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On October 4, the Hamilton Bulldogs opened their 2009-10 season the same way they ended the preseason….facing their arch-rivals, the Toronto Marlies. The preseason saw the Bulldogs play three games against the Marlies, Hamilton going undefeated and posting two shutouts vs the Baby Leafs in the process. The season opener, however, had different results.

The Bulldogs were defeated by the Marlies 3-2 in a shootout at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum.

Hamilton got on the scoreboard first with a goal by J.T. Wyman at 16:22 of the 1st period, assisted by Andrew Conboy and Maxime Lacroix. Toronto tied up the game at one goal each 16 seconds later. Brock Trotter put the Dogs ahead once again in the second period with a goal at 12:30, assisted by Andre Benoit and Mathieu Carle. The Marlies put the puck behind Bulldogs goaltender Curtis Sanford to tie up the game at 2-2 midway through the 3rd period, which would lead to a goaltenders duel in overtime.

The extra frame solved nothing and the teams headed to a shootout, where the exceptional goaltending displayed throughout the game by both Sanford and Toronto’s Joey McDonald promptly disappeared. Shooting for the Bulldogs were Brock Trotter, Mathieu Darche, Ben Maxwell, and Mike Glumac. Only Trotter and Darche were able to score in the shootout, while four out of five Toronto shooters found the back of the Hamilton net, giving the Marlies a 3-2 victory.

After the loss to Toronto, the Bulldogs now have a record of 6-6-2-0 in season openers.

Of note, this was rookie P.K. Subban’s first career AHL game. Subban registered two shots on goal and two penalty minutes in the game. Also, Andre Benoit returned to the Bulldogs lineup after spending the last two seasons playing in Sweden and Finland. Benoit last skated with the Bulldogs when they won the Calder Cup back in 2007.

The Hamilton Bulldogs continued the start of their 14th season in the AHL on October 9 with their home opener at Copps Coliseum when the Rockford Icehogs, affiliate of the NHL Chicago Blackhawks, headed east to battle the Baby Habs for the first time since January 2, 2008. This was the first of two meetings this season and the only contest at Copps Coliseum between the two teams this year.

Traditionally, the Hamilton Bulldogs have not played well in their home opener at the “Dog Pound”, but this hockey game shattered tradition with the Dogs blowing out the Hogs by a score of 3-0. This game saw Curtis Sanford record his first regular season shutout as a Bulldog, as well as Guy Boucher getting his first win as Head Coach.

All three Bulldogs goals during this penalty-filled game came in the 3rd period. Ryan White put the Dogs up 1-0 at 9:14. Thirty seconds later, Tom Pyatt made the score 2-0, and at 15:30, Andrew Conboy netted the game-winner to give Hamilton a 3-0 victory.

Newly acquired Montreal Canadiens defenceman, Marc-Andre Bergeron, sent to Hamilton for a conditioning stint, made his Bulldogs debut in this game. The fans welcomed back “Bergy”, as he was known to Hamilton Bulldogs fans when he last played here back in 2003 when the Dogs lost the Calder Cup Final to the Houston Aeros. Bergeron is known for his horrible turn-overs and giveaways, and he did not disappoint Bulldogs fans in this aspect. There was a brutal giveaway by Bergeron in the 1st period which led to a breakaway on the Bulldogs net, which luckily was stopped by Sanford. However, Bergy also displayed his positive skills in this game, and that involves his blistering shot from the blue line on the power play (resulting in assists on two of the Dog’s goals), being able to take the receiving end of hard checks in the corners and skating as fast as Mario Andretti could drive his race car. With 339 NHL games to his resume, 62 goals, 98 assists, and 160 points, Marc-Andre Bergeron is going to be a welcome addition to the Montreal Canadiens once his stint with the Bulldogs comes to an end.