities only to regain the lead thanks to a lucky bounce. Defenseman Peter Andersson attempted to dump a puck to the corner in the Hamilton end, but it hopped off the skate of Morgan Ellis and straight onto the blade of Alexandre Grenier, alone in front with only an empty cage to shoot at.
The Bulldogs would come close to drawing even at the eleven minute mark as both Ben Duffy and Akim Aliu had great whacks at a loose puck in the blue paint, but neither could beat Eriksson. Aliu went from near hero to goat moments later, however, taking a boarding penalty with fewer than eight minutes to play, and forcing his teammates to come up with a big kill.
Aliu’s day wouldn’t end there, though, as with Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker in the game’s final minute, Pascal Pelletier was called for a slash that broke Aliu’s stick. The Bulldogs had two rushes during their 6-on-4 manpower advantage, but both Nathan Beaulieu and Martin St. Pierre in turn coughed pucks up, with the latter intercepted by Colin Stuart, who bounced a rolling puck off the boards, all the way down the ice, and into the deserted Hamilton net.
This loss was Hamilton’s fourth in a row (three in regulation) and drops their record on the young season to 5-5-3. While the production of a young player like Andrighetto is encouraging, the team needs to get more out of the likes of Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, and Martin St. Pierre if it is to contend for a playoff position. The team’s next chance to snap out of its current funk comes in a special weekday game 10 AM Wednesday against the Rochester Americans.
HAMILTON, ON – If the Hamilton Bulldogs could play full games like it was the final two minutes of the third period, they’d be near impossible to beat. Just when it looked like a typical night for a team on the trail end of a three-in-three marathon, the ‘Dogs proved there was in fact still something left in the tank, battling back to twice pull within one, but ultimately coming up short in a 3-2 loss to rival Toronto Marlies.
The fact that the Bulldogs were able to dress their full top four on defense – Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi, and Magnus Nygren – for the first time this season was of no help early on. Right off the game’s opening shift, a defensive end turnover allowed Jerred Smithson to finish off a passing play and beat Robert Mayer just 24 seconds after the opening face-off.
A recurring storyline would next rear its ugly head as Hamilton took the game’s first three penalties, and despite an earlier prolonged 5-on-3 kill (thanks to two hit goal posts), just 14 seconds after Greg Pateryn was sent off for a high stick, Greg McKegg tucked a Josh Leivo centering feed just inside the post for a 2-0 Toronto lead.
Hamilton showed signs of life in the second, notably thanks to four powerplay opportunities, but the results were repeated broken plays and missed shots, typical of a tired hockey club. The best chances belonged to Akim Aliu – firing a shot from a tough angle wide of a completely open cage after a Martin St. Pierre feed – and Sven Andrighetto, the club’s most dangerous forward throughout the night rejected on multiple occasions by Drew MacIntyre.
If the second period was characterized by a lack of finishing ability for the Bulldogs, the third period looked like it’d provide further evidence to the team’s tanks being on empty. Erik Nystrom had the team’s only real scoring opportunity of the first fifteen minutes on a long shot which looked dangerous just thanks to MacIntyre losing his balance.
But how quickly a hockey game can change. Aliu led the charge in the period’s final minutes, hauled down by Korbinian Holzer as he tried to break away, and thus drawing a penalty. The powerplay generated strong pressure, as Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu patrolled the line effectively. Just prior to its expiry, a Pateryn shot was blocked, but the second year pro collected the rebound and fed Beaulieu, whose shot would bounce on to Nick Tarnasky‘s stick in traffic down low. Tarnasky outwaited a falling MacIntyre for his team-leading fifth of the season, giving the home side late life.
With an offensive zone face-off, coach Sylvain Lefebvre called a timeout and pulled Robert Mayer. The ‘Dogs got exactly what they wanted with a win on the draw, but Magnus Nygren suffered a split second mental lapse, feather a long pass across the blueline to be picked off by the Marlies. Jerry D’Amigo won the race down ice and seemed to seal the game with an empty netter.
The Bulldogs proved one last time on the night that “never saying die” is a part of the identity of this year’s squad, when Greg Pateryn took a Martin St. Pierre centering pass and blasted it through MacIntyre, but with only 17 seconds left on the clock, it was too little, too late.
Coach Sylvain Lefebvre didn’t mince words about his feelings towards the AHL’s three games in three nights scheduling, calling it “near inhuman,” and adding that he was happy of his team’s efforts under such circumstanes.
