Despite a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Marlies in American Hockey League play on Saturday (March 20), the Hamilton Bulldogs clinched first place in the North Division.
The shootout defeat still gave the visiting Bulldogs one point and that was enough to guarantee them top spot in their division. This is the club’s third division title in franchise history as they won the Canadian Division in 2002-03 and the North Division in 2003-04.
The Marlies got on the scoreboard first, a mere 13 seconds into the game at the Ricoh Centre. Tom Brent sent the puck to Phil Oreskovic, who was positioned at the right point. Oreskovic’s shot on net beat goaltender Cedrick Desjardins.
There was no scoring until 10:35 of the middle frame when Hamilton tied the game with a shorthanded marker. Ryan Russell carried the puck up-ice and faked a pass before rifling a shot past the blocker of goaltender Joey MacDonald.
Brent restored Toronto’s lead at 1:20 of the third period. A mishandled puck behind the Hamilton net allowed Brent to grab the loose disc and fire a slapshot over the glove of Desjardins.
Hamilton tied the game at 9:53 of the period. Andrew Conboy received the puck from Frederic St. Denis before skating down the left side boards. Conboy fired a shot that bounced off the leg of a Toronto defender and past MacDonald.
Toronto regained the lead less than two minutes later. Andre Deaveaux released a shot that was stopped by Desjardins, who could not control the rebound. Ryan Hamilton grabbed the loose puck and slid it under Desjardins.
Brock Trotter scored the Bulldogs third goal of the game at 13:10 of the last stanza. Mike Glumac carried the puck behind the Toronto net before sending a cross-crease pass to Trotter, who was stationed at the right side of the net and tapped the puck into the net.
Neither team could score in the sudden-death overtime. Tim Brent and Josh Engel scored for Toronto while MacDonald denied all four Hamilton shooters to win the game for the Marlies.
Hamilton had double the shots on net, 45-23.
The Bulldogs travel to Winnipeg to battle the Manitoba Moose on Tuesday (March 23) for an 8:30 p.m. game.