Well, seeing as the title kind of gave everything away let’s just cut to the chase then shall we? We last left off our super awesome AHL team as they were travelling to Oklahoma City for games 3, 4 and 5….
Hamilton Bullogs @ Oklahoma City Barons, April 19th
After a close contest in game 2 which saw the Bulldogs escape with a win, someone clearly told the Barons that they were – on paper anyway – the better team in the series. They came out flying in the first period. Despite Hamilton being outshot by a 26-16 margin over the first two periods, the score remained 0-0 (thanks in large part to Drew MacIntyre). The Barons were finally rewarded with all the rubber they shot at MacIntyre in the final frame, however, when Colin MacDonald scored. It was more than a little frustrating to see MacDonald score just two minutes after the Bulldogs had had a chance to score and couldn’t with him in the penalty box. Alexander Giroux added another one for Oklahoma City late in the third. The Bulldogs were unable to get any pucks past Martin Gerber and the Barons took game 3 by a final score of 2-0.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Oklahoma City Barons, April 20th
Probably the biggest complaint after game 3 was the fact that the Bulldogs were outshot by a billion to one score. Okay, so in reality it was really 46-26 but that’s not exactly beautiful either. You can’t score goals if the other team is constantly in your end of the rink, right? For the first two periods, the positive thing was that the Bulldogs finally out shot their opponents by a 24-17 margin. The negative? (you knew that there was a big fat negative aspect coming up). They were outscored 3-2. Oops. Hunter Tremblay wasted no time getting the Barons off to races with a goal just 3:06 into the first period. Ian Schultz got the goal back for Hamilton when he scored midway through the first period. Former Hamilton Bulldog Zach Stortini put the home team ahead early in the second period. Paul Zanette tied it up again for the Bulldogs at 2, but Mark Arcobello’s power-play goal late in the second put the Barons up for good. Linus Omark added a 4th goal in the third period and Chris Vandevelde added an empty net goal to make it 5-2 Barons at the end of 60 minutes.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Oklahoma City Barons, April 22nd
I really quite dislike the 2-3-2 playoff format that the AHL has adopted. I understand why they have it (cut down on travel expenses) but on principle it’s just such a horrid format if your team is the higher seed. All the lower seeded team has to do is win one of the first two games and then they have three chances to win the series at home. Granted, the OKC Barons hadn’t won any games in Hamilton, but by game 5 they were tied at two in the series and they now had a chance to go up 3-2 in front of their own fans. The last thing the Hamilton Bulldogs wanted was to go back to Hamilton being the ones who needed to win to keep their playoff dreams alive. Aaron Palushaj, back after missing the last game due to either the flu or food poisoning, got the Bulldogs on scoreboard. Boyd and Dawes – the other two thirds of The Bulldogs Top Line of Awesome got the assists. Actually, The Bulldogs Top Line of Awesome also collaborated on the second goal of the game. Dawes scored on a late power play opportunity. The score would remain at 2-0 until the final buzzer and the Bulldogs would head back to Copps Coliseum with a 3-2 series lead.
Oklahoma City Barons @ Hamilton Bulldogs, April 24
There’s nothing more nerve wracking than going into a game knowing your team has a chance to close out a series. Well, okay, so maybe going to double OT in game 7 of the Calder Cup/Stanley Cup/take your pick of whichever cup you want would be more nerve wracking… but I digress.. Point is, the Bulldogs had a chance to beat the Barons and move on to the North Division finals. There was plenty of nail biting early on as both teams had some terrific chances but neither goalie allowed a goal in the first two periods of play (the posts added a bit of help too). Alexandre Giroux – who had pretty much been MIA up until this point – broke the 0-0 tie early in the third period when he took advantage of a bad turnover in the Bulldogs end and put the puck past Drew MacIntyre. Before any Bulldogs fans had time to curl up in a fetal position Nigel Dawes got the goal right back for Hamilton. As the clock wound down, it looked as though game six would need to be decided in over time. OT has not been kind to yours truly and the last thing I wanted was for this to go into extra time. Thankfully Jeff Petry took a tripping call with less than five minutes to go and Frederic St. Denis put the puck into the back of the OKC net with three minutes left. Dawes effectively ended the OKC Barons’ season with an empty net goal and J.T. Wyman put the cherry on top for Bulldogs with another empty net goal. The Bulldogs won game six by a final score of 4-1 and took the series 4-2.
They now wait to see who they will play in the North Division finals. The Manitoba Moose forced a game seven on Sunday against the Lake Erie Monsters. I think I can speak for most Bulldogs fans by saying that the team hopes that the Manitoba Moose win the series. The Bulldogs had a 6-0-0-2 record this season versus Manitoba, whereas they were 3-5-0-0 versus Lake Erie. And on a random note, the Moose do not have an army of screaming children like the Monsters do and that’s always a nice bonus.