The Hamilton Bulldogs are within two games of advancing to the Calder Cup finals after a 3-2 over time win over the Chicago Wolves Sunday at the Allstate Arena. An advance into the Calder Cup by the Dogs would mark the first time a former International Hockey League team had not made it to the finals since the six teams from the league joined the American Hockey League in 2001/2.
The two home losses to the Bulldogs mark just the third home loss by the Wolves since April 14th.
Hamilton got a lead on the Wolves at just 2:07 into the game when Fred Brathwaite stopped a Matt D’Agostini shot. The loose puck ricochet to Duncan Milroy who put it past Brathwaite in heavy traffic. Less than five minutes later, Hamilton enjoyed a 5:3 power play on the Chicagoans for 1:20. When they were unable to convert that, the Chicago team gathered momentum and scored its first and tying goal at 9:14 thanks to Jordan Lavallee.
In the second frame, D’Agostini scored another Hamilton lead at 2:32. Then on the penalty kill, Chicago got hold of the puck and swiftly descended on Carey Price. A determined short handed effort came up without a goal however. Then, 13:41 on its own power play, Darren Haydar was called for slashing, ending the Chicago power play.
In the final minutes of the period, Chicago again received a power play, this time a 5:3 advantage. Fireworks went off and the lights and… it was no goal. Referee Brian Pochmara claimed he whisteled the play dead before the puck passed the goal line.
Behind by one and in the clear ice of the third frame, Chicago converted its power play, finally, into a goal when Darren Haydar put the tying puck in the net. A very disappointing third frame for Chicago, only four shots on goal. Not much better for Hamilton, six shots on goal.
Overtime, again, Ryan O’Byrne puts a shot on goal, tipped by Michael Lambert for the score. Chicago recorded no shots on goal in the overtime. Fred Brathwaite received the loss, stopping 27 shots of 30. Price received the win, stopping 22 shots on 24 attempts.
Only 17 teams in the AHL have come back from a 0-2 deficit in a best of seven series to win the series. Chicago was one of the teams, however. In the 2002 Western Conference Semifinals Chicago took the series 4-3 over the Syracuse Crunch and advanced to win the Calder Cup.
The last team to successfully come back was the Manitoba Moose who defeated the Crunch in the 2006 North Division Semifinals. Wilkes Barre/ Scranton has done it three times, in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
The North Conference Finals move to Hamilton, Ontario’s Copps Coliseum for the next three games, if necessary, of the best of seven series. Game times are Wednesday at 7:30 PM local (Eastern) time, Friday at 7:30 PM local (Eastern) time and if necessary Saturday at 7 PM local (Eastern) time.