The Hamilton Bulldogs took an early 2-0 lead, lost it to be down by two and then came back to tie, forcing two overtimes before finally defeating the Chicago Wolves 6-5 at the Allstate Arena Friday night in the first game of the Western Conference finals of the Calder Cup championships. The Bulldogs have a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series.
Ajay Baines scored the first goal with less than 90 seconds on the clock of the first frame. His goal was an unassisted completion of a poke check turnover. Darren Haydar and Kyle Chipchura both scored two goals, with Dan Jancevski scoring the game winning goal. Carey Price, the 19 year-old rookie who has led the Bulldogs to the series was shelled from the net. The score rocked back and forth, with Hamilton losing the lead, tying the game, falling behind, then coming back to win.
Hamilton is a very speedy team. It used that speed to convert puck possession into the first two goals by constantly pressuring the Wolves on offense and defense. Great checks or simple poke checks were causing numerous turnovers for the Wolves who then had to race their faster opponents. It was a period of turnovers and loss of control for the Wolves marked only by Maxim LaPierre getting two of the three penalties he was registered with. It was a period when the Bulldogs stepped up to the Wolves physically drawing a fighting major on LaPierre.
With a 2-0 lead, Haydar and the first line stepped up. Halfway through the period they dented the twine to bring the score to 2-1. A key moment in the first period occurred afterwards when Chicago was given a 5:3 power play opportunity but was almost unable to move the puck out of the defensive zone.
At the end of the first period, Chicago had registered one goal on 12 shots, to two goals on eight shots for the Bulldogs.
In the second period Chicago got its act together against the Hamilton speed and shelled the rookie goalie with 12 more shots and three goals. It was enough for Hamilton coach Don Lever, who pulled Price for the first time in the playoffs, in favor of Yanis Danis at 13:00 following Cory Larose’s unassisted goal.
The period ended with Chicago up 4-2. Hamilton had only three shots on goal in the period. The Wolves put only two shots on goal, in the period on Danis, compared to 10 on Price. Two of the Chicago goals were power plays. Cory Larose’s goal was unassisted.
Coming onto the clean ice in a power play, the Bulldogs were unable to convert. In the first two periods of the game referee called 34 minutes of penalties, resulting in ten power play opportunities. Someone must have stolen referee Frederic L’Ecuyer’s whistle at the second intermission. From then to the end of the game there were only four additional power plays and eight minutes of penalties. Yet, I didn’t notice a change in the physical action or the possible rule violations.
Relaxed, with a 4-2 lead, the Wolves seemed surprised that their opponents had come to play for another period. Let’s review some of the history of the Bulldogs. A short history: On February 7, in a game at Copps Coliseum, the Bulldogs fell behind the Wolves 3-1 in the second period. In the 19th minute of play of the third period the Bulldogs came back to tie the game with two goals within 19 seconds. The Wolves had to go to overtime to win the game.
As recently as April 22, in a game at Copps against the Amerks, the Bulldogs were behind 3-1 in the second period. They scored three goals in the third frame to tie and then take the lead from the surprised Amerks.
Two days later, again at Copps, the Bulldogs gave up an early lead to trail the Americans 3-2 in the second. They came back to tie the game before the Amerks scored again to win.
At the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on May 6th the Moose lost a 2-1 lead and the game. On May 12th at Copps, the Bulldogs again fell behind 2-1 and came back to tie. And in game six of the North Division finals, the Bulldogs came back from a 2-0 deficit to end the season for the Moose.
The Wolves need to be aware that this is a team that does not give up and has late rallys.
And so it was in the third period as the Wolves let three Hamilton goals tie the game. From almost doubling up on the Bulldogs on SOG, the Bulldogs came back to have 13 shots compared to just five for the Wolves. One of the Bulldog goals was on the power play.
With the score tied, the game moved to overtime. A brief explanation is in order as the playoffs have a rule change regarding overtime. The OT in post season play is a full period, followed by additional full periods of play, until a goal is scored.
Brief comment: no goals in the first overtime. Two penalties and two power plays. The Wolves appear to be tired. During one attack on the Wolves net Michael Garnett breaks his stick turning aside a shot. Momentarily without a stick, blue liner Nathan Oystrick gives up his stick. The Wolves hold on…
That seemed to be a big momentum builder for the Wolves. But it wasn’t enough. In the second OT Brian Fahey got called for a high sticking that looks more like a hold. Just eight seconds later, Jancevski scores. Game over. 6-5 Hamilton.
Although Price was shelled from the net, he wouldn’t have received the loss as the Bulldogs were able to catch the Wolves. He played just under 33 minutes of hockey and gave up four goals on 22 shots. Danis received the win, stopping 17 shots and giving up one. Garnett gave up six goals on 39 shots.
The Wolves were able to shut down Corey Locke and LaPierre, neither of who registered a shot on goal or an assist. Locke is the highest ranked skater on the Bulldogs with 14 points and seven goals. LaPierre has six points and five goals in the post season.
On the Wolves squad, only Joey Crabb was shut down in a similar fashion.