HAMILTON, ON – In what Habs fans need to hope wasn’t a preview of Saturday night’s Canadiens – Maple Leafs matchup in Montreal, the Bulldogs turned in a lackluster effort Friday night, dropping an important divisional contest 3-1 to the Toronto Marlies.
If you were to describe the 2013-14 Hamilton Bulldogs in one word, through the season’s first 21 games, it would be “streaky.” Through the year’s first ten games, the team had lost only twice in regulation, which they promptly followed up by losing five straight contests in 60-minutes. A four-game win streak then got fans optimistic that the dark days were over, particularly thanks to inspired play from Dustin Tokarski. But a mid-week blowout at the hand of the Rochester Americans set-up Friday night’s clash with the enemy Marlies at Copps Coliseum as a battle for first place in the division that would prove anticlimactic for the crowd of 6,159 in attendance.
The Bulldogs welcomed two relatively new faces to the line-up, compensating for the recent departures of Erik Nystrom and Magnus Nygren. First was rookie pro defenseman Darren Dietz, returning after missing 16 games with a wrist injury to play just his fifth contest for the squad. The next was Jordan Owens, a journeyman forward who attended Bulldogs’ training camp on a tryout, and was just signed to a professional tryout agreement earlier this week, making his AHL season debut.
The fresh blood helped buoy the team to a solid first period. Despite holding a 9-7 shot advantage, one defensive lapse left the ‘Dogs trailing their Ontario rivals. Morgan Ellis lost a battle in the corner, allowing Josh Leivo to skate out, and Darren Dietz was left in no man’s land, caught between covering the front of the net and moving towards Leivo, allowing the Marlies’ rookie to spot Jerry D’Amigo alone in front. The former U.S. National Under-18 program star was quick to one-time his fifth past Robert Mayer, making his first start in six games.
Hamilton would make matters difficult for themselves early in the second, as Jarred Tinordi was called for delay of game after flipping a puck over the glass. With the penalty about to expire, David Broll patiently waited before roofing a wrister top shelf on Mayer, a perfect shot that exposed the goaltender for a playing a little too deep in his net.
Moments later, Gabriel Dumont – one of the hotter hands in Hamilton of late – prevented the game from getting out of reach on a great solo rush. Weaving in and out of the Toronto defense, he outwaited a committed Drew MacIntyre before sneaking a backhander through the netminder to get back within one.
However, within two minutes, a delayed penalty call against the ‘Dogs combined with another instance of disorganized defensive coverage allowed Toronto to restore a two goal advantage. Sam Carrick was left all alone at the side of the net, and Spencer Abbott found him with a cross-ice dish to net his second of the season. Following the goal, Sylvain Lefebvre called a timeout, but seemed to have little to say to his side, instead simply trying to settle things down and slow the frenetic pace of the period.
There did seem to be some fight in the ‘Dogs later in the period, as Dumont again led a dangerous-looking rush. In a play almost exactly mirroring a goal scored at the Bell Centre one week prior, a quick move set up a pass to an open Mike Blunden at the hash marks, but this time the veteran’s one-time attempt sailed wide. Another chance saw newcomer Owens – getting a good look on a line with Martin St. Pierre and Christian Thomas – drive the net hard and bowl over MacIntyre. The ‘Dogs put a rebound into the empty cage, but the goal would be called back in favour of a two minute minor to Owens.
A late penalty meant Hamilton would have to start the third with a kill before trying to get back in the game, but the team couldn’t muster much offensively despite tightening up in their own end. The best chances to claw back into the game had come in that second period, and the Marlies coasted their way to the victory.
Hamilton looks to snap this new skid right away on Saturday night, as the Lake Erie Monsters visit Copps Coliseum.
HAMILTON,ON. — You might think that a hockey practice is rather routine: stretching, skating and drills. That may be partly true but there’s always something different. It’s a time to watch the skills of the players but more importantly see the interactions between teammates and the coaches. Last time, I told you (and showed you photos) of the small fight between Darren Dietz and Nick Tarnasky.
Today started like any other practice. The players got on the ice and started their drills right away, split into white and red jerseys. It was good to see the older players being vocal, encouraging the younger players in the drills. Something I found interesting (and wouldn’t have seen otherwise) is that the coaches actively participated in the drills rather than just instructing the players.
But what was the most fascinating to me was when goalie Dustin Tokarski returned to the ice without a jersey or protective gear and began going through the motions of saving phantom pucks and recovering for the next stop in his mind. He is a very focused athlete.
Enjoy the photos. I look forward to your comments.
