Bulldogs season ends in fitting loss

Yanni Gourde fires a shot on Dustin Tokarski - Brandon Taylor, Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club

The Hamilton Bulldogs went up 1-0 but couldn't extend the lead falling 3-1 to the Syracuse Crunch.

In a game that was a fight for pride, a fight to finish the season at .500 the team came out and played out a story that fans have heard time and again this season opening the scoring with a strong first period but failing to capitalize and add a second, laying an egg in the second period and being unable to come back despite a strong third period.

Nathan Beaulieu would open the scoring for Hamilton on the powerplay redirecting a Mike Blunden pass past former Dog Cedrick Desjardins for his seventh of the season and what would turn out to be the final tally of Hamilton's season.

The Dogs would maintain the 1-0 lead failing to add to it and with 4:57 left in the second period an Evan Rankin centring pass bounced off Joel Chouinard's skate and past Dustin Tokarski to tie the game.

Just 1:10 later another freak goal would put Syracuse ahead.

Luke Witkowski threw the puck towards the corner to try and keep it in the zone and it would ricochet off Nathan Beaulieu's skate in the slot and past a surprised Tokarski.

The rest of the second period would pass without incident and though Hamilton was strong coming out in the third it was Syracuse who would put the final nail in the coffin.

Jonathan Marchessault iced the game with five and a half minutes left, freezing Tokarski on a 3-on-1 firing it between the legs for the only Syracuse shot to find it's way through the Dog's netminder and into the goal.

After the game Mike Blunden expressed what many in the team had been saying for months, that they just weren't playing well enough in the second period.

"We had like six minutes in powerplay in the second period and we didn't create much, to be honest I think we lost momentum on our powerplay." said Blunden. "It's unacceptable, it's not the way that we should have played and we've got to find something better."

Coach Lefebvre echoed Blunden's sentiments.

"If I knew why [our second period was bad], we probably wouldn't be talking this way tonight," said Lefebvre.

With the loss the Dogs finish the season with a 33-35-1-7 record, 5th in the North Division and 13th in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs for the third straight year, though improving one position for the second straight year from 14th in the West to 13th.

As always attendance for the finale is solid, this season 7,444 fans took it in.

Third star was Cedrick Desjardins, second star was Mike Blunden, first star was Jonathan Marchessault. Hardest working Bulldog went to Gabriel Dumont.

Before the game the Bulldogs handed out their end of season team awards, listed below are the winners.

Community Service Award - Morgan Ellis

Hardest Working Bulldog (Most times chosen as hardest working dog) - Mike Blunden

Molson Cup (Most points in 3 star selections) - Dustin Tokarski

Top Defenceman - Greg Pateryn

Top Rookie - Sven Andrighetto

Team MVP - Dustin Tokarski

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