The Hamilton Bulldogs kicked off the 2013-14 season, the 18th in the club's history, against the St. John's IceCaps at Copps Coliseum Friday night.
Hamilton got exactly the start they wanted with a shorthanded goal from defenceman Greg Pateryn off of a great pass from forward Michael Blunden at 4:26 of the first period. Pateryn entered the IceCaps' zone towards the tail end of St.John's powerplay, and made no mistake connecting with Blunden's brilliant pass, going top shelf and giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the season, 1-0.
The IceCaps would soon even things up however, with a powerplay goal from forward Andrew Gordon at 10:01 of the first period after Bulldogs defenceman Darren Dietz took a roughing minor. Bulldogs goaltender Dustin Tokarski could not see the shot through traffic. Brenden Kichton and Adam Lowry picked up the assists on the IceCaps' first goal.
Dustin Tokarski made a couple of huge saves for the Bulldogs in the final minute of the first period. After twenty minutes, both teams had 10 shots on goal.
In the second period, Hamilton got right back on the score sheet after attacking the IceCaps early with some offensive zone pressure. Mike Blunden's quick release down low was too much for IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale to handle, beating him high on the glove side to give Hamilton the 2-1 lead. Blunden's goal was assisted by Joonas Nattinen and Drew Schiestel at 1:55.
Hamilton once again struggled to hold the lead, as St. John's managed to knot the game up at 2-2 shortly after a defensive collapse from the Bulldogs that resulted in the goal from defenceman Ben Chiarot. Jason Jaffray and Jerome Samson were rewarded with the assists on the goal.
Both teams would go on to trade chances, but both Tokarski and Pasquale stood tall as the Bulldogs and IceCaps entered the second intermission tied at 2-2. Hamilton led St. John's in shots on goal after 40 minutes, 25-20.
In the third period, Hamilton recaptured the lead with yet another shorthanded goal, this time by Patrick Holland. Holland swiftly entered the neutral zone, split the IceCaps' defence and got a shot off on Pasquale, trickling through the goaltender's legs, giving the Bulldogs the 3-2 lead. The goal came at 5:15 of the third and went unassisted.
Despite the quality chances generated by the IceCaps throughout the final 20 minutes, Tokarski would seal the victory for Hamilton with some clutch saves.
The 5,193 fans in attendance gave the Bulldogs a standing ovation following the 3-2 win on opening night.
Hamilton outshot St John's 35-34.
Hamilton will be in action next on Saturday when they host the Grand Rapids Griffins.
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