Hamilton squared off against the Syracuse Crunch just 24 hours after a 3-1 win at the Bell Centre in Montreal and once again would be up to the task against a very good Crunch squad. Dustin Tokarski has clearly entrenched himself as the number one goalie for the Bulldogs as head coach Sylvain Lefebvre would give him the start again tonight in Syracuse. Opposite of Tokarski would be former Bulldog Cedrick Desjardins who was also getting a second start on this back to back series.
Lefebvre's choice was a good one as Tokarski would make 15 saves in the first period, including several big stops on the penalty kill to keep the game scoreless through 20 minutes. Late in the first Crunch defensemen Mike Taormina would take a tripping penalty that would carry over into the second period of the game.
The Bulldogs would capitalize on the powerplay just 1:29 into the second frame as Christian Thomas would take a feed from Martin St Pierre and drive home his first goal as a Bulldog. With Taormina sitting for delay of game the Bulldogs would once again capitalize on the man advantage as Greg Pateryn would let a slapshot go from the blue line and past Desjardins for Pateryn's 4th goal of the season. Then shortly following that Justin Courtnall decided to drop the gloves with a 2-0 lead and would be heavily out struck before Courtnall landed a takedown in the fight. Once again though Tokarski kept the lead preserved with dozens of saves in close when the Crunch were swarming.
The 3rd period would hold much of the same for Hamilton as Tokarski would again hold the the line against a Crunch team looking to claw their way back into the game. However the Crunch would shoot themselves in the foot as Luke Witkowski would take a holding penalty and this time Nathan Beaulieu would power home his 2nd goal of the season to put the proverbial nail in the coffin.
While we're talking about Beaulieu I have to say that he was easily the best player on the ice tonight in all situations. The way he handled the game with the puck on his stick reminded me mightily of current Canadiens star P.K. Subban...I realize this sounds homerish but his passing and puck movement on the powerplay including his large slap shot wind up screams Subban. As if that isn't impressive enough Beaulieu can fly when he has the puck on his stick...he was a good 4 to 5 steps behind a Crunch forward on a short handed breakaway and caught up to him laid a check and stole the puck back from him before they reached the the faceoff circle in the Bulldogs zone.
Also highly impressive was the line of Erik Nystrom-Martin St. Pierre-Christian Thomas, the speed and creativity of this line was something to behold and if not for some great goaltending from Desjardins they could have put home 2 more goals easily. Unfortunately the combo of Maxime Macenauer-Louis Leblanc-Nick Tarnasky is something that needs to end...Leblanc's skill level is far above both of his line mates and it will start impacting his stats soon.
What impresses the most about this team's current 4 game win streak is the fact that they are doing it without leading scoring Sven Andrighetto and top 4 defensemen Magnus Nygren who were both injured. When they both come back the Bulldogs have on paper the best defense core in the AHL and a formidable group of scoring forwards.
3 Stars of the Game
3rd Star: Nikita Nesterov who registered 7 shots on goal(this is a hometown homer pick)
Real 3rd Star: Nathan Beaulieu who had a goal and assist
2nd Star: Christian Thomas with 1 goal and 1 assist
1st Star: Dustin Tokarski with a 43 save shutout
The Dan Lawrie Insurance Premium Player of the Game was Nathan Beaulieu
The Bulldogs are back in action on Wednesday November 27th here in Rochester New York against the Amerks who the Bulldogs currently hold a 1-2 record this season.
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Top Six Minutes: Pacioretty week continues
- Complete coverage from the Habs' win over the Penguins
- Complete coverage from the Habs' win over the Capitals
- Subban joins Pacioretty's postgame interview
- Budaj trolls Crosby on the bench
- Bulldogs break their losing streak at the Bell Centre