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The Hamilton Bulldogs closed out their final week of 2010 and welcomed in the new year with 1 win and 2 losses while continuing to sit in first place in the AHL North Division with a record of 20-11-1-4 and 45 points. They also welcomed defenceman Brett Festerling to the team, and in this week’s Recap we will take a closer look at the newest member of the Bulldogs.

On Tuesday December 28th, the Chicago Wolves (affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers) howled into Hamilton for the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. Last year, in 2009-2010, the Dogs swept Chicago with a perfect 4-0 record. This year, however, the Wolves appear to have found the secret they needed in order to end up with some of the wins. The last time the two teams met was back on December 4th when Chicago defeated Hamilton by a final score of 2-1. This time, the Bulldogs fared no better, losing 5-3 despite Dustin Boyd recording a hat trick and extending his goal-scoring streak to six games. To make matters worse, the game was barely underway when goaltender Curtis Sanford was injured with only 1:16 gone in the first period. Robert Mayer was called into action, stopping 21 of 25 shots, and took the resulting loss in goal. With Boyd providing all of the scoring for the Bulldogs, the assists were provided by David Desharnais, Kyle Klubertanz, Ben Maxwell (2), and Brendon Nash (2).

Two nights later, on Thursday December 30th, the Bulldogs hosted the Lake Erie Monsters (affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche) for the first of a two-game back-to-back series. Hamilton’s all-time record against Lake Erie is 17-5-0-1-2, and they continued their dominance over the Monsters in this one as well with a 3-2 win. David Desharnais assisted on all three of the Bulldogs goals, which moved him into 3rd place with 121 all-time assists and 2nd place with 182 all-time points as a Hamilton Bulldog player. Dustin Boyd would once again register his name on the score sheet, scoring the game-winning goal for the Bulldogs in the third period, thus raising his goal streak to seven consecutive games. His 10 goals scored in those 7 games currently ranks him first overall in the AHL for the longest scoring streak this season.

Following this tilt, as 2010 ended and 2011 began, some changes have happened in addition to that of the calendar. In goal, Robert Mayer has replaced the injured Curtis Sanford and is being backed up by Peter Delmas, who has been recalled from the Wichita Thunder from the Central Hockey League. David Desharnais has been called up to the Montreal Canadiens, and the newly-acquired Brett Festerling, dealt in a trade for Maxim Lapierre, has been assigned to Hamilton.

Festerling has 83 NHL games with the Anaheim Ducks on his resume, but has spent most of his professional hockey career in the AHL playing with the Portland Pirates and the now-defunct Iowa Chops (both former affiliates of the Ducks). The Iowa franchise was suspended by the Board of Governors for the violation of League By-Laws in 2009 and the player roster was scattered throughout the AHL. As a result, Festerling was shuffled on to the rosters of the Toronto Marlies (affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) and the San Antonio Rampage (affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes) before landing in the lineup of the Syracuse Crunch, who are now the new affiliation to Anaheim. His current American Hockey League statistics stands at 168 games played, 6 goals, 32 assists, 38 points, and 163 penalty minutes. Widely regarded as a defensive, stay at home kind of defenceman, his 6 ft 1, 210 lb frame will be a welcome addition to securing the Dogs blue line.

With Festerling in the lineup, the Bulldogs headed off to Cleveland, Ohio for the rematch game vs the Lake Erie Monsters on New Years Day. His debut turned out to be a forgettable experience, however, as the Monsters felled the Dogs 3-0. Robert Mayer was once again in net for the loss, while at the other end of the ice, NHL veteran John Grahame received the shutout and was the 1st Star of the Game for Lake Erie.

And speaking of Stars, it’s now time to take a look at the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-Stars of the Month for December. Here are my picks:

1 – David Desharnais (3 goals; 17 assists; 20 points)

2 – Dustin Boyd (10 goals in his first 7 games; 10 points)

3 – Ben Maxwell (2 goals; 7 assists; 9 points)

The Dogs now continue on the road for the next week with upcoming games in Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Milwaukee.