’Dogs take battle for third place

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – An unanswered four-goal charge in the second period on Friday (Feb. 3) carried the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 5-2 victory against the Grand Rapids Griffins in the first of two back-to-back American Hockey League games at Van Andel Arena.

Hamilton got goals from five different players – Olivier Fortier, Brian Willsie, Andreas Engqvist, Ian Schultz and Philippe Lefebvre to pick up their 20th win of the season. More importantly it moved the Bulldogs into third place one point head of the Griffins in the Western Conference’s North Division. The two teams play again tonight (Saturday).

Fortier gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with 5:15 left in the first period. His seventh marker of the season, assisted by Engqvist and Frederic St-Denis, who would have three helpers on the night, came on the power play.

But with just 68 seconds remaining in the period, Chris Minard tucked Chris Conner’s saucer pass past goaltender Nathan Lawson to tie the game.

Willsie ripped a shot over Grand Rapids starting goalie Tom McCollum’s shoulder for the ‘Dogs second power play goal of the night 7:14 into the second period. It was his ninth of the season. Just 1:24 later, and on another power play, Schultz played the puck in front of the net, allowing Engqvist to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead with his 14th.

Zack FitzGerald was served with a match misconduct following a heated discussion with Griffins’ Garnet Exelby. But the ‘Dogs took advantage of this 4-on-4 opportunity with Schultz knocking Gabriel Dumont’s rebound past McCollum for his third of the season, and his first goal in 14 games.

With 3:15 left in the second period, Lefebvre made it 5-1 on a delayed penalty call against the Griffins. Lefebvre completed a tic-tac-toe play from Dumont and Philip DeSimone to snap a nine-game pointless streak and an 11-game goalless streak.

Jordan Pearce assumed netminding duties for Grand Rapids for the third period. The Griffins second tally came while they were shorthanded when Doug Janik scored at 14:43.

Hamilton’s 5-2 win is the first in four games against the Griffins this season.

The shots on net were 29-28 for Grand Rapids. A crowd of 8,251 was on hand.