If you are a regular reader of All Habs Hockey Magazine, you know that we do things differently and you tell us that it’s one of the reasons you keep coming back. In addition to our comprehensive coverage of the Montreal Canadiens, we also commit to providing you the most in-depth coverage of prospects in the organization. Being a Canadiens fan means you want to keep current on the progress of future stars too.
One of our Senior Writers, Dan Kramer, is in his second full season of providing you game-by-game reports for the Hamilton Bulldogs from the press box. We are pleased to introduce to you Rabita, another member of All Habs team who will be providing you with images from Copps Coliseum. Her experience in sports photography will tell you the story from Hamilton in pictures.
We have more changes in store for you that are just around the corner. We think that you’ll like them.
HAMILTON,ON. — I’m used to be on the field as a sidelines photographer. But I knew that this photo assignment was going to be different when the pucks slammed against the glass, quite startling when one is looking through a camera lens. And the speed. Being rink-side gave a whole new appreciation for the speed, even at this level. The guys are really fast which made it a challenge to capture them in motion sometimes.
The Bulldogs wasted no time getting warmed up and beginning their drills. The team worked hard all through the practice in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Texas Stars. There was plenty of chatter on the ice with teammates encouraging each other. Players seemed to pair up reserving conversation with one partner. And the coaches showed their fun and joking side at times too.
At one point, the ‘communication’ became intense. Nick Tarnasky, playing the role of the veteran, felt that a rookie defenceman wasn’t taking things seriously enough. He and Darren Dietz exchanged rough language and eventually dropped the gloves. The minor dispute was settled quickly by the coaches and fellow teammates. Just the emotion of the game.
All in all, today was an incredible experience photographing the Bulldogs. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to capture the skills and emotions of these talented players.
I am pleased to join the All Habs team. I will be telling you the stories of Hamilton Bulldogs through pictures this season. I hope that you enjoy them. I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave me a note in the comment box.
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.
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.
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 Dumont, Nathan 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.
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 – A night of undisciplined penalties cost the Hamilton Bulldogs a chance at a perfect opening weekend at home, but the resilient squad managed to salvage a point in a game where they had to kill nine minor penalties. After Akim Aliu tied the game at three with ten seconds remaining in regulation time, all five Bulldog shootout participants were stopped, while Gustav Nyquist would beat Robert Mayer to earn the defending Calder Cup champions a 4-3 victory.
For the second night in a row, the Bulldogs started the game strong, as it was again defenseman Greg Pateryn that opened the game’s scoring. On a powerplay, Patrick Holland took a Griffins’ defenseman hard to the net, screening netminder Petr Mrazek, and helping Pateryn’s blast off a Magnus Nygren feed to find the back of the net.
In the second, Hamilton looked to add to its lead thanks to a strong shift from the experienced trio of Mike Blunden, Gabriel Dumont, and Louis Leblanc. First an offensive zone cycle led to a goal post being struck, and then in the same shift, a Leblanc breakaway and subsequent rebound were somehow kept out by Mrazek. Unfortunately, the play led to two Bulldog forwards lying on the ice behind the goal line, and the Griffins converted rushing the puck the other way. A lucky bounce ended up on the stick of star Gustav Nyquist who made no mistake in beating Robert Mayer.
The Bulldogs didn’t relent, regaining their lead just 18 seconds later, when two Patrick Holland shots were stopped, but Sven Andrighetto was waiting on the doorstep to tap in a rebound for his first professional goal. From there, however, the ‘Dogs indiscipline was the key storyline, as the team took a string of six consecutive penalties, with a strong penalty killing effort finally relenting on the last opportunity late in the second. Nyquist again would this time find Calle Jarnkrok all alone in the slot to one-time a shot past a fallen Mayer, who had made numerous difficult saves to keep the ‘Dogs ahead up till that point.
The parade to the penalty box continued early in the third, and the Griffins would make the Bulldogs pay. With Martin St. Pierre in the box for the second time, Jeff Hoggan collected a rebound of a shot that bounced off two posts and deposited it into the goal behind an outstretched Mayer.
It looked like the game may be done when a miscommunication between Drew Schiestel and Nathan McIver created a too many men call with under 8 minutes to go, but a successful penalty kill allowed the home team to pull Mayer for an extra skater in the game’s final minute. After a Greg Pateryn shot was stopped by Mrazek’s blocker, an Andrighetto shot bounced off a defender and on to the stick of Akim Aliu, whose whack at the puck went up over the Red Wings’ prospect to even the score.
Hamilton – the better team at 5-on-5 (which was rare) for most of the night – failed to carry the momentum of the tying goal into overtime, and the extra frame solved nothing. A shootout was necessary, where the bad ice forced players to keep things relatively simple, and in the end, only a Gustav Nyquist shot would beat either netminder, slipping between Mayer’s legs for the game winner.
