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The Hamilton Bulldogs have now reached the halfway point of the 2010-2011 season, accumulating a record of 22-13-1-4 (49 points) and continue to sit in first place in the AHL North Division standings. In those 40 games played so far this season, 25 of them have been decided by a one goal difference.

The following notes will overview why the Hamilton Bulldogs sit in their current position and then we will take a closer, more detailed look at each player in turn and grade them accordingly as to how they have contributed to the Bulldogs success.

The ‘Dogs rank in the top ten in both special teams categories. Hamilton’s penalty kill is 7th overall with an 85.6% success rate and their power play sits 5th in the standings, capitalizing on 20.9% of their chances with the man advantage. In the last four games the Bulldogs have gone an impressive 17 for 17 while killing off penalties.

The American Hockey League All-Star Weekend comes up at the end of the week and four ‘Dogs players have been selected to the game. Forwards David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty (who are both on recall to Montreal and will not attend) as well as goaltender Curtis Sanford and defenceman Mathieu Carle (a replacement player) have been named to the Western Conference team for the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic. These players have owned the Bulldogs so far this year, but always remember that there is no “I” in “Team”. One of the strengths of this franchise is their ability to come together when the roster has been depleted due to injury or call-up.

Andrew Conboy has matched his career-high point totals which he set last season when he recorded 13 points in 33 games. Dustin Boyd played his 100th AHL game on Sunday, January 9th, recording a total of 82 points in those games.

Goaltender Curtis Sanford sits third in the AHL with a goals-against-average of 1.82 and fourth in save percentage with .936%.

Even though the Hamilton Bulldogs have played games beyond the time of this writing, the statistics that I have just stated (and those which will follow in the upcoming player grades) are based on only those matches that fall within those first 40 games of the season. We will begin with the goaltenders and then the skaters.

#1 Curtis Sanford: A+

24 GP; 14 wins; 7 losses; 1 shootout loss; 1.82 GAA; .936 SV%; 2 shutouts

He has been demonstrating game-in and game-out why he is the MVP on this team. If his stellar goaltending continues through the second half of the season he could be a candidate for AHL MVP as well.

#35 Robert Mayer: D

16 GP; 7 wins; 7 losses; 2 shootout losses; 3.08 GAA; .888 SV%

It is disappointing to see how so much potential exhibited last year has not followed him into this season. His GAA and SV% are terrible this year, and the only reason he barely gets a passing grade (other than the fact that he is a very pleasant guy to talk to) is that he has at least won as many games as he has lost.

#3 Brett Festerling: B-

32 GP (with the Syracuse Crunch); 3 goals; 9 assists; 12 points; 41 PIM
5 GP (with the Hamilton Bulldogs); 0 goals; 0 assists; 0 points; 4 PIM

Despite being pointless, Festerling has demonstrated that he plays his defensive position very well and is not afraid to take his 6-1, 208 lb
frame into the corners.

#4 Brendon Nash: B

39 GP; 2 goals; 17 assists; 19 points; 39 PIM

A solid addition to the Hamilton blueline and already is amongst the AHL’s top scoring rookie defencemen.

#5 Alex Henry: C

40 GP; 0 goals; 7 assists; 7 points; 65 PIM

The captain and all-time GP leader in Bulldogs history continues to provide a strong physical presence and backs down from no one.

#7 Yannick Weber: B+

15 GP; 8 goals; 4 assists; 12 points; 10 PIM

The early scoring leader on the blueline early on, his permanent departure to the Habs has left a hole on the blueline.

#10 J.T. Wyman: B-

40 GP; 10 goals; 9 assists; 19 points; 20 PIM

He had a slow start to the season but has picked it up recently while providing sound defensive play as always.

#12 Andrew Conboy: B-

34 GP; 8 goals; 5 assists; 13 points; 53 PIM

Having a breakthrough season offensively while providing some muscle on the bottom lines.

#14 Olivier Fortier: C+

35 GP; 6 goals; 4 assists; 10 points; 13 PIM

Fortier has been up-and-down in terms of his offensive production but has maintained a regular role in the lineup in his rookie season.

