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On New Year’s Eve, as the calendar changed from 2009 into 2010, people all over the Earth welcomed the arrival of the new year with parties and fireworks displays. For the Hamilton Bulldogs, there was an additional reason to celebrate. Earlier that evening, they had set off some fireworks of their own with an explosive 7-3 win over their North Division rivals, the Grand Rapids Griffins. This victory capped off a spectacular month’s worth of Bulldogs hockey as Hamilton finished with a record of 9-2-1-0 in 12 games played during December.

Here now are my picks for the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-Stars of the Month.

1. David Desharnais (8 goals; 8 assists; Voted as one of the 3-Stars of the Game 6 times; Hardest Working Bulldog player in a game)

2. P.K. Subban (5 goals; 8 assists; Voted as one of the 3-Stars of the Game 4 times; Hardest Working Bulldog player in a game 2 times)

3. Cedrick Desjardins (8 GP; 8 wins; 3 shutouts; Voted as one of the 3-Stars of the Game 5 times)

In addition, it was announced by the American Hockey League that P.K. Subban and Cedrick Desjardins have both been named to the 2010 AHL Canadian All-Star Team. Subban was voted into the starting lineup and will be on the ice when the puck drops to get the 2010 AHL All-Star Game underway on Tuesday January 19th in Portland, Maine.

The final week of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 was a busy time for the Bulldogs with a total of five games on the schedule. December 28th had the Toronto Marlies (affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) arrive at the Dog Pound at Copps Coliseum for a Christmas season visit. The Bulldogs showed the Marlies some holiday spirit by giving them a chunk of coal for Christmas in the form of a 5-2 Hamilton victory. Scoring for the Dogs was P.K. Subban, Andrew Conboy, Yannick Weber, and David Desharnais (who scored two goals in the 3rd period).

Two nights later, December 30th, the Bulldogs welcomed the Rochester Americans (affiliate of the Florida Panthers) for a battle to see which team would capture first place overall in the North Division. This fight for top spot has been going on between the two teams, back and forth, since prior to the Christmas break and their previous two meetings.

Due to the close geographic proximity between Hamilton and Rochester, the franchises played each other three times in four games during this period. The Dogs initially took first place away from the Amerks in the last game before Christmas. Rochester returned the favour in the first game after the break, taking back first place once again.

Hamilton refused to put up with being forced back into 2nd place in this continuing see-saw battle, and put themselves back into top spot in the Division with a 4-1 win thanks to the goal scoring of J.T. Wyman, Mathieu Darche, Brock Trotter, and Mikael Johansson.

On December 31, the Bulldogs travelled to Michigan for a New Years Eve matchup vs the Grand Rapids Griffins (affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings). As I mentioned at the start of this recap article, the Hamilton Bulldogs blew out the Griffs by a final score of 7-3. Ryan White opened the scoring only 18 seconds into the game, his goal assisted by Mathieu Darche and Tom Pyatt.

Grand Rapids would amount their only real offence in this game during the next ten minutes. By the mid-point of the first period, the Griffins had scored two quick goals to give them a 2-1 lead.

To add injury to insult, Curtis Sanford was run over in the Bulldogs net after Grand Rapids had taken the lead. Sanford was down on the ice for several minutes and was only able to make it to the dressing room after receiving help from the Hamilton Bulldogs medical staff. Official word on the injury from the Bulldogs is that Curtis Sanford has a shoulder injury and is expected to be out of action for about two weeks.

The Dogs opened the scoring floodgates in the second period, scoring 6 unanswered goals en route to their 7-3 win. This was the first time during the 2009-2010 season that the Bulldogs have scored seven goals in a game.

Those fans who follow the Hamilton Bulldogs would also be watching the score of another hockey game that night. The Rochester Americans were playing the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland, Ohio. Would the Amerks regain any of their lost ground on the Bulldogs in that ongoing battle for first place in the North Division? The answer would be NO. The Monsters, sitting in last place in the Western Conference, would defeat Rochester by a score of 5-1, helping the Bulldogs retain their hold not only on first place in the Division, but also as the #1 team in the Western Conference.

It is somewhat ironic that Hamilton’s next opponent, on January 2nd, would be those very same Lake Erie Monsters (affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche). This would be the third of eight games between the two teams this season, and the first of four meetings throughout the first half of January. The Bulldogs all-time record going head-to-head with the Monsters is 15-2-0-1 and so far this season, coming into this game, Lake Erie was 0-2-0-0 against the Bulldogs, having suffered back-to-back shutout losses at home vs Hamilton and were outscored 7-0 in those contests.

But it was not to be so this time around. Despite being outshot 33-17, the Monsters pounced on a weak effort by the Bulldogs to earn their first-ever victory on Hamilton ice by a score of 3-2.

This game was not all doom and gloom, however. P.K. Subban provided a shining moment when he assisted on the Dogs first goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation time. He made a spectacular end-to-end rush, swooping in behind the Lake Erie net, Bobby Orr style, before passing the puck out in front to J.T. Wyman, who banged home the goal to break the shutout and to finally put the Bulldogs up on the scoreboard. Ben Maxwell would score Hamilton’s second goal with 21 seconds to go, but it was too little; too late. The Hamilton Bulldogs would see their three-game winning streak come to an end.

When the Milwaukee Admirals (affiliate of the Nashville Predators) faced the Bulldogs the next afternoon, it appeared early on that the Hamilton effort was once again going to be poor. It was not until Ben Maxwell scored at 10:49 in the second period that the team seemed to find their groove. Both teams would trade goals back and forth for the remainder of the 2nd, and in the 3rd period Hamilton completely dominated Milwaukee to win the game by a final score of 6-4.

The Hamilton Bulldogs currently sit in 1st place in the North Division; 1st place in the Western Conference; and 2nd place overall in the AHL with a record of 23-9-2-3 for a total of 51 points.