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The Hamilton Bulldogs continue to make baby steps towards reaching the postseason, as they managed to win 2 of 3 games this week, defeating St. John’s 4-3 on Wednesday and Manitoba 4-2 on Saturday, and falling to conference leading Rochester by a 4-2 count on Friday night.  What’s even more impressive about their performance is that all 3 games were against division rivals, all of whom have better records than Hamilton.  This week will be even more critical, as Hamilton plays 3 games in 3 nights against division rivals, including one against Edmonton, who holds down the final playoff spot in their division.

Help is on the way!

Although the Bulldogs have not been hampered by injuries like other teams, their infirmary is beginning to shrink.  Recently signed Steve Begin was placed on the active roster, after sitting out a week for conditioning purposes.  Also, D Mike Komisarek, who has yet to suit up this season, began practicing with the team earlier this week, and his return is expected to come in the next 2-3 weeks, just in time for the final playoff push. 

The lineup:

With the Bulldogs as healthy as they have been all season long, here’s a look at their lineup from Saturday’s game vs Manitoba.

Forward Alignments:
1) Chris Higgins – Tomas Plekanec – Antti Miettinen
2) Benjamin Carpentier – Steve Ott – Jason Ward
3) Raitis Ivanans – Gavin Morgan – Duncan Milroy
4) Andrei Kostitsyn – Corey Locke – Steve Begin
Scratches: Marc-Andre Thinel, Jonathan Ferland

Defence Pairings:
1) Dan Jancevki – Ron Hainsey
2) Trevor Daley – Jean-Phillipe Cote
3) James Sanford – Andrew Archer
Scratch: Phillipe Plante
Injuries: Mike Komisarek, Dan Focht

Starter: Yann Danis
Backup: Dan Ellis

By the Numbers:

After starting his abbreviated season with just 1 point in 5 games, Antti Miettinen has lit it up, notching 9 points in 8 games since then.  His production has also sparked the team, as they are 6-5-1-1 since his comeback, and are 5-2-0-1 in that 8 game stretch.  Tomas Plekanec has also picked it up as of late, scoring points in each of the last 4 games, while Chris Higgins has 4 goals and 2 assists in the team’s last 5 games.

Goalie Zone:

It was all Yann Danis this week, as he played all 3 games, stopping an impressive 109 of 118 shots in the process.  His record now stands at 17-12-5, with a 2.46 GAA and .923 SV%.  Dan Ellis, who appears to have officially been relegated to the backup spot, has a record of 7-17, with a 2.73 GAA and .908 SV%.

The Infirmary:

D Mike Komisarek (hip surgery), out 2-3 weeks
D Dan Focht (shoulder), out indefintely*

Dan Focht has left the team to rehab his shoulder.  There is no timetable set for his return.

Spotlight Stat:  Holding on to leads:

The Bulldogs as of late have had a hard time keeping their focus for 3rd periods.  Twice in the last 6 weeks they have blown 3 goal leads in the 3rd, and allowed a pair of goals in the final frame twice this week, versus St. John’s and Manitoba.  At first glance, their record isn’t all that bad when the Bulldogs are leading after 2 periods, 17-4-1-3.  However, 7 losses in 24 games amounts to just a 68% victory rate, which means they are losing games when leading after 2 32% of the time.  In order for Hamilton to make the playoffs, that percentage must drop.

The Playoff Push:

From here on in until the playoffs, we’ll look at the division standings to see how close Hamilton is to making the postseason.  The new playoff format allows just the top-4 teams per division to qualify for the playoffs.  Currently, the Bulldogs are tied for 5th, 4 points behind 4th place Edmonton.  However, the Roadrunners also have 2 games in hand.  Now, the standings:

Rochester 59 41 10 3 5 90
Manitoba 57 34 16 1 6 75
St. John’s 59 32 23 1 3 68
Edmonton 56 26 19 4 7 63
Syracuse 58 26 25 4 3 59
Hamilton 58 24 23 6 5 59
Cleveland 58 25 27 1 5 56

Teams highlighted in blue are in the playoffs, teams in grey are out as of February 28th, 2005.

The Weekly Bulldogs Stat Pack:

Game Results:

February 23: Hamilton 4, St. John’s 3
February 25: Rochester 4, Hamilton 2
February 26: Hamilton 4, Manitoba 2

Week Record: 2-1-0-0
Season Record: 24-23-6-5 (tied for 5th in division, tied for 9th in conference, out of playoffs)

Team Scoring Leaders:

Weekly Scoring Leaders Season Scoring Leaders

Chris Higgins (3)
Tomas Plekanec (2)
Duncan Milroy (1)
4 others with 1.

