The Hamilton Bulldogs put a stop to two dubious American Hockey League streaks on Friday (Jan. 4) with a 3-1 win over the Rockford IceHogs.
The win snapped a three-game losing skid and Patrick Holland’s goal at 19:59 of the first period ended a club-record scoreless drought of 200 minutes and 29 seconds over four games, dating back to a 6-3 win over the visiting St. John’s IceCaps on Dec. 28.
Gabriel Dumont contributed one goal and one assist and Olivier Fortier also scored as the Bulldogs improved their record to 12-18-1-2 for 27 points. Goaltender Robert Mayer made 35 saves before a crowd of 4,505 at Copps Coliseum.
Ben Smith scored for the IceHogs, who lost a second consecutive game, to fall to 17-15-1-1 for 36 points. Goaltender Alec Richards faced 28 shots in his first start since stopping 29 shots in a 4-2 road loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Dec. 9.
The visitors to Hamilton opened the scoring at 1:53 of the first period when Smith converted a rebound over a prone Mayer.
Holland finally found the offence the Bulldogs had been looking for when he tipped home a shot from the blue line by Dumont. The goal was Holland’s fourth of the season and first in 13 games since he struck in a 3-2 road win over the Hershey Bears on Dec. 8.
Prior to Friday’s game, the Bulldogs had been shut out for three consecutive games for the first time in club history and hadn’t scored since an empty-net goal by Brendon Nash at 19:30 of the third period sealed the win over the IceCaps. The Bulldogs then lost three consecutive road games, 4-0 to the Lake Erie Monsters the following night, 2-0 to the Rochester Americans last Monday and 6-0 to the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday.
The visitors held a 16-11 edge in first-period shots and the Bulldogs tested Richards on a number of occasions, but the goaltender foiled two short breakaway opportunities from Frederic St-Denis and Michael Bournival, snared a Mike Blunden shot from in close and denied Bournival, who had jumped on the rebound of a Dumont shot.
Dumont gave the Bulldogs their first lead in four games on the power play at 17:11 of the second period. With Jimmy Hayes off for tripping Dumont redirected a hard shot from the blue line from St-Denis for his team-leading 10th goal of the season. The goal was the first on the power play in 17 man-advantage opportunities since the Bulldogs scored two goals in five chances against the IceCaps.
The IceHogs outshot the home side 12-11 in the period, but Mayer was sharp, stopping a Brandon Pirri backhander in the 13th minute, foiling Jeremy Morin on a Rockford power play and he snared a shot from Kyle Beach on a two-on-one with Brandon Bollig.
Defenceman Adam Clendening hammered a shot during a power play in the 14th minute that caromed off the post to Mayer’s left and came to rest on the goal line.
Fortier made it 3-1 at 5:51 of the third period, just 10 seconds after the IceHogs had killed a hooking penalty to Clendening. Philippe Lefebvre’s shot bounced off Richards’s pad and unto the stick of Fortier who buried it for his first goal in 11 games since being recalled to the Bulldogs from the Orlando Solar Bears of the East Coast Hockey League on Dec. 12. Lefebvre was making his Bulldogs season debut after being assigned to the team by the Montreal Canadiens on Dec.31 from the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. Steve Quailer earned the second assist.
The IceHogs pressed over the final five minutes to cut the deficit, but Mayer turned away shots from Smith, Nick Leddy and Klas Dahlbeck. Richards went to the bench for a sixth attacker with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, but the visitors could get no closer.
The Bulldogs were without Greg Pateryn, Antoine Corbin, Joonas Nattinen, Aaron Palushaj, Blake Geoffrion and Alexander Avtsin. The IceHogs scratched Joe Lavin, Wade Brookbank, Brett Lebda and Hamilton native Peter LeBlanc.
The Bulldogs’ next game is against the Lake Erie Monsters at Copps Coliseum at 7 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 5).
The Bulldogs were 1-for-5 on the power play. Rockford was 0-for-3
The Bulldogs are 7-6-1-0 at home while the IceHogs are 7-8-1-1 on the road. The game was the first of four January home dates for the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are 6-17-1-1 when allowing the opponent to score first
After a long travel day in which he flew from San Antonio to Buffalo via Atlanta, defenceman Jason DeSantis made his Bulldogs debut, one day after the Florida Panthers reassigned him to the club from the San Antonio Rampage. DeSantis, who didn’t arrive in Hamilton until 4 p.m., was paired with rookie Jarred Tinordi
Nash was reassigned to the Rampage the same day by the Montreal Canadiens
Lefebvre had eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 28 games for the Nailers. He played 69 games for the Bulldogs in 2011-12
Quailer’s assist broke a 10-game pointless drought since he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over the visiting Monsters on Dec. 11
Zack Stortini and Bollig squared off in a fight one second into the second period
Carter Hutton, who had started Rockford’s previous eight games, is among the AHL goaltending leaders in wins, losses and games and minutes played. He posted 32 wins during 2012, tied for second in the AHL with Dustin Tokarski, who played for the Norfolk Admirals and Syracuse. David Leggio of the Rochester Americans compiled 34 wins last year
The Bulldogs were last shutout in consecutive games in 2007-08 when they lost 4-0 to the visiting Quad City Flames on Jan. 25 and 2-0 at home to the Syracuse Crunch the following night
Mayer made 26 saves as the Bulldogs posted a 6-4 win at Rockford on Dec. 15 in the opener of the teams’ two-game season series. The Bulldogs have yet to lose to the IceHogs in regulation in 10 all-time games. The Bulldogs have eight wins and one loss each via overtime and shootout.
1. RFD – Ben Smith (14) – (Shawn Lalonde, Brandon Pirri) 1:53
2. HAM – Patrick Holland (4) – (Gabriel Dumont, Mike Blunden) 19:59
3. HAM – Gabriel Dumont (10) – (Frederic St-Denis, Stefan Chaput) 17:11 PP
4. HAM – Olivier Fortier (1) – (Philippe Lefebvre, Steve Quailer) 5:51