There are only five weeks remaining in the 2010-2011 AHL regular season and the Hamilton Bulldogs continue to be caught right in the middle of a very tight points race to determine the playoff spots within the North Division. At the time of this writing, they currently occupy first place with a 34-22-1-5 record and 74 points. However, the Lake Erie Monsters (affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche) are sitting on the outside of the playoffs in fourth place, looking in, and they are only 2 points behind the Bulldogs in the standings with 72 points. That’s how tight the Division is at the moment, and it has been going on for several weeks now. A single win can elevate you into 1st place. A single loss can eliminate you from a playoff spot.
As mentioned, the Bulldogs are holding the top spot at the moment, and they accomplished this by winning two out of three games this past week.
In the first game, on Wednesday March 2nd, they battled the Milwaukee Admirals (affiliate of the Nashville Predators). Nigel Dawes continued his success as a Bulldogs player by scoring the first three goals of the game for a natural hat trick in the first period. Milwaukee responded with their own scoring surge in the second period to tie the game at 3-3. Danny Masse regained the lead for the Dogs in the third, but the Admirals answered back to force the game into overtime. With only 4 seconds remaining on the clock in the extra period, Alex Henry prevented the game from going to a shootout when he scored to give Hamilton a 5-4 victory. The win was also the first for goaltender Drew MacIntyre (as a Hamilton Bulldog), who was acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline to fill in for the injured Curtis Sanford.
The victory celebration was to be short however when, three nights later on Saturday March 5th, the Toronto Marlies (affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) visited the Dog Pound at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton and shutout the hometown Bulldogs by a score of 2-0 in front of over 8,000 people in attendance, the second-largest crowd so far this season.
For the second game of a back-to-back series with the Marlies, the Dogs travelled to Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum the next afternoon for the rematch which was televised nationally across Canada on CBC. This time, Hamilton would defeat the Marlies 3-2 in overtime. Bulldogs goals were provided by Olivier Fortier, Aaron Palushaj, and Brendon Nash. Assists were to Kyle Klubertanz, Gabriel Dumont, Mathieu Carle, and Nigel Dawes (who had 2 assists).
The Bulldogs return to action this week with four games on the schedule, including three in three consecutive nights. This will be their last major home stretch of games before they embark on a couple of massive road trips consisting of 11 games in total to finish up the season.