Syracuse Crunch’s Tyler Johnson scores on Bulldogs goalie Robert Mayer during the third period of their American Hockey League game at the Bell Center Friday night.
Photograph by: Peter McCabe, Peter McCabe / THE GAZETTE
It you want to put the Hamilton Bulldogs’ 4-1 loss to the Syracuse Crunch Friday night in perspective, lend an ear to Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer.
“We’re playing the best team in the American Hockey League,” Andlauer said
The Bulldogs proved to be game but overmatched as Syracuse outshot them 31-14. The lack of firepower was obvious and, while there are some promising defenceman on the way up, it’s safe to say the Canadiens’ next 50-goal scorer cannot be found on the Hamilton roster.
The lone Hamilton goal was scored by rookie Steve Quailer, who kept the puck on a 2-on-1 breakaway with Gabriel Dumont and found the top corner on Syracuse goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
“It was pretty cool getting my first professional goal,” Quailer said. “I was pretty happy when I scored it, but it’s hard to be happy after losing like that.”
“We got taught a lesson,” veteran Michael Blunden said. “We have a young team, but they’re a very good team and they play the right away.”
The best player on the ice for the Bulldogs was goaltender Robert Mayer who kept this game close until Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik put the game out of reach with goals midway through the third period. The Czech-born Swiss goaltender is getting a chance to play because Cédrick Desjardins is injured and he’s making the most of it. He has a 4-3-1 record but has a decent goals-against average and save percentage. If he continues to improve, he could be ready to audition for the backup role behind Carey Price next season.
Mayer used his glove to stop Richard Panik on a breakaway in the first period, kept his cool as the Crunch created a lot of traffic in front and he had luck on his side when Cory Conacher struck a post in the second period. Philip-Michael Devos scored on a tip-in during the first period, and Mike Angelidis scored what proved to be the winner off a scramble in front of the net at 19:08 of the second period.
Hamilton does have a handful of players with NHL experience and they figure that playing in Hamilton will give an advantage when the lockout ends.
Of course, there’s the matter of those playing staying healthy.
Louis Leblanc, the Canadiens’ first-round draft choice in 2009, has been hobbled by a high ankle sprain which left him sitting in the press box Friday night for a seventh consecutive game. Leblanc is expected to resume skating next week, but it’s difficult to say when he will be back at full speed.
And Blake Geoffrion, who is tied for the team scoring lead, will be out for an indefinite period with a facial cut and an upper-body injury. That was the result of a punishing — but clean — hip check by Jean-Philippe Côté, who caught Geoffrion in the mid-section as he came up the boards. As Côté followed through on the check, his skate accidentally cut Geoffrion in the face. Geoffrion was taken to hospital and had surgery for a head injury, the result of hitting his head on the ice as he fell.
Michael Blunden responded to the hit on Geoffrion by trading punches with Côté, but rookie defenceman Jarred Tinordi and Radko Gudas had a more entertaining scrap in the second period. Tinordi, who came to the aid of Michael Bournival, landed the better punches, saying: “There are times when you have to respond. I saw Bourny take a bad hit and I knew I had to do something.”
Tinordi, a first-round pick in 2010, has been the Bulldogs’ best defenceman to date and he could be in line for a late-season call-up if the NHL gets back to work.
The other interesting aspect of the game was the attendance of 18,582. That should prompt Andlauer to see if there are any more open dates while the NHL lockout drags on. The Bulldogs average about 5,000 at Copps Coliseum, but two of their five home games this season have drawn crowds in the 2,500 range.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette