MONTREAL, QC. — The Bulldogs finished up their regular season with a four-game road-trip out West to play the Abbotsford Heat and the Manitoba Moose. They were looking for one point to clinch a Calder Cup playoff spot and not only did they accomplish that, but they also finished the road-trip as North Division champions for the second season in a row.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Abbotsford Heat, April 4th
The Bulldogs arrived in Abbotsford needing only one point to clinch a spot in the playoffs. The first two periods were pretty uneventful. Both Drew MacIntyre and Heat goalie Leland Irving made some fantastic saves for their respective teams to keep it scoreless. Things heated a bit up in the third period, however (no pun intended). With Neil Petruic in the box for interference, the Heat took advantage as Tyler Ruegsegger scored for the Heat at 4:29 of the third period. Jimmy Bonneau and Matt Pelech dropped the gloves several minutes later. Unfortunately fights don’t count as goals and the Bulldogs were unable to get on the scoreboard. The game would finish as 1-0 for Abbotsford. MacIntyre stopped 24 of 25 shots and Irving got the shutout with 23 saves.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Abbotsford Heat, April 5th
It was “Operation: Clinch a Playoff Spot Take Two” as the Bulldogs took to the ice at Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre the next night. Things got off to a much better start in the scoring department for the Bulldogs as Nigel Dawes put them up 1-0 on a penalty shot goal. Despite outshooting the Heat 12-8 in the second period, the Bulldogs were unable to score and they went into the third period still up 1-0. Any hopes of MacIntyre getting a shutout died when Ryan Stone scored with less than five minutes to go in the game. But the Heats’ hope of winning the game and booking a place in the playoffs were pretty much shattered exactly a minute later when Kyle Klubertanz scored a beautiful goal for the Bulldogs. They hung on for the win and with that win they had officially clinched a spot in the playoffs.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Manitoba Moose, April 8th
Here we were again. Another Bulldogs/Moose game. Another battle for first place in the division. The first period had no goals. The Moose outshot the Bulldogs 13-10 but MacIntyre was solid against his former team. The proverbial floodgates opened in the second period however. Aaron Palushaj scored at 7:30. And he scored again just over a minute later when the Bulldogs got a power play. Aaron Volpatti got the Moose on the board when he put the puck past MacIntyre a few minutes later. Dustin Boyd broke up the “score a goal if your name is Aaron” party when he got the Bulldogs another power play goal. That would make it the Bulldogs 3 and the Moose 1 after two periods.
And they weren’t even close to finishing scoring fest. Marco Rosa got the Moose within one goal when he scored on the power play early in the third. Palushaj got the hat trick twenty seconds later. We had to wait a whole 8:12 until another goal was scored. Unfortunately, this goal was also courtesy of Palushaj but for the wrong reasons. He was sitting in the penalty box when Shawn Weller scored for Manitoba. Thankfully for all of us looking for defibrillators, Andrew Conboy and Ian Schultz scored for the Bulldogs at 13:00 and 15:00 to seal the win.If you lost count of the number of goals that was Bulldogs 6 and the Moose 3. MacIntyre finished with 28 of 31 saves while Eddie Lack finished with 36 of 42 saves.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Manitoba Moose, April 9th
With their win the night before, the Bulldogs knew that they would be finishing in the top two in the division. The only question left as they took to the ice at MTS Center was whether they would finish the season as North Division champions again. All they had to do was beat the Moose for the second time in as many nights. Not exactly an easy task. The game was a big of a slug fest with 3 fights and 48 penalty minutes being dolled out. They got off to a great start, however, when Boyd scored just 28 seconds into the game. Most of the nearly 13,000 fans were silent but you could hear some cheering coming from the families of Boyd and fellow Winnipegger Dawes. The crowd had something to cheer about when Conboy dropped the gloves with Kevin Connauton and there was plenty of “ooo”ing and “ahh”ing when Mr. Leading Goal Scorer for Hamilton aka Nigel Dawes got roped into a fight with Mark Flood. After Dawes and Flood were escorted to the penalty box, Hamilton’s recently signed player Paul Zanette scored his first goal after a brutal giveaway by the Moose. Frederic St. Denis also got on the scoreboard for Hamilton when he scored his first goal in forever on the power play in the third period. The Moose did get one goal back Alexendre Bolduc scored after Sergei Shirokov got the puck in front of the net on a lucky bounce from behind the net. That was as close as the Moose would come though and the Bulldogs went on to win 3-1 and clinch first in the division.
The Bulldogs will play the Oklahoma City Barons (aka the baby Oilers) for the first time in the Calder Cup playoffs. Their schedule is:
Game #1 – Thursday, April 14th – 7:30 PM – Oklahoma City at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
Game #2 – Saturday, April 16th – 4:00 PM – Oklahoma City at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
Game #3 – Tuesday, April 19th – 8:05 PM – Hamilton at Oklahoma City (Cox Convention Center)
Game #4 – Wednesday, April 20th – 8:05 PM – Hamilton at Oklahoma City (Cox Convention Center)
*Game #5 – Friday, April 22nd – 8:05 PM – Hamilton at Oklahoma City (Cox Convention Center)
*Game #6 – Sunday, April 24th – 4:00 PM – Oklahoma City at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
*Game #7 – Monday, April 25th – 7:30 PM – Oklahoma City at Hamilton (Copps Coliseum)
* If necessary
(Photo by HamiltonBulldogs.com)