With the Bulldogs sporting their camouflage jerseys in honour of the Canadian soldiers who serve for our country, it was the defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins who came to fight on Military Night at Copps Coliseum.
Hamilton, who entered the game with a 5-3-0-3 record, certainly had their work cut out for them from with the Griffins (8-2-1-1) coming into Copps with a six-game winning streak.
Goaltender Robert Mayer got the start in goal for Hamilton, while Petr Mrazek got the nod for Grand Rapids.
The Bulldogs didn't get the start they would have liked after the Griffins managed to capitalize with puck possession in Hamilton's zone. Cory Emmerton scored his first goal of the season off of a blistering release that was too quick for Mayer to detect, putting the Rapids up 1-0. Alexey Marchenko and Jeff Hoggan were credited with the assists on the goal.
Hamilton didn't help their cause following the Griffins' opening goal. With both Greg Pateryn and Maxime Macenauer in the box, Grand Rapids had a two-man advantage over the Bulldogs.
After some crisp passing and dominance while on the 5 on 3 powerplay, forward Calle Jarnkrok put the Griffins up 2-0 with a shot that beat Mayer over the blocker side. The goal came at the 11:03 mark and was assisted by Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco.
Despite being on the penalty kill for a good portion of the opening 20 minutes, Hamilton went into the first intermission with a 15-9 lead in shots but was still in need of a spark to keep up with Grand Rapids.
Hamilton kicked off the second period with a jump in their step, spending majority of the first half of the period in the offensive zone.
With the Griffins on the penalty kill with a minor penalty to David McIntyre, the Bulldogs were unable to create any real scoring chances to cut the lead in half.
What happened next would silence the crowd at Copps.
Following their penalty kill over the Bulldogs, the Griffins managed to score three goals in a 33 second span. The goals were scored by Andrej Nestrasil, Jarnkrok, and Mitch Callahan.
Trailing 5-0, goaltender Dustin Tokarski replaced Mayer in goal, as Hamilton desperately needed a change in momentum.
It did not take long for Grand Rapids' potent offense to solve Tokarski. With the Bulldogs scrambling to get out of their zone, Teemu Pulkkinen picked up a juicy rebound and made no mistake, giving the Griffins a 6-0 lead.
After the onslaught of goals by the Griffins, the Bulldogs still somehow held a 28-18 lead in shots going into the second intermission after an uninspired effort in the latter half of the period.
Hamilton finally got themselves on the board in the final minute of the game, breaking Mrazek's shutout bid, with a shot from the point by Sven Andrighetto at 19:06 of the third period. It was Andrighetto's fifth goal of the season, assisted by Macenauer and Greg Pateryn.
The final result was 6-1 in favour of the Griffins, with the Bulldogs taking the edge in shots 31-22.
Following the game Bulldogs captain Martin St. Pierre stressed that although it was an embarrassing effort on home ice for Hamilton, the team must turn the page and move on.
"We can't dwell on this," said St. Pierre. "Taking the positives out of it, whether it's systems, whether it's bad goals or whatever it is and improve day by day."
Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre believes that despite the team's lack of offense, they were still able to out-shoot the Griffins and played well in the first half of the game.
"We have to build on the things that we did well and learn from the things that we didn't do well," said Lefebvre.
Lefebvre also noted that the team needs to be more disciplined and avoid putting their opponents at an advantage.
"It would kind of be interesting to see how many times we've been down 3 on 5 since the start of the year," said Lefebvre. "We can't win hockey games, especially against a team like that when you're in the box too long."
The healthy scratches for the Bulldogs were Steve Quailer, Ben Duffy, Morgan Ellis and Stefan Fournier, while Darren Dietz and Nathan McIver also sat out with injuries.
The Bulldogs' next game will be on Sunday when they host the Utica Comets in a North Division matchup at Copps Coliseum.
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- Friday Habs Links - Bergevin on the hot seat.
- Top Six Minutes - Those Bleeping Bleepers Again Edition
- Checking in on Artturi Lehkonen, and why he isn't scoring
- Hamilton's goaltender controversy: Is it Tokarski or Mayer?