MONTREAL, QC. — What a difference nine days can make. Nine days ago the Bulldogs were sitting in fifth place and out of a playoff spot. I’m not going to lie, I was more than a little worried about their ability to get into the playoffs at that point. Not just because they were missing so many key players but because their upcoming schedule was brutal. After losing to Abbotsford on the 19th of March, they would be playing seven games in nine days.
Just shows you what nine days can do. The Bulldogs picked up points in all seven games and are currently on a five game winning streak. They’re sitting in second place in the division now and can clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win against the Abbotsford Heat on Monday.
Part of their success has come from their new found number one line of Nigel Dawes, Dustin Boyd and Aaron Palushaj. David Desharnais’ departure had left a huge whole in center but ever since Boyd accidentally found his way on a line with Dawes and Palushaj against the Peoria Rivermen, the three of them have exploded with 25 of the teams’ 41 points. They’ve been pretty much unstoppable.
Also, we can’t over look Drew MacIntyre’s contribution. I know a lot of Habs fans were upset when the only move that Pierre Gauthier made on the trade deadline day was trading Brett Festerling for Drew MacIntyre, but Bulldogs fans are very pleased with the acquisition of MacIntyre. Presumably MacIntyre was brought in to back up Curtis Sanford, but after Sanford was shut down for the season after requiring shoulder surgery, the Bulldogs turned to MacIntyre to be the number one in-between the pipes. Since taking over, he’s been very solid. Wins/Loss record aside, he’s put up comparable numbers to Sanford. Sanford had a 1.93 GAA and a .930 SV% while MacIntyre has a 1.98 GAA and a .935.
Abbotsford Heat @ Hamilton Bulldogs, March 29
After picking up four of six points on the road over the previous weekend, the Bulldogs were looking in good shape as they headed back to Copps Coliseum to take on the Heat. Dawes got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard first with a goal late in the first period. Early in the second period the Heat were able to capitalize on their opponents parade to the penalty box when Jon Rheault put the puck past Drew MacIntyre and even the score at one. The game didn`t stay tied for very long, however, when Palushaj scored his 18 goal of the season, putting the Bulldogs up 2-1. The Heat tried to tie the game up in the third period, but MacIntyre stopped all 13 shots directed his way in the final period. J.T. Wyman scored in the empty net as the Bulldogs skated away with a 3-1 victory.
Abbotsford Heat @ Hamilton Bulldogs, March 30
There wasn’t much time to celebrate the win over the much hated Heat as the two teams were back at it again the next night. Dawes opened the scoring for the Bulldogs when he put the puck past Matt Keetley. Palushaj put the Bulldogs ahead 2-0 early in the second period. The Heat got within one goal when John Armstrong scored in late in the second but as with the night before, that was as close as they were going to get. Dawes scored again with under two minutes to go in the second. I don’t know if the Bulldogs were just really tired and the penalty box looked like a great place to take a nap or what, but it was another parade to the penalty box in the third period for the Bulldogs. Thankfully, their penalty kill – after being dismal earlier in the year – has finally started to work and the Heat were unable to score. After several incredibly unsuccessful attempts to score on the empty net, Dawes finally put the puck in the net completing a hat trick and giving the Bulldogs a 4-1 victory.
Hamilton Bulldogs @ Lake Erie Monsters, April 1
April 1st saw the Bulldogs in Cleveland to battle the screaming children in the stands the Lake Erie Monsters. I was pretty sure someone was playing some kind of April Fool’s joke on me, as Dany Masse scored the first goal. Usually playing on the fourth line, Masse hasn’t score a goal in what pretty much feels like forever (I’m not sure how long it’s been, but I know it’s been a very long time). But Masse did indeed get the goal and the Bulldogs had once again opened the scoring. Olivier Fortier got the Bulldog’s third line on the board with another goal. This season’s Bulldog’s killer Ben Walter continued to annoy the Bulldogs when he scored for the Monsters in the second period. Boyd finally got the Bulldogs’ first line on the score sheet early in the third period thanks to a power play courtesy of Lake Erie’s Matt Generous, giving the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead. With goals coming from Hamilton’s first, third and fourth lines, that still left the second line without a goal. Wyman, representing the second line, actually did manage to put the puck in the empty net officially finishing off the Monsters 4-1.
Manitoba Moose @ Hamilton Bulldogs, April 2
With their victory against the Monsters, the Bulldogs were now within striking distance of first place in the Northeast Division. The team in first place? The visiting Manitoba Moose. After apparently getting back to Hamilton at four in the morning, the Bulldogs had their work cut out for them. Dawes once again scored the opening goal. But the Moose struck back less than three minutes later when Aaron Volpatti scored. Dawes got the only goal of the second period. His goal was actually his 40th of the season, technically a franchise record. With just two minutes to go in the third period, it looked like the Bulldogs were going to win in regulation but Sergei Shirokov got a weird goal past MacIntyre. Overtime solved nothing and so we had to endure a shootout. Both goalies were good in the shootout (in my biased opinion, MacIntye was actually pretty fantastic) but it was Dawes who got the only goal in the shootout. The 3-2 win came in the final home game of the regular season and put the Bulldogs in a two-way tie for first in the Northeast division with the Moose [note: the Moose are back in sole possession of first place after their win over the Toronto Marlies today]
The Bulldogs have four games remaining all away — two vs Abbotsford Heat on April 4, 5 and two vs Manitoba Moose on April 8, 9.
Standings (as of April 3)
|1||x Manitoba Moose||78||43||28||1||6||93||0.596||216||201||1-0-0-1||6-3-0-1||9-6||1073|
|3||Lake Erie Monsters||76||41||27||3||5||90||0.592||210||196||1-0-0-0||8-2-0-0||4-5||1161|
- Gabriel Dumont has finished serving his ten game suspension for his hit on Rochester’s Evan Oberg. He should be available to play against the Heat on Monday.
- After scoring his 40th goal today, Nigel Dawes technically set a Bulldogs franchise record for most goals in a season. It should be noted however, that the majority of his goals this season were scored with the Chicago Wolves. Dawes is apparently the first guy since the 2006-2007 season not named Alexandre Giroux to have 40 goals in a season in the AHL.