Antti Miettinen (3)
Chris Higgins (2)
Dan Jancevski (2)
1 other with 2.

Chris Higgins (5)
Antti Miettinen (4)
Tomas Plekanec (3)
1 other with 3.

Tomas Plekanec (22)
Chris Higgins (19)
Steve Ott (16)

Tomas Plekanec (22)
Jason Ward (21)
Trevor Daley (18)
1 other with 18.

Tomas Plekanec (44)
Chris Higgins (36)
Steve Ott (34)
1 other with 34.

Weekly Scoring Summary:

1) Daley (Sanford, Milroy) PP
2) Higgins (unassisted) SH
3) Plekanec (Higgins) SH
4) Milroy (Locke, Kostitsyn) GWG
5) Miettinen (Higgins, Jancevski) PP
6) Plekanec (Daley, Miettinen) PP
7) Higgins (Miettinen, Daley)
8) Cote (Morgan)
9) Higgins (Plekanec, Miettinen) PP GWG
10) Ott (Ward, Jancevski) EN

Special Teams:

This Week:
Powerplay: 4/18 (22.2%)
Penalty Kill: 12/14 (85.7%)

This Season:
Powerplay: 45/323 (13.9%)
Penalty Kill: 233/280 (83.2%)

Upcoming Schedule:

March 4: Hamilton vs Cleveland
March 5: Hamilton vs Cleveland
March 6: Edmonton vs Hamilton

ECHL Report

Week’s Long Beach Transactions:
Feb. 21: LW Yuri Moscevsky loaned to Syracuse (AHL).
Feb. 23: Dennis Cook designated as emergency goaltender.
Feb. 23: LW Michael Lambert assigned from Hamilton (AHL)

This week, the Ice Dogs were not the juggernaut team they have been so far this season, winning just 1 of 3 games.  Meanwhile, Canadiens prospect Olivier Michaud has taken over the #1 role, as Chris Madden has been loaned to Providence (AHL).  As a result, under league rules, Michaud will play every minute of every game until he returns, as Long Beach has not acquired a second goaltender, and are forced to designate an emergency backup on a game-by-game basis.  The Dogs also got a boost this week, as rookie W Michael Lambert was sent down by Hamilton. 

Player Reports:

C-Christian Larrivee (Long Beach) This Week:  1 GP, 1 A, 2 PIMS  Season:  36 GP, 5-8-13, +4, 12 PIMS
C-Cory Urquhart (Long Beach) This Week:  3 GP, 0 pts, -3, 2 PIMS  Season:  43 GP, 13-8-21, +4, 10 PIMS
G-Olivier Michaud (Long Beach) This Week:  3 GP, 1-2 record  Season:  15-11-2-1 record, 2.49 GAA, .922 SV%
D-James Sanford (Peoria) This Week:  DNP  Season:  17 GP, 2-7-9, -7, 14 PIMS
D-Matt Shasby (Long Beach) This Week:  3 GP, 0 pts, +2, 4 PIMS  Season: 20 GP, 2-8-10, +10, 22 PIMS
W-Michael Lambert (Long Beach) This Week:  3 GP, 0 pts, -2  Season: 3 GP, 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIMS

Upcoming Schedule:

March 4: Long Beach vs Alaska
March 5: Long Beach vs Alaska
March 6: Long Beach vs Alaska

(You are not reading a typo, Long Beach plays Alaska 3 times in 3 nights this week.)

Bulldogs Player of the Week:

Each week, one Hamilton player will be selected as the HabsWorld Player of the Week.  At the end of each month, you the fans will be able to vote on the Player of the Month.  A different player will be nominated each week.

This week’s top player is G Yann Danis, who compiled a 2-1 record, stopping 109/118 shots (.924 SV%, 3.01 GAA).

February Weekly Winners:
January 28-February 4:
W Duncan Milroy
February 5-February 12: C Steve Ott
February 13-February 20: C Antti Miettinen
February 21-February 28: G Yann Danis

Previous Monthly Winners (as previously selected:)
G Yann Danis
November: C Tomas Plekanec
December: C Corey Locke
January: W Jason Ward

Voting for February’s winner closes March 6, 2005.