This past week, the Hamilton Bulldogs continued to find themselves locked in a battle for a playoff position within the AHL North Division. With a record of 35-24-1-6 and 77 points, they currently sit in third place—the final guaranteed playoff spot. Their Division rivals, the Lake Erie Monsters, are breathing down their necks only one point back.
Hamilton had the opportunity to gain some serious upward movement in the points standings with four games on the schedule this week, but thanks to the injuries which have decimated the team (as well as some of the players being ill with the flu) the depleted Bulldogs began to die a slow death, winning only one out of the four contests.
In the first game, they battled the Rockford Ice Hogs (affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks) on Wednesday March 9th for the first of two meetings this season between the two clubs. Hamilton’s all-time record vs Rockford is a perfect 4-0-0-0 but this time the Ice Hogs would spoil the party and put a black mark on that record as they defeated the Dogs by a final score of 2-1 in a shootout. Aaron Palushaj scored the lone goal for the Bulldogs, assisted by Nigel Dawes and Mathieu Carle.
Hamilton then started a stretch of three games in three days on Friday March 11th vs the Lake Erie Monsters (affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche) for the sixth of eight meetings this season, with Lake Erie holding the upper hand with a 4-2-0-0 advantage. Some of the Bulldogs fans who regularly attend the games have agreed that this game was right up there among the absolute worst that the Dogs have played all season long. The only positives in this one was the goaltending of Drew MacIntyre and the goals scored by J.T. Wyman and Kyle Klubertanz in a losing effort (or should I say lack of effort) as the Monsters defeated the Bulldogs by a final score of 4-2.
On Saturday March 12th, the Texas Stars (affiliate of the Dallas Stars) visited the Dog Pound for what would turn out to be the only bright spark in the Bulldogs week. Ian Schultz scored his first professional goal and Drew MacIntyre was strong in the nets, stopping 36 of 38 shots, as the Hamilton Bulldogs defeated the Stars 3-2. The other Dogs goals were scored by Andrew Conboy and Hunter Bishop. Assists were provided by Andreas Engqvist, Danny Masse, Gabriel Dumont, Aaron Palushaj, Frederic St. Denis, and Hunter Bishop once again.
In Hamilton’s final game of the week, on Sunday March 13th, they were defeated 6-5 by the Rochester Americans (affiliate of the Florida Panthers) in another “meltdown” game. Andrew Conboy opened the scoring only 11 seconds into the game to give the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead. Rochester tied up the score 1-1 only 28 seconds later. The Americans scoring advance continued through the remainder of the period, and by the 1st Intermission were leading by a score of 4-1. Robert Mayer replaced Drew MacIntyre in goal to start the 2nd period and stopped 12 of 14 shots during the final 40 minutes of play. The Bulldogs tried to make a comeback in this one but fell short at the end.
As the race to the playoffs tightens, the Bulldogs now begin a six-game road trip before returning to play their final home games of the season. What happens during this stretch of away games will most likely determine if the Hamilton Bulldogs make the playoffs or not.