The Hamilton Bulldogs paid a visit to the Leons Centre in Kingston to take on the Frontenacs Friday night in the second match-up of the year between the two eastern division rivals. Heading into the game the Bulldogs (8) held a 3-point advantage over the Frontenacs (5) and were coming in off a 4-3 loss in Peterborough on Thursday night.
Kingston had been off since an 8-7 OT loss in Ottawa on Thanksgiving Monday but worked hard in practice during the week looking at game tape and making some adjustments. The team also made two transactions since they last played with the trade of defenceman Billy Constantinou to the Soo Greyhounds for multiple draft picks and they also announced the signing of defenceman Ethan Ritchie who was acquired off waivers from Erie.
Heading into the game, the Frontenacs would have to keep OHL leading scorer and Los Angeles Kings draft pick (2nd rd 2019) Arthur Kaliyev at bay as the sniper came into Friday’s game hot with 8 goals in his last three games. Teammate Jan Jenik had also been a catalyst in the Bulldog attack with 15 pts in 8 games. “We will need to be aware of Kaliyev and take away his shot, make some blocks, as we know he likes to shoot a lot.“ said Frontenacs captain Jakob Brahaney after the team’s Wednesday practice. Kaliyev led the OHL with 51 shots heading into the matchup with Brahaney and the Frontenacs so clearly it’s about trying to contain him if not stop him.
The teams played last played on October 6th in Hamilton in which the visiting Frontenacs lost a 3-2 in a shootout. A power-play goal by Tag Bertuzzi late in the 3rd period forced the game to extra time and after nothing was solved in the OT session, Bertuzzi would go on to score the only goal of the shootout to win it for Hamilton that day but would not suit up in this game as he is serving a suspension. Zayde Wisdom scored both goals for Kingston in the matinee game.
With the Frontenacs coming off a high-scoring affair in their last game and the Bulldogs giving up two late goals to lose Thursday night in Peterborough, it wasn’t a surprise the game started out with both teams playing a tight-checking affair. Neither team was giving many quality chances up in the first half of the period with both teams registering 2 shots each.
Kingston’s best chance of the period came after a crafty steal by rookie Shane Wright set up a Zayde Wisdom shot that was saved by Bulldogs starter Zachary Roy. Wisdom has been a force so far as the power-forward has been showing a willingness to assert himself physically while remaining a dangerous scorer.
Wisdom showed leadership as well stepping in as Wright got tangled up with Hamilton’s Navrin Mutter who gave the rookie some shots. While not egregious, Wisdom showed that he is ready to make sure the opposition should expect pushback.
With just over 6 minutes left in the period, Hamilton would strike first after Frontenacs starter Ryan Dugas made the first save on an Avery Hayes backhand but couldn’t extend his leg far enough to prevent Isaac Nurse from banging home the rebound to put the visitors up 1-0. Dugas had made some nice saves including stopping Nurse on a semi-break minutes earlier.
Kaliyev would score his league-leading 12th of the year giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead just over two minutes later at the 15:06 mark, as he would fire off a one-timer that Dugas had no chance on. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to a great shot, and that was one of them. Jan Jenik would record a point in his 9th-straight game on the play as he set up Kaliev with a nice pass that eluded two Kingston defenders sticks.
Kingston would get their first power play with Hamilton’s Payton Vescio off for holding with 4:33 left in the period but could not connect with no shots generated.
Dawson Baker would get called for a double-minor high-sticking penalty with 56 seconds left in the period and the Bulldogs would connect again before the end of the period scoring a power-play goal again off a rebound making it 3-0. It wasn’t an arguable play, but it was a tough call on Baker as he and Jenik came together and his stick came up and caught Jenik drawing blood.
The Frontenacs killed off the second-end the Baker double-minor penalty with some stiff penalty killing as they allowed only one shot. The kill seemed to give the Frontenacs some momentum as they started to control the game with some good scoring chances including a Lucas Rowe wrister.
Kingston’s PK units would be tested again as, for the second time of the night, referee Dave Lewis called a double-minor penalty as he whistled Nick Wong for the infraction. On the replay it looked like Justin Pringle’s stick caught the Hamilton player, not Wong’s. That being said it was a penalty.
