Bulldogs advance to meet Bears in Calder Cup showdown

It’s time for little B&B. No, not bed and breakfast but Bulldogs and Bears.

The American Hockey League’s matchups for the Calder Cup showdown have been set. Hamilton’s 3-1 win over the Chicago Wolves on Saturday night and Hershey’s victory over the Manchester Monarchs by the same score on the same night, means the Bulldogs and Bears start a best-of-seven championship final on Friday (June 1) in Hershey.

The second game will also be played in America’s sweetest city the following night before the series comes to Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum for Games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary) on June 4, 6, and 7.

The Hamilton games start at 7.30 p.m. and tickets for the Copps game go on sale beginning Monday at noon.

Saturday night, with 3,607 fans on hand, Danny Groulx had a goal and an assist to pave the Bulldogs to their 4-1 Western Conference series win.

Groulx opened the scoring at the 12:13 mark of the first period, ending goaltender Fred Brathwaite’s shutout streak at 89:43. The defenceman’s shot from the point deflected off a Wolves’ defender. Duncan Milroy and Matt D’Agostini assisted.

Before the second period was two minutes old, the ‘Dogs went ahead by two goals when Mikhail Grabovski took a pass from Groulx and beat Brathwaite. The goal was Grabovski’s second tally of the post-season.

Chicago cut the ‘Dogs lead to a goal at 16:41 of the period when Trevor Byrne’s screened slap shot from the point eluded Carey Price.

Kyle Chipchura iced the win for the Bulldogs by scoring a short-handed empty-net goal at 18:59 of the third period. It was his fifth of the post-season.

The Bulldogs went 0-for-7 on the power play, but also went a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty-kill.

Price was named the game’s first star with 32 saves on 33 shots for Hamilton, while Brathwaite stopped 21 of the 23 shots.

With the win, Hamilton returns to the Calder Cup final for the third time in franchise history, losing each of their last two appearances. In the Bulldogs inaugural season in 1997, they lost the series 4-1 to the Bears, and in 2003 the Houston Aeros upset the ‘Dogs 4-3.

The Bulldogs have now won the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as the AHL’s Western Conference champions for 2006-07. It is the second conference championship in five seasons for the Bulldogs and the third in the franchise’s 11 seasons.

Scoring Summary
First period
1. HAM – Danny Groulx-4 (Duncan Milroy, Matt D’Agostini) – 12:13

Second period
2. HAM – Mikhail Grabovski-2 (Danny Groulx, Andrew Archer) – 1:50
3. CHI – Trevor Byrne-2 (Jordan LaVallee, Niko Dimitrakos) – 16:41

Third period
4. HAM – Kyle Chipchura-5 (unassisted) – 18:59 (en.sh)