Bulldogs take first series, await next playoff opponent

The Hamilton Bulldogs have advanced to the American Hockey League’s North Division final with a 3-2 overtime against the Manitoba Moose.

Sunday’s win at Copps Coliseum gave the Bulldogs the best-of-seven series, 4-2 in games. They’ll meet either The Rochester Americans or the Abbotsford Heat in the division final. That series is tied at 3-3 in games with the deciding contest set for Tuesday night in Rochester.

The Bulldogs fired a season-high 49 shots on the Manitoba net with Grant Stevenson scoring the overtime winner at the 8:49 mark.

The visiting Moose opened the game’s scoring at 4:03 of the first period with a shorthanded marker. Yan Stastny and Guillaume Desbiens skated into the Bulldogs’ zone on a two-on-one. Stastny fed a pass to Desbiens, who carried the puck towards the net. His shot was stopped by goaltender Cedrick Desjardins but the rebound bounced onto the stick of Stastny, who fired the puck into the net.

Hamilton tied the game 14 minutes later with a power-play goal. Andre Benoit’s shot on net was stopped by goalie Cory Schneider. P.K. Subban grabbed the loose rebound and faked a shot before sending the puck to David Desharnais, who was stationed at the right side of the net. Desharnais blasted a one-time shot past Schneider.

Peter Olvecky regained the lead for the Moose 33 seconds into the second stanza. Marco Rosa intercepted a pass from a Bulldogs player before chipping the puck to Olvecky, who was alone in front of the Hamilton net. Olvecky backhanded the puck over the glove of Desjardins.

The Bulldogs tied the game, again on the power play at 15:26 of the second stanza. Subban sent a pass to Brock Trotter, who was stationed at the left side boards. Trotter’s shot towards the net hit a player and Ryan White grabbed the puck before shovelling it between the legs of Schneider.

With neither team able to score in the final 20 minutes, overtime was necessary. Stevenson scored after Ryan Russell raced down the right side boards before backhanding a pass to Stevenson. The puck banked off Stevenson and underneath the pad of Schneider.

A scant gathering of 2,791 took in the game.