It was another successful kill for coach Foster’s team as they only allowed 3 shots while down a man for the four minutes. He had said during the week that they had worked on some PK systems as he wanted to see improvement while down a man. While he would like to lower the number of penalties taken (12.2 mins/gm coming in – 12 mins tonight), some of the lessons learned through the week showed up as the Hamilton power-play, ranked in the top-ten in the OHL, went just 1 for 6 on the night.
Jordan Frasca said of the PK after the game: “Fozz (coach) worked with us, showed us we need to do and key on and made us focus on 3 goals that will help us on the PK.”
The teams were playing four-on-four when Kaliyev took a penalty putting the Frontenacs on the power-play for the second time of the night. It was Kingston’s turn to score a power-play goal and shortly after Bulldogs starter Zachary Roy made a brilliant save off a Wright one-timer, Kingston broke through. Lucas Rowe took a nice feed from Wisdom and set-up Lucas Peric for a blistering one-timer from the blueline making it 3-1 at the 15:23 mark. It was the former Ottawa 67’s defenceman’s first goal with Kingston.
Wisdom would pull Kingston within one goal making it 3-2 just under two minutes later when he banged home rebound off a Frasca shot at 17:04. Frasca had made a slick play through the neutral zone, flipping it to himself before firing a wrist shot that Roy had bounce off his pad and Wisdom was all over it driving to the net. Tied with Nick Wong for second in team scoring with 7 points, Frasca says “I just need to keep doing the right things, keep playing hard, and keep going to the dirty areas.” When asked about his 15 shots over the last 4 games the offensive-minded player replied: “I just need to keep finding the open lanes towards the net and shooting the puck.”
The Frontenacs would start the 3rd much like the 2nd period as they were on the penalty kill when Peric was called for hooking at 19:55 of the middle frame. However, just 29 seconds into the last period, Hamilton took a penalty to negate their power play.
As Kingston has shown this season, they are always trying to push as the game progresses. Their 13 shots in the third were the most of any of the periods as they continued to press for the tying goal forcing Roy to make some good saves.
The teams would trade power-play chances before the game would end as Kingston would put pressure on Roy again during their power play looking for the elusive 3rd goal. Nick Wong had a great chance but Roy was able to withstand the heat Kingston was bringing as he was playing solid in the Hamilton net.
Before Kingston could tie the game Arthur Kaliyev would score his second of the night into an empty net giving the Bulldogs the 4-2 win.
Ryan Dugas looked solid in the Kingston net making 39 saves on 42 shots including some key saves at times of the game to keep his team within striking distance. It was the goaltender’s first start at home on the season.
Game Night Spotlight: Braden Hache
2019 4th round selection Braden Hache made his Leon’s Centre debut in front of the home fans after suiting up for 2 road games so far. Speaking to me after the game he said he had some nervous energy coming in, which would be obvious playing in front of your home fans but he added: “I felt really comfortable by getting in a few games on the road, especially with the big crowd in Ottawa.” The 16-year-old rookie defenceman has a bright future as attested to by his teammates and coach.
“I was excited for this game, though not the outcome we wanted, it was nice to play in front of the home crowd as they make you feel at home in this rink.” He is adjusting to the speed of the OHL game coming out of York-Simcoe: “the speed would be the biggest challenge. Having that extra few extra seconds in minor hockey, you don’t have here, and so I’m adjusting to make quick plays under a lot of pressure.”
Having a head coach who used to play defence has given a huge advantage to his progression as a young defenceman. “Developing under Fozzy was a goal, I wanted to come to camp and be under his wing. Having a guy like him that has so much experience, it’s the little things that he catches.” Captain Jakob Brahaney speaks highly of his time helping the 6′ 2″, 180 pound Newmarket, Ont native cut his teeth in the OHL.
Jordan Frasca extended his point streak to 4 games (1G, 5A)
Zayde Wisdom extended his point streak to 5 games (4G, 4A)
1.Kaliyev – HAM
2. Wisdom -KGN
3. Dugas -KGN
Next up: In London vs Knights on Saturday at 4 PM & in Sarnia vs the Sting on Sunday at 4 PM