HAMILTON, ON – In a first game previewing what a post-NHL CBA American Hockey League might look like, the Hamilton Bulldogs got the better of their rival Toronto Marlies winning a 2-1 decision on a luck late Gabriel Dumont goal. The Bulldogs registered five of a possible six points on their three-game home-stand and have been playing competitive hockey, critical as the season reaches its midway point and the team has an enormous chasm to make up in the standings.
Despite the NHL lockout being settled and the new CBA all-but-ratified, both squads dressed the majority of their AHL rosters, with the Marlies holding out just Matt Frattin and the injured Jake Gardiner, while all of Mike Commodore, Frederic St. Denis, Gabriel Dumont, Brendan Gallagher, and Louis Leblanc played for the Bulldogs despite their possible presence at Montreal’s camp next week. The fact is that even if the five might get a short stint with the Canadiens, they are all likely to return to the Bulldogs’ line-up before long with 23 players (once P.K. Subban is signed) on NHL deals already. Realistically, only Dumont perhaps has a chance of getting some time with the team at this stage due to an injury to Petteri Nokelainen, but his presence on the roster would mean no tryout for the team’s top prospect in Alex Galchenyuk. In fact, though the Bulldogs still sit 30th overall in the American Hockey League, they are a team that should remain relatively intact while opposing squads are weakened, perhaps setting them up for a stretch run and shot at a post-season berth.
The game matched the Hamilton Bulldogs usual script early on, with the ‘Dogs leading the Marlies in shots through a scoreless first period but without much in the way of discernible scoring opportunities. The Marlies got on the board first in the second with a Nazem Kadri goal off an offensive zone face-off, then looked to add to their lead and take over the game with a lengthy 5-on-3 powerplay.
But for the second time in as many games, the ‘Dogs came up with a huge kill, without so much as even giving up a quality scoring chance. In the final minutes, Hamilton was on a powerplay of their own, and as it expired, Jason DeSantis made a great play at the blueline, jumping to keep a puck in the zone, and finding Mike Blunden in front. With a mess of players including a pinching Nathan Beaulieu crashing the net, Blunden found Patrick Holland at the other side of the crease and he buried the puck, scoring in the final second of a period for the second time in the past three games.
The third was a strange period of unsuccessful man advantages for both sides, and the teams remained tied entering the final minute. It was then that Dumont centered the puck which took a couple of funny bounces of Marlie defenders before finally banking in off Jussi Rynnas for his team-leading 11th.
“He’s greasy like that. That’s typical of him (Dumont) for sure,” half-joked Holland about the winning goal after the game. ”We even tell him to shoot from there all the time cause he just has a knack for tricking goalies. It’s tough for a goalie to stop that I’m sure.”
The ‘Dogs held on for the rest of the final minute allowing the Dumont tally to stand up as the winner. Dumont himself says he has no indication if or when he’ll get a call to pack a bag for Montreal, so for the time being, he and the rest of the Bulldogs can only look ahead to try to keep their streak going when they visit the Rochester Americans this Friday night.