The last time Hamilton came to Rochester on a hot streak the Amerks put up 6 goals in an absolute drubbing. This time would be different as some superb penalty killing and great defensive play would help the Bulldogs stifle their North Division rivals.
Luckily for Hamilton the Amerks would be without several of their key starters including Rasmus Ristolainen, Fredrick Roy, Mike Zigomanis and Chad Ruhwedel and their presence had a major effect on the Amerks play. The tone of the game was very chippy to say the least especially early on as nearly every stoppage was followed by a scrum and all the nonsense that goes along with it.
The Bulldogs however would take the brunt of the penalties in the first period by committing 4 infractions in the first 20 minutes that the Amerks were unable to capitalize on. However with Tim Schaller sitting for slashing Nathan Beaulieu would convert a Martin St. Pierre pass into his 3rd goal of the year on a dribbler that squeaked through Matt Hackett and over the goal line. The goal would break Beaulieu's 15 game goalless drought and added to St. Pierre's team leading point total. In the first rookie defensemen Darren Dietz stood out to me quite a bit as he played a very physical but solid defense all period including taking out 6' 4" Colton Gillies with a beautiful hip check. In addition to this the coaching staff has him killing penalties as well and with his offensive oriented game he was able to set up several shorthanded chances for his teammates.
The 2nd period would very much mirror the 1st with Hamilton dominating puck possession for long periods before taking a penalty. The Bulldogs would commit 3 more fouls in the period and kill all of them off to move to 7/7 on the penalty kill through 40 minutes. The Bulldogs would increase their lead to 2-0 in the 2nd frame thanks to a weird bounce off a Justin Courtnall wrist shot from the half boards that Hackett would end up kicking into the net. Of note in the 2nd period was Beaulieu making an absolutely brilliant goal saving clear from inside the crease to keep Dustin Tokarski's shutout bid intact, the puck had trickled past the Hamilton netminder and Beaulieu would scoop it up and fire it to center ice before it could cross the red line. Louis Leblanc was phenomenal through the opening 40 minutes and his chemistry with Christian Thomas is becoming evident in their passing and set up game. In addition Leblanc played a very solid defensive game blocking several point shots when they Amerks finally managed to gain the zone and muster some offense.
The 3rd would see Hamilton play ultra conservatively while protecting their 2-0 lead and thanks to some fantastic defensive play all around it wouldn't cost them this time. Once again the Bulldogs would take penalties at inopportune times and again their penalty killing would bail them out and in fact mount a pretty decent counter attack. Tokarski would lose his shutout with about 6 minutes left in the game as Daniel Catenacci would convert Tim Schaller's cross ice feed into his 4th goal of the year. But, following that the Bulldogs would take over the rest of the game and hem the Amerks into their own end for so long that Hackett didn't make it to the bench until there was only 52 seconds left in the game(He tried to head to the bench nearly 45 seconds earlier). If Leblanc and Beaulieu were the offensive heroes of this game Gabriel Dumont and Michael Blunden are the defensive heroes of the late game. Blunden forced Hackett back into his net by breaking out of his own end and powering through 4 different Amerks before rifling the puck in on goal in the last minute of play and Dumont won several key faceoffs to stave off the last minute desperate attack from the Amerks.
The story of this game was Hamiltons ability to shut down the Amerks powerplay all night, the Amerks had 10 powerplays Friday night and managed to only put 20 total shots on net the entire game. Every time an Amerk touched the puck there were two Bulldogs right in his face taking away any sort of shot or passing line. Brayden McNabb manned the point all night for the Amerks and managed only one shot on the net that wasn't blocked or deflected aside. However Hamilton cannot afford to give a team that many chances as sooner or later a team will start converting on their man advantage. Despite 2 very weak goals against Matt Hackett also made 3 major stops to keep the game close including 2 on Louis Leblanc and Christian Thomas right on the goal mouth and another on a Beaulieu 2 on 1 where he would steer aside the defensemen who had blown buy the Rochester defense.
Darren Dietz had nothing but praise for the team's effort all night saying "We had a gameplan to come out hard and get pucks into their end and we did that all night"
When I asked him about the penalty killing success he had this to say "It's about being hungry and desperate out there and tonight we(the penalty killers) were hungry on the puck and shut them down"
Once he stopped laughing Patrick Holland praised the special teams as well saying "We took a lot of penalties(10) but our PK and Dustin(Tokarski) stepped up huge for us tonight"
Beaulieu echoed Dietz's sentiments on the teams gameplan coming in saying "We know they play well in their building so we wanted to come out and play our game tonight and we executed that to get the win."
Both Beaulieu and Holland also talked about the team and it's current winning streak
Beaulieu-"We're streaking right now and with each win we get some added confidence that we can beat anyone"
Holland-"We've been streaky all year but right now we're winning a lot and it's more fun going to the rink on a hot streak like this one"(He then laughed and smiled to himself)
3 Stars of the Game
1. Nathan Beaulieu
3. Dan Catenacci
The Bulldogs are back in action tomorrow in a rematch against the Amerks at Copps Coliseum at 7:00 pm and look to add another win and close in on the first place Toronto Marlies.
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