The Bulldogs dropped a 4-1 loss to one of the AHL's best squads the Binghamton Senators Friday night at the Bell Centre and despite limiting the high scoring Sens to just 22 shots the Bulldogs would drop the game. But there is no rest for the weary as Hamilton would travel to Rochester to face off in a key North Division match up against the Amerks. With Hamilton playing 3 games in 3 nights Dustin Tokarski was given the night off in favor of back up Robert Mayer with Tokarski likely starting tomorrow at home against the San Antonio Rampage.
Both teams played last night but right from the get go you wouldn't believe that as the pace and energy to the game was fast, hard hitting and incredibly fun to watch. The Bulldogs dominated the early flow of play and at one point held a 11-2 shot advantage before going on the powerplay. However the powerplay seemed to kill any momentum Hamilton had and from there Rochester would dominate the remainder of the period. With Darren Dietz out injured Nathan McIver would draw into the line up alongside Morgan Ellis and they would have a rough night often being hemmed in their own end and failing to get the puck to even the neutral zone. With roughly 10 minutes gone Rasmus Ristolainen would get the puck from Joel Armia at the point and fire a howitzer of a shot on net that Fredrick Roy would tip past Mayer to give the Amerks the lead on just their 4th shot of the game. Mayer however would be the only reason this game wasn't a blow out early with several key saves but none bigger than a sprawling toe save to deny a surefire goal as time wound down in the first period.
The 2nd period started much like the first and the Bulldogs were unlucky to not have scored less than a minute in when Michael Blunden took the puck into the offensive zone a rang one off the cross bar behind Nathan Lieuwen. Following a series of Nick Tarnasky scoring attempts Louis Leblanc managed to draw a hooking call on Brayden McNabb and the Bulldogs powerplay was a lot better this time around and included the red hot Sven Andrighetto also beating Lieuwen but not the pipe as he dinged one off the crossbar. Martin St. Pierre would take a hooking penalty and once again the Amerks made them pay as Luke Adam tipped home McNabb's point shot to put the Amerks up 2-0 half way through the second period. After Brayden Irwin went to the box for hooking Nathan Beaulieu would complete the Post Hat Trick on the powerplay by ringing one off the right post. Gabriel Dumont however had seen enough and would convert Jarred Tinordi's pass off the cross bar and in to cut the deficit to one goal late in the 2nd period. With Kevin Porter sitting for laying a blindside hit on Christian Thomas the Bulldogs would end the period on the powerplay, but not before Mayer misplayed a puck right to the Amerks forward who fired it over the net as time expired in the period.
The 3rd period would be much of the same as Hamilton dominated offensive zone possession for the opening minutes so much so that they were able to change lines with the puck still around the Amerks net. But much like the previous periods the Amerks made the most of their chances and Mike Zigomanis would score his 10th of the year to restore the 2 goal lead. Gabriel Dumont would once again bring the Bulldogs within one on the powerplay by blasting a beautiful wrist shot bardown and in on Lieuwen. However Hamilton was unable to get the tying goal with Mayer pulled and Rochester held on for a 3-2 win, final shots were 29-27 in favor of Hamilton.
After the game I caught up with some of the Bulldogs players to collect their thoughts on the game.
Both Louis Leblanc and Morgan Ellis expressed their frustration with the puck not bouncing in their favor
#Habs Louis Leblanc following a 3-2 loss in Rochester: "it's frustrating hitting 5 or 6 posts and knowing they could have made a difference"— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 23, 2014
Morgan Ellis: "we hit a ton of posts tonight and it's hard to take that when we feel like we should have won this game"— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 23, 2014
Both players also talked about the importance of having a good gameplan and starting well
Leblanc con't "we're playing 3 in 3 and it's tough but we've had good starts in these games and we always want to keep that going"— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 23, 2014
Ellis "we had a gameplan for tonight's game and we followed it well but a few lapses and bad bounces cost us when it mattered"— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 23, 2014
Hamilton is back in action at home tomorrow against the San Antonio Rampage in a game that has to be considered a must win if the Bulldogs want to get back into playoff contention