Pateryn wasn’t quite as pleased with his side’s effort, indicating the need for the team to start playing for a full sixty minutes moving forward. A funny moment occurred post-game when he was asked if the frequent injuries and resulting call-ups to Montreal this season were a distraction.
“It’s not a distraction at all. I think for guys when it’s their first time up and down, it’s overwhelming at first. But the guys that have been going up and down, they realize what the reason is, and what their role is, and when you come back here, it’s for a certain reason, and you just gotta work on the things they tell you too. And you hopefully get another chance up there.” This scrum was taking place just outside the Bulldogs’ dressing room door, and immediately at this moment – as if scripted – Louis Leblanc pushed out the door past Pateryn carrying his equipment bag (for his call-up to Montreal). While the next question is being asked, Pateryn turns his head over his shoulder, and utters a “See ya Louis!” Not a distraction at all I’d say.
The Bulldogs will have a chance for revenge next Friday, when the Marlies return to Copps Coliseum for the third matchup of the season between the Ontario squads. The two sides are now tied with 10 points each through the season’s first eight games.
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.
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
1. Mike Blunden
2. Patrick Holland
3. Eddie Pasquale
Hardest Working Bulldog: Greg Pateryn
Honourable mentions to Magnus Nygren, Dustin Tokarski, and Joonas Nattinen
TORONTO, ON – There were few spots up for grabs in Montreal Canadiens training camp. The team had finished 2nd in the NHL’s Eastern Conference last season, and despite a disappointing first round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators, the return to health of some key veterans and development of young players have many hopeful that the building blocks are in place for long-term success. With many players returning on one-way NHL contracts, camp held little suspense, and what little there was mostly vanished when Michel Therrien revealed his plans to stick to last season’s line combinations.
Stability is a foreign concept in the American Hockey League. Teams that perform well are generally led by top players, whose outstanding performances see them given shots in the National Hockey League the following season. Few players sign long-term deals to stay in the AHL, and thus seeing players swap teams annually is hardly an unusual sight. Drafted North American prospects come of age for league eligibility, and thus teams are stocked with new young hopefuls.
In Hamilton, coming off a season where the hometown squad finished dead last in the league, the multitude of new faces who will report for physicals Friday will be a welcome reprieve from the memories of a year gone wrong. Thursday, the group that will attempt to start from the bottom and work their way back towards respectability, was announced as the Bulldogs revealed their opening training camp roster.
On it are most of the names you’d expect. Louis Leblanc and Joonas Nattinen return at forward, while Morgan Ellis hopes to take on a larger role on defense. Robert Mayer will again battle for playing time between the pipes. Not listed but undoubtedly soon to join the group once cut from the Canadiens are Martin St. Pierre, Patrick Holland, Christian Thomas, Magnus Nygren, Nathan Beaulieu, Darren Dietz, and Dustin Tokarski. Provided there are no further injuries, no more than one of MichaelBournival, Michael Blunden, or Gabriel Dumont should stick with the Habs at this point either, though the latter two would be subject to waivers if they are to join the ‘Dogs. Injuries on defense may delay the return of a Greg Pateryn or Jarred Tinordi, but at least the former should eventually spend some time in the Hammer this season.
Then you add in the rest of the fresh wave of prospects with Sven Andrighetto, Stefan Fournier, and Erik Nystrom, and this summer’s depth signings in Stefan Chaput, Ben Duffy, Justin Courtnall, Stephen MacAulay, Matt Grassi, and Drew Schiestel, and you start to get a crowded picture.
One imagines a preconceived depth chart might look something like the following:
Patrick Holland – Martin St. Pierre – Christian Thomas
Mike Blunden – Michael Bournival – Louis Leblanc
Erik Nystrom – Nick Tarnasky – Sven Andrighetto
Stefan Fournier – Joonas Nattinen – Steve Quailer
Ben Duffy, Justin Courtnall, Stephen MacAulay, Stefan Chaput
Greg Pateryn – Nathan Beaulieu
Magnus Nygren – Darren Dietz
Morgan Ellis – Drew Schiestel
Matt Grassi, Joel Chouinard
Mike Condon, Peter Delmas
With so many names already penciled in, where does the suspense come into play? Well the names above aren’t the only ones on Hamilton’s camp roster. The Bulldogs have invited a number of others – ranging from high profile veterans and former prospects to the rather obscure – to attend camp on tryouts in the hopes of earning a job with the team.
