MONTREAL, Q.C. — Last week the Bulldogs finished up their six game road-trip with three games in three nights in Rockford, Chicago and Peoria. While these games were technically not divisional games, due to the crossover rule, they were virtually like divisional games meaning winning these games – or at least picking up several points – was of the upmost importance to Hamilton’s playoff hopes.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Rockford IceHogs, March 25th
With the Bulldogs sitting out of the playoff picture heading into Friday night’s game against the Rockford IceHogs, they were looking to come back with a win. There was cause for optimism as reinforcements came with the return of Nigel Dawes and Andreas Engqvist came back from their stint with the Canadiens and Ryan Russell and Frederic St. Denis returned from injury. Despite going up 1-0 in the first period thanks to Neil Petruic, the Bulldogs played a pretty flat against the IceHogs. They paid for their lacklustre performance in the second period as Rockford scored three times courtesy of Igor Makarov, Rob Klinhammer and Evan Brophey. J.T. Wyman and Engqvist managed to actually tie the game up in the third period when they scored about minute a part. Their goals ensured that the Bulldogs would pick up at least a point as the game headed into OT. However, Jeff Taffe (not a particular favourite with yours truly from his days with the Rochester Americans), won the game just a 1:45 into extra time when he scored on Drew MacIntyre. MacIntyre took the loss fro Hamilton while Hannu Toivonen picked up the win.
Note: Evan Brophey was given a game misconduct in the middle of the third period when he delivered a particularly nasty head shot to Hunter Bishop. Bishop remained on the ice for several minutes before he was helped off the ice.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Chicago Wolves, March 26th
The Bulldogs next traveled to Chicago to take on a team coached by former Bulldogs coaches Don Lever and Ron Wilson. Former Canadiens prospect Ben Maxwell was (mercifully for us Bulldogs fans) not with the Wolves as he had been recalled to play with the Atlanta Thrashers. Former Montreal Junior Angelo Esposito did play but was limited to one shot and no points. Games between Chicago and Hamilton have typically been pretty even affairs and Saturday’s game was no different. Shots on goal were close with Hamilton narrowly outshooting Chicago 32-29. Chicago was given more power play chances (3 to 1) than Hamilton but neither team scored on the power play. Wyman scored for the Bulldogs midway through the first period. The Bulldogs hung on to their one goal lead until Mark Matheson scored at 6:15 of the third period. Neither team could score in over time and so the game went to a shootout. Mathieu Carle and Dustin Boyd scored for the Bulldogs, but Michael Davies, Ryan Garbutt and Sergio Somma scored for the Wolves giving them the victory. MacIntyre took the loss (perhaps it’s safe to assume that, unless otherwise stated, MacIntyre is going to start for the Bulldogs?) while Edward Pasquale was awarded the win.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Peoria Rivermen, March 27th
The Bulldogs final game of the week came against the Peoria Rivermen. They took on another former Montreal Junior in Jake Allen who was starting between the pipes opposite – you guessed it – MacIntyre. MacIntyre was starting in his13th consecutive time (fans were fervently hoping that this would be lucky number 13). Things were not looking too good to start off as Peoria’s Graham Mink opened the scoring at 13:02. However, something must have happened in-between the first and second periods to wake up the Bulldogs because in the second period – typically the period when they play their worst – they scored three times. Goals came from Boyd, Russell and Engqvist. Peoria was unable to score another goal on MacIntyre and Bulldogs picked up their first win four games.
The Bulldogs now sit in third place in the North Division. Two in front of arch-enemies the Toronto Marlies and three back of the second place Manitoba Moose. They next play back to back games against the Abbotsford Heat tonight and tomorrow.
Note: Hamilton signed Paul Zanette to a ATO contract yesterday. As per the Bulldogs press release:
Zanette, 22, recently completed his fourth season at Niagara University putting up a team-high 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) and 45 penalty minutes in 35 games. The native of Nobleton, Ontario is a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented annually to the top college hockey player in the NCAA. Zanette set career-highs in goals, assists and points this season as he ranks third in the NCAA in goals and is tied for fifth in points and was named the 2010-2011 Atlantic Hockey Association’s Player of the Year. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward played a total of 128 games with Niagara from 2007-2011 accumulating 105 points (53 goals, 52 assists) and 111 penalty minutes. Prior to joining Niagara, Zanette played three seasons in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League with the North York Rangers and Aurora Tigers, winning the 2006-2007 National Championship for the Canadian Junior Hockey League with the Tigers.