In the NHL, the arenas have gone dark as the Olympic flame lights up Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. But for the Hamilton Bulldogs and the other teams in the AHL, it’s business as usual.
The Dogs came into this past week’s schedule riding a seven-game winning streak; their longest since they won nine in a row back in 2002-2003. Unfortunately, this new streak would end there at seven games as Hamilton lost both of their contests over the weekend.
On Friday February 12th, the Bulldogs travelled to Cleveland, Ohio for the seventh of eight games this season against the Lake Erie Monsters (affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche). Traditionally, the Bulldogs have had good results when playing Lake Erie, holding an all-time record of 16-4-1-1. But this season, they have struggled with their North Division opponent. The last time these teams met was back on January 13th when the Monsters defeated the Bulldogs 5-3 at Copps Coliseum to narrow the season series between the two teams this year to 3-2-1-0 in favour of the Dogs.
Both teams would trade goals back and forth on Friday night. Brock Trotter, Ben Maxwell, and Shawn Belle would keep the Hamilton Bulldogs in the game, but when Lake Erie scored at 12:17 in the second period to give the home-team Monsters a 4-3 lead, Hamilton starting goaltender, Cedrick Desjardins, was pulled from the net and was replaced by Curtis Sanford. Ryan Russell would tie the score 4-4 at 6:58 of the third period to force the game into overtime. With the score tied and neither team able to decide the outcome in the extra period, the game went to a shootout. Brock Trotter was the only Dogs player to score on five opportunities while two of the Monsters shooters put the puck behind Sanford to give the Lake Erie Monsters at 5-4 shootout victory.
The following night, Saturday February 13th, the Hamilton Bulldogs returned to their Dog Pound home, where they hosted the Abbotsford Heat (affiliate of the Calgary Flames) in the annual “Pink in the Rink” night where net proceeds from the game go to Breast Cancer Support Services in the Hamilton area. With the Bulldogs holding a 3-1-0-1 record against the Heat so far this year, this game marked the sixth of eight matchups between the North Division rivals this season. In their last meeting on December 13th, the Bulldogs shutout Abbotsford by a score of 3-0.
However, due to their depleted line-up finally catching up to them (Yannick Weber in Vancouver with the Swiss Olympic Team; David Desharnais, Tom Pyatt, and P.K. Subban in Montreal with the Canadiens) it was only Shawn Belle who was able to score for the Bulldogs in what was to be a 2-1 loss for Hamilton.
Thanks to the NHL Olympic break, Desharnais, Pyatt, and Subban have now been re-assigned to Hamilton and their presence will add a much-needed support to the Bulldogs roster as the team faces the Texas Stars; the Grand Rapids Griffins; and the Adirondack Phantoms this week. As Bulldogs fans look forward to those upcoming games, the team continues to hold 1st place in the North Division; 1st place in the Western Conference; and 2nd place overall in the American Hockey League with a 34-13-3-5 record and 76 points.