The first name that stands out is Akim Aliu. The 6’4″ Nigerian winger was a 2nd round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007, but the offense to his game never developed as the ‘Hawks had hoped. He has been labelled a head case with a bad attitude throughout his career, but has been able to reinvent his style of play, sliding into a tough guy / enforcer role that saw him appear in seven total games for the Calgary Flames split over the past two seasons. There tend to be far more fights in the AHL than the NHL, and thus most squads carry multiple enforcer-types, something the current Hamilton roster is light on. Thus, Aliu’s size and strengths could appeal to the team’s management enough to earn him a spot if he can show improved off-ice demeanour.
A more familiar name on the list is that of Alex Belzile. The 22-year old’s first pro season was spent largely with the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators, but he impressed on a late-season tryout with the Bulldogs, scoring 8 points in 14 games while driving the net with regularity despite his very average 5’11” frame. Belzile frequently dressed on Hamilton’s top scoring line, though with the new bodies on the roster it’s tough to see exactly where he could carve himself a niche for the coming season. Still, he has already shown he can cut it, and so he should be considered one of the favoured tryouts to further stack Montreal’s AHL affiliate with forward depth.
A couple of other QMJHL-bred forwards also received invites. David Laliberte, a 2004 Philadelphia Flyers fourth round pick with 11 games of NHL experience, and Maxime Macenauer, a Anaheim 2007 third rounder who played 29 games for the Ducks in 2011-12, seem like they could bring every bit as much to the table as a Stefan Chaput or Justin Courtnall, but decisions will ultimately have to be made. While Hamilton certainly endeavours to put up better results than last year, they remain primarily a development team and need to leave room for prospects to get some ice time amidst the more experienced veterans.
The rest up front: Andre Bouvet-Morrissette is a 6’3″ 22-year old winger coming off his rookie pro season that was split between two AHL and two ECHL clubs… Kelsey Wilson is a 27-year old 6’1″ forward who has bounced around leagues with time in the AHL, ECHL, Austria, and the U.K… Jordan Owens is a veteran of 300 AHL games with a mediocre stat line who is coming off a year in Denmark… Chad Wiseman is a 32-year old Burlington, Ontario native who played nine NHL games between 2002 and 2006 and was once a top AHL scorer, but has been slowed by injuries (he could fill the homegrown scorer void left by Joey Tenute)… Trevor Bruess is an ECHL veteran who gets limited AHL action annually as a temporary injury replacement.
Dalton Thrower will be a name to watch on defense at this camp. Not turning 20 until December 20th, Thrower would be one of the league’s youngest players if he makes the team. But it’s no coincidence the Canadiens have yet to sign their 2012 second rounder to an entry level contract, as Thrower is also eligible to join the WHL’s Vancouver Giants for the coming campaign. If the Canadiens blueline is fairly healthy and thus Hamilton gets both Beaulieu and Pateryn back immediately, it’s likely Thrower will be sent down for a final junior season rather than sitting in the Copps Coliseum press box or heading to the ECHL. That is, unless he forced management’s hand with a standout effort in camp to begin reversing the effects of a disappointing 2012-13 season.
With Tinordi playing like he wants to stay in Montreal, the Bulldogs may be in the market for an experienced blueliner to round out their group. The inside track has to go to Matt Lashoff due to his appearance at Montreal’s camp, but he underwhelmed there, opening a door for the other invitees.
Given the aforementioned absence of toughness in the roster, Nathan McIver might be Lashoff’s biggest competition to earn a deal on D. McIver was a Vancouver Canucks eighth round pick in 2003, and collected 287 penalty minutes in 62 AHL games last season. He also appeared in 36 NHL games between 2006 and 2009, registering one assist and 95 PIMs.
A final notable is another one-time Canuck pick, 2009 fourth round selection Jeremy Price (no relation to Carey Price). The 22-year old two-way d-man completed his stint with Colgate University and then got a five-game tryout with the Chicago Wolves at the tail end of last season, but didn’t show enough to earn a full-time deal. With the prospect of Tinordi, Pateryn, and Beaulieu graduating to the NHL within the next year, the Bulldogs may look at someone like Price to provide extra insurance in case of injuries, trades, and call-ups.
The rest on D: Pierre Durepos is a 21-year old blueliner and former teammate of Nathan Beaulieu‘s, having spent the past four seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs… Paul Cianfrini is a journeyman whose career took from the OHL to Nipissing University and then to the ECHL for the past two seasons… Jonathan Narbonne is a 21-year old d-man who won a Memorial Cup with Michael Bournival and Morgan Ellis in Shawinigan in 2012.