#15 Kyle Klubertanz: B

36 GP; 5 goals; 8 assists; 13 points; 24 PIM

Struggled re-acclimating to the North American game but his play at both ends has improved notably in recent games.

#16 David Urquhart: D

13 GP; 0 goals; 1 assist; 1 point; 4 PIM

Has been an adequate injury replacement but does not bring anything particularly special to the Hamilton lineup.

#17 Dustin Boyd: A

12 GP; 11 goals; 0 assists; 11 points; 4 PIM

Boyd was an offensive revelation after being sent down last month; he single handedly kept the Bulldogs in a couple games with his production.

#18 Dany Masse: N/A

1 GP; 0 goals; 0 assists; 0 points; 2 PIM

#19 Ben Maxwell: B+

31 GP; 6 goals; 19 assists; 25 points; 26 PIM

One of the few consistent point producers beyond those called up by the Habs earlier in the season.

#20 Ryan Russell: C+

39 GP; 5 goals; 6 assists; 11 points; 25 PIM

Defensively he has been strong as usual but his offense has been sporadic at best.

#22 Andreas Engqvist: B-

36 GP; 5 goals; 7 assists; 12 points; 10 PIM

Has been a key cog in the ‘Dogs lineup playing primarily in a shutdown role.

#23 Max Pacioretty: A+

27 GP; 17 goals; 15 assists; 32 points; 20 PIM

Simply dominated with Hamilton; he, like Weber earlier, is not expected to return to the Bulldogs.

#24 Ian Schultz: F

25 GP; 0 goals; 0 assists; 0 points; 21 PIM

Has been a complete non-factor in all aspects this year.  Even his PIM total primarily came from one game, where he picked up 17 of the 21 he has.

#25 Ryan White: C-

26 GP; 2 goals; 6 assists; 8 points; 64 PIM

White was expected to carry a good chunk of the scoring load this year but has been largely invisible at that end of the rink.

#26 Alexander Avtsin: C+

25 GP; 4 goals; 6 assists; 10 points; 8 PIM

Has not scored many regulation goals yet, but Avtsin is AMAZING to watch in a shootout situation.  He is a sniper in a shootout.

#28 Aaron Palushaj B+

31 GP; 5 goals; 17 assists; 22 points; 12 PIM

Injuries set him back early on but he has been starting to pick up the slack offensively with so many gone to Montreal.

#32 Frederic St. Denis: C

39 GP; 0 goals; 11 assists; 11 points; 8 PIM

He hasn’t been as impactful as last season but remains an important part of Hamilton’s defensive unit.

#40 Gabriel Dumont: C

35 GP; 2 goals; 7 assists; 9 points; 35 PIM

Dumont hasn’t been able to do a lot offensively but like Fortier, has
maintained a regular spot in Randy Cunneyworth’s lineups in his rookie season.

#44 Jimmy Bonneau: F

40 GP; 0 goals; 0 assists; 0 points; 99 PIM

Has his own reserved seat in the penalty box; he appears to have his sights focused on breaking the club record for most PIM in a season.

#51 David Desharnais: A+

35 GP; 10 goals; 35 assists; 45 points; 24 PIM

The AHL’s top player in December, he made whoever played with him score. He was recently told to find a place in Montreal so he is not expected to return to the Dog Pound.

#61 Hunter Bishop: D

9 GP; 0 goals; 0 assists; 0 points; 2 PIM

Has spent most of this season either injured, scratched, or assigned to the ECHL Wheeling Nailers. When he has played, he has been largely a non-factor.

#72 Mathieu Carle: B

32 GP; 7 goals; 7 assists; 14 points; 20 PIM

The newest addition to the AHL All-Star Classic, he has once again been an anchor on Hamilton’s blueline…when he isn’t hurt.

#85 Neil Petruic: F

19 GP; 0 goals; 2 assists; 2 points; 10 PIM

For a veteran blueliner (he’s 28), he sure hasn’t played like one. When everyone’s healthy, he rightfully is in the press box.