The Hamilton Bulldogs have solidified their hold on first place in the AHL’s North Division, going undefeated in all three games on the team’s schedule this past week. The Bulldogs, who are also the top team in the Western Conference, currently rank second in the AHL overall standings with 57 points and a record of 26-9-2-3. They trail the first place, league-leading Hershey Bears by only 3 points.
Wednesday January 6th was the second of four meetings this year between Hamilton and the Chicago Wolves (affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers) and the 20th all-time regular season game between the hockey clubs. The Wolves have dropped three straight meetings against Hamilton, dating back to last year, despite outshooting Hamilton in all three of those matchups. The Bulldogs went into this contest holding the series lead with a record of 10-7-0-2-0 against Chicago.
This game also marked the return of former Bulldogs head coach Don Lever and assistant coach Ron Wilson to Copps Coliseum. Lever and Wilson, now coaching the Wolves, led the Dogs to their first-ever Calder Cup Championship back in 2007.
In addition to the excitement among Bulldogs fans being able to see this dynamic duo of coaches once again, the real “buzz” was centered around the presence of NHL veteran Chris Chelios in the Chicago lineup.
Chelios, selected by the Montreal Canadiens 40th overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, signed with the Wolves on October 20, 2009, and ranks second on the team with 13 assists, sixth with 17 points and second with a +16 plus/minus rating in 26 games this season.
Following a scoreless first period, the Wolves got on the board first at 1:54 of the second frame. While on a power play, Chicago blasted a shot on net that was stopped by Hamilton starting goaltender Cedrick Desjardins. The puck dropped straight down between Cedrick’s skates and he lost sight of it. Before he could recover, the Wolves pounced on the rebound to take a 1-0 lead.
P.K. Subban, David Desharnais, and Ryan White would respond for the Bulldogs, scoring three unanswered goals to defeat the Chicago Wolves by a final score of 3-1.
Two nights later, on Friday January 8th, the Monsters would rise from the depths and make their way across the frozen shores of Lake Erie, just like in a really bad Godzilla movie, to battle the Hamilton Bulldogs in the fourth of eight contests between the North Division opponents this season. In their last meeting on January 2nd, Lake Erie (affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche) upended the Dogs, winning 3-2 at the Dog Pound and picked up their first-ever road win against Hamilton.
Lake Erie came into this last week’s game sitting in 7th and dead last place in the North Division with a 16-18-0-4 record and 36 points. Despite this current ranking, the Monsters are 7-2-0-1 in their last ten games, making them one of the hottest teams in the AHL at this time.
However, the Bulldogs are also one of the hottest teams in the AHL as well, and they made sure to let the Lake Erie Monsters be aware of this fact as Brock Trotter and Ben Maxwell had a goal and an assist each, to lead the Dogs to a 3-1 victory. Also scoring was Mathieu Darche.
Frederic St. Denis, Yannick Weber, and P.K. Subban picked up the other assists.
The next night, Saturday January 9th, when they faced the Grand Rapids Griffins (affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings) for the second of six meeting this season, Hamilton would skate out on to the ice wearing a Bulldogs version of the Team Canada Olympic Ice Hockey jersey in tribute to the Men’s and Women’s Canadian hockey teams which will represent Canada at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Speaking of the Olympics, it should be mentioned that Yannick Weber was recently named to Team Switzerland’s Men’s Ice Hockey Team for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In their last meeting (on New Years Eve) the Dogs defeated the Griffins 7-3. This was the first time this season that the Hamilton Bulldogs have scored seven goals in a game.
Coming into this next matchup, both teams would be playing their 40-game midpoint of the regular season schedule. Grand Rapids are currently in 5th place in the North Division, having lost seven out of their last ten games and have the worst penalty killing unit in the American Hockey League. The Bulldogs, having been red hot lately, winning six of their last seven games, looked to exploit this weakness in the Griffins play.
And that they certainly did. The Hamilton Bulldogs defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 5-2. Brock Trotter recorded a hat-trick and Mike Glumac had two goals in the victory.