The stage is set for Saturday night. The plot was decided on Friday when the Hamilton Bulldogs used theatrics known as “the powerplay” to bring the curtain down on the San Antonio Rampage, 3-2, at Copps Coliseum.
That result, combined with the Manitoba Moose’s loss to Syracuse Crunch, put the Bulldogs into a tie for second place with their American Hockey League rivals from Winnipeg.
And tonight at Copps the Moose will arrive to see which team emerges alone in the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference’s North Division. For the moment each team has 54 points, nine back of the front running Rochester Americans.
The Rampage were playing the second of a 16-game road journey that started successfully in Toronto on Thursday night when they beat the Marlies, 4-2.
But it was downhill after that. The team arrived late – because of traffic and weather – for Friday night’s game and it was just 68 seconds into the game when Hamilton scored the first of its three extra-man goals.
Mikhail Grabovski’s 13th goal of the season that started the Bulldogs on the way to their third straight win delighted the more than 6,000 spectators. The goal came just nine seconds after San Antonio had been assessed a minor.
Eleven minutes later Duncan Milroy had his 20th goal – a season’s best in his pro career. And with just 95 seconds left in the period Jonathan Ferland had his 11th goal.
Going into the game the Bulldogs powerplay was ranked second last in the 27-team AHL.
San Antonio narrowed the count to 3-1 late in the second period, also on the powerplay, when Bill Thomas beat Yann Danis. The Rampage pulled to within one goal when Yanick Lehoux scored at 4:30 into the final period.
Danis stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced. David LeNeveu faced 33 Hamilton shots.
Bulldogs defenceman Andre Benoit played in his 100th career AHL game.
The game starts at 7 p.m.