The shootout loss drops the ‘Dogs to 1-0-1 to start the season, with the team taking to the road for the first time next weekend for trips to Lake Erie and Toronto.
Hamilton Bulldog lines:
Sven Andrighetto – Martin St. Pierre – Patrick Holland
Mike Blunden – Gabriel Dumont – Louis Leblanc
Erik Nystrom – Ben Duffy – Akim Aliu
Justin Courtnall – Joonas Nattinen – Nick Tarnasky
Joel Chouinard – Greg Pateryn
Drew Schiestel – Darren Dietz
Magnus Nygren – Nathan McIver
1. Gustav Nyquist
2. Robert Mayer
3. Jeff Hoggan
Hardest Working Bulldog: Greg Pateryn
Honourable mentions to Mike Blunden, Louis Leblanc, Sven Andrighetto
COBOURG, ON – For the second night in a row, the Hamilton Bulldogs got off to a slow start against the Toronto Marlies, but this time they would show considerably less bite the rest of the way, unable to muster anything offensively until the game’s final minutes in ultimately dropping a 2-1 decision.
A Bulldogs roster still lacking many of its more valuable contributors (see the game’s line-up below) was outplayed by the Marlies in the first, and relied on Dustin Tokarski to keep it scoreless early. Tokarski looked increasingly human as the period wore on, however, appearing weak on a bouncing Sam Carrick shot, and then getting only a small piece of a Wade MacLeod wrister from along the boards before it deflected behind him, spotting Toronto a 2-0 lead.
The ‘Dogs had a rare opportunity to cut into the deficit in the period’s dying seconds when Sven Andrighetto – playing his first game with the team – fed Akim Aliu – the standout of training camp – on the doorstep, but Aliu’s deflection was turned aside by Garrett Sparks. Andrighetto had a tough night defensively, but was one of the more creative Bulldogs in the offensive zone, while Aliu continued to bring his physical brand of hockey mixed with flashes of his top end puck skills.
The game got choppy from there on, with three separate fights and scrums after most whistles, which led to a second period lacking any real flow. The goaltenders switched halfway through the game, with Robert Mayer making his preseason debut for Hamilton, but scoring chances were limited for either side.
Toronto looked poised to skate to an easy win in the third period’s early-goings, but the ‘Dogs ensured the fans in Cobourg, Ontario – host city for the night’s preseason action – would see an exciting finish. Just before the midway mark, with Hamilton on the powerplay, a Patrick Holland blast from the point squeaked through traffic in front and past Christopher Gibson to pull his side within one. Holland regularly played the point on the powerplay last season, and was back in that role in his first warm-up contest, while lining up at centre five-on-five.
For the final ten minutes, the Bulldogs controlled much of the play, but their momentum was thwarted by an unfortunate penalty call, where Akim Aliu was the only man sent to the box out of a large scrum. Marlies’ skaters regularly targeted Aliu after whistles, and so if there were any discipline or character issues there – the primary knock against him – he was being put to the test and handled himself rather well.
After killing the penalty, the ‘Dogs’ pressure resumed, and Ben Duffy nearly tipped in a Jordan Owens centering feed. The offensive zone shift would draw a powerplay as Aliu – in the middle of the action again – would be taken out hard into the boards by Jason Beattie. Unfortunately, despite the late flurry evening what had once been a lopsided shot disadvantage, the powerplay proved fruitless, and the Marlies would hold on for their second win in as many days.
Prior to the game, the Bulldogs had announced the first seven cuts of training camp. Peter Delmas was assigned to Orlando of the ECHL, while Chad Wiseman, Andre Morrissette, David Laliberta, Trevor Bruess, Pierre Durepos, and Matt Lashoff were released from their free agent tryout agreements. Many more cuts are to come this week, as there remain twenty forwards, thirteen defensemen, and three goaltenders in camp.
The Bulldogs fall to 0-2-0 in the preseason, and wrap up their exhibition schedule with a game in Dundas, Ontario on Thursday night against the Utica Comets. They then open the regular season at Copps Coliseum on October 11th.
Ben Duffy – Akim Aliu – Sven Andrighetto
Erik Nystrom – Alex Belzile – Stephen MacAulay
Justin Courtnall – Patrick Holland – Jordan Owens
Stefan Fournier – Joonas Nattinen – Kelsey Wilson
Dalton Thrower – Drew Schiestel
Morgan Ellis – Jeremy Price
Nathan McIver – Jonathan Narbonne
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.
09/19/2013 2:37 PM -MONTREAL, QUEBEC – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs General Manager Marc Bergevin announced today Hamilton’s training camp roster. The Bulldogs will begin camp tomorrow, Friday, September 20th with 18 forwards, 11 defencemen and four goaltenders.