Hamilton Bulldogs win the 2007 Calder Cup

Cost of a beer at the Jump On The Bulldogs Bandwagon tailgate party a couple of hours before the start of the hockey game: $5.50. The cost of a hamburger at the same party: $2.

The cost of not winning the Calder Cup: Price-less.

Bulldogs win the 2007 Calder Cup. (Photo: Ron Bernardo)
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And that is what the Hershey Bears were on Thursday night: Price-less. Because Carey Price was tending goal for the Hamilton Bulldogs and he backstopped them to the American Hockey League’s cherished silverware. Hamilton’s 2-1 win before a raucous 14,205 supporters gave the Bulldogs the AHL’s best-of-seven championship series 4-1, denying the defending Calder Cup champions a repeat of their glory from last season.

The 19-year-old Price didn’t join the Bulldogs until his junior team had been eliminated from its own playoffs this spring. But once the Montreal Canadiens draft pick joined the Bulldogs, he was virtually unbeatable.

Which explains why he was named the most valuable player in the post-season shootout, winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, and capping a season few netminders will ever experience. Price becomes the third teenaged goaltender in AHL history and the first since Patrick Roy in 1985, to lead his team to a Calder Cup title. The Williams Lake, B.C., native was named the tournament MVP for Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championships and the outstanding goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League.

Hamilton fans packed the Copps Coliseum doghouse on Thursday. 14,205 attended the final. (Photo: Ron Bernardo)
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In 2003, the Hamilton Bulldogs had a powerhouse team that should have won the Calder Cup. But in a seventh-game showdown with the Houston Aeros, the Bulldogs came up short and lost their bid for the league’s top prize.

In 2007, the Hamilton Bulldogs had a team that struggled to make the playoffs and were never the odd-on-favourite to win any of their elimination series. But grit, determination, and skilled forged an unstoppable machine that showed its true colours when Ajay Baines scored the game-winning, shorthanded goal midway through the third period.

Hamilton was the lower seed in each round but never trailed in any of its four series, defeating Rochester (4-2), Manitoba (4-2) and Chicago (4-1) before ousting the defending Calder Cup champs from Pennsylvania.

After a scoreless opening period, Hamilton struck first for the fifth time in as many games in the series when Maxim Lapierre recorded his sixth goal of the post–season at 14:37 of the middle stanza. Andre Benoit drew the lone assist on the goal.

The Bears pulled even just four minutes later when Jakub Klepis scored his seventh goal of the playoffs.

That set the stage for Baines’ dramatics at 9:33 of the final frame. He converted a pass from Lapierre on a 2-on-1 brake to give the ‘Dogs a 2-1 lead.

Price made 29 saves on 30 shots while Frederic Cassivi turned aside 24 of 26 shots.

Don Lever, 20 years removed from winning the Calder Cup as a player for the Rochester Americans, earned his first AHL title as a head coach as the Bulldogs captured the championship in their third trip to the finals.