The Hamilton Bulldogs played a special matinee game in Montreal Sunday afternoon at 3PM, just as the world’s second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade came to an end. For those of you who decided to freeze your feet off on St. Catherine Street before attending the rather cool Bell Centre, I commend you; it wasn’t easy.
Hamilton allowed two unanswered goals in the third period as the Syracuse came back to win the game 3-2. The Dogs’ did get a chance to even things up when the Crunch took three penalties in the third period, but failed to cash in even when they out-numbered their opponents with goalie Yann Danis pulled six to three in terms of skaters on the ice.
The Bulldogs held a 2-1 lead into the third period, but were out-played by Syracuse for the majority of the game. The Crunch, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ farm team, dominated in puck possession and shots until late in the third when powerplay opportunities gave Hamilton a chance to even out the shot count.
Syracuse tied the game at two at a nickel past seven in the third period. Right-winger Steven Goertzen got the game-tying goal with his eight of the season. Then, with his two minute minor for high-sticking expired, Ryan Keller got possession of the puck as he left the box and lifted the puck over Danis’ shoulder for the lead with only six minutes left in the third. .
Keller’s goal proved to be the winner even after Hamilton was awarded a powerplay with two minutes left in the final frame and a two-man advantage with a minute left. Even with Danis pulled for the extra attacker, Crunch goaltender, Tomas Popperle, successfully shut the door as Hamilton peppered him with shots.
Matt D’Agostini continued his strong rookie season with the Hamilton Bulldogs by opening up the scoring with his 19th of the season. Corey Locke and Andre Benoit picked up the assists on D’Agostini’s 43rd point of the season. Having played 50 games this season for the Bulldogs, D’Agostini is scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace, and may have had more had he not been sidelined for 15 games with an elbow injury.
The Crunch would tie the match at one 11 minutes in after Hamilton’s quick goal at 48 seconds into the game. Defenseman Ryan Caldwell fired a shot from the point that found its way through Danis. The goal was scored with Hamilton down a man.
Cory Urquhart regained the lead for the Dogs when he fired a shot off that beat Popperle. Urquhart, who picked up his fifth goal and 12th point his promotion to Hamilton from the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, has done well in attempt work himself back into Montreal’s plans. Mikhail Grabovsky got his 35th assist of the season while Andre Benoit picked up his second helper of the game and 16th of the season.
The game was somewhat of a grudge match for Syracuse who lost the first meeting of the home-and-home last Friday. Hamilton’s D’Agostini was dynamite and scored his forth goal of the game in overtime to win it for the Dogs 5-4. The only other Bulldog to score in that game was forward Francis Lemieux. Corey Locke also had a strong game and finished with three assists, all of which came on goals by D’Agostini.
With the loss, Hamilton remains eight points back from the North Division’s top team, the Manitoba Moose. Meanwhile, the Rochester Americans are only two points behind the Bulldogs who have played a game more.
The playoffs are no longer a sure team for the Dogs who have lost several players due to their promotion and success with the Montreal Canadiens. Jaroslav Halak was one of the AHL’s best netminder, but has been with the Habs since Cristobal Huet went down with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Maxim Lapierre and Andrei Kostitsyn look to have found their niche with the Habs and aren’t likely to be demoted until Montreal’s season comes to an end. By then, it may be too late for them to assist Hamilton in any sort of playoff push.
The Hamilton Bulldogs next suit up for action on Wednesday, March 21st against the Rochester Americans. The match will be a must-win for both clubs as they continue their quest for a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs.