Welcome to Edinburgh, the capital of haggis, kilts and for this week only – hockey. The Gardiner Cup returned to Scotland once again, pitching two of the UK’s top teams against the Toronto Marlies and the Hamilton Bulldogs in a rust-removing tournament.
The Bulldogs had been across the pond for only a few days following a late round of 17 cuts on Tuesday, which included Habs hopefuls PK Subban, Brock Trotter and Mikael Johansson. Playing to a rink with several thousand European hockey fans, the Dogs held off an offensively-impotent Marlies team to win the opener 1-0.
Guy Boucher’s starting line featured David Desharnais between Brock Trotter and Mike Glumac up front. The chemistry between the players was evident on the night as they spent most of their shifts in the offensive zone. Glumac, the captain, was particularly noteworthy for some solid backchecking efforts during the game’s few odd-man rushes.
The first two periods, although scoreless, allowed Hamilton to showcase their powerplay, which had the Marlies’ killers running around the defensive zone. Belle and Subban also took advantage of a hesitant Toronto offense and made several end-to-end rushes, although to no avail.
Euro-import Johansson had his bell rung in the second, losing his helmet and spending a few minutes dazed on the ice, but he returned later in the second on the penalty kill, and was no worse for wear.
In the third, the Marlies came out strong and had Mayer and the defense scrambling at times. But the Dogs held on and, after some hard forechecking by Desharnais and Benoit, saw JT Wyman put home a loose puck following a goalmouth scrambl.
Not keen to make it easy on themselves, Hamilton took a few penalties in the third, including one with two minutes to go, which culminated in a 6-on-4 powerplay with a minute left. However, the Marlies could barely get past center , let alone get the puck on net, and with a license to ice, the Dogs killed off the remaining time.
* Kudos to Trotter and Desharnais who outworked the Toronto defense on several occasions – it seems the competitive edge from training camp has been retained.
* Cedric Desjardins wasn’t tested much in the first two periods, but Mayer found himself scrambling at times when the Dogs’ defense was unable to clear the puck. Both goalies made nine saves each.
* Eric Neilson, who had three fights during the Habs’ preseason run, had a solid game as well, although it was Shawn Belle who found himself in the center of most of the post-whistle scuffles.
* Off topic, but it seems the fan’s food of choice during the hockey game is a styrofoam cup filled with mashed potato and gravy. No alcohol is allowed inside the rink, but a beer tent was kept open until 1am.