The Hamilton Bulldogs have become just like a boating accident. The boat has overturned in the water, but the occupants have managed to stay afloat because they were wearing life-jackets. For the Bulldogs, this translates into the fact that they have fallen out of the final guaranteed playoff position within the AHL North Division. Their life-jacket is the fact that they are only out by one single point. They currently sit in 4th place in the Division with a record of 36-26-1-6 and 79 points. The problem with this becomes the infamous playoff crossover between the Western Conference Divisions. Because there are more teams in the Western Division than the North Division, the 5th place team from the West can bump out the 4th place team in the North (currently the Hamilton Bulldogs) if that Western team finishes the season with more points. This is the situation that the Dogs are now faced with, and their efforts to overcome this was not helped by a mostly poor start to their current six-game road trip which they began this last week.
On Wednesday March 16th, the Bulldogs traveled to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York for the final meeting of the regular season vs the Rochester Americans (an affiliate of the Florida Panthers). This game was to be the only bright moment among the dark thunderclouds which currently seems to hang over the heads of the Bulldogs, as they defeated the Amerks by a final score of 2-0, with Drew MacIntyre getting the shutout. Following two scoreless periods, the Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first at 14:04 of the final frame with a power-play goal. David Urquhart sent a pass along the blue line to Mathieu Carle, who blasted a shot on net. The shot was stopped by Rochester starting goaltender Tyler Plante but Andrew Conboy whacked the loose rebound past the goaltender and into the net. With the assist, Carle moves into a tie with Andre Benoit for most all-time points by a Bulldogs defenceman with 93. The Dogs added a goal at 19:57 when Alexander Avtsin was tripped while on a breakaway.
He was awarded an automatic goal because Rochester had pulled its goalie and had an empty net.
The next two games, on Friday March 19th and Saturday March 20th, Hamilton battled the Abbotsford Heat (an affiliate of the Calgary Flames).
In the first game, the Heat burned the Bulldogs by a final score of 3-2. MacIntyre made 41 saves but it was not enough as Abbotsford scored the game-winning goal with 45 seconds remaining in the game. Scoring for the Bulldogs was Dustin Boyd and Mathieu Carle. The assists on the goals were provided by J.T. Wyman, Andreas Engqvist,
and Urquhart. Carle also assisted on Boyd’s goal.
In the second game, the Heat burned the Bulldogs even further, shutting them
out 2-0. Once again, MacIntyre did what he could to hold the depleted Hamilton lineup in the game, stopping 25 out of 26 shots (Abbotsford’s 2nd goal was into an empty net) while the Dogs managed 21 shots on goal in the losing effort.
The road trip now continues with upcoming games in Rockford, Chicago, and Peoria
beginning on Friday.