The Hamilton Bulldogs put two strong games together this weekend, beating the Kingston Frontenacs 3-1 on Saturday night and the Niagara IceDogs 8-2 on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday’s game got physical early, as Kingston’s Braden Hache sent Hamilton’s Ryan Humphrey into the boards in the neutral zone. Hache took a two-minute boarding penalty on the play as Humphrey went to the locker room; he would later return. Soon after, Hamilton would go to the 5-on-3 for 36 seconds as Kingston’s Dawson Baker went to the box for a hook on Bulldogs’ Nathan Staios. Kingston would kill both penalties and the game remained tied at zero. There was no score at the end of the first, and Hamilton led Kingston in shots, 11-7.
Kingston opened the scoring early in the second period, as Jordan Frasca made a move on Hamilton goaltender Zach Roy and scored his 10th of the season. Hamilton would go on the power play, as Nick King of the Frontenacs was sent off for high-sticking; but Kingston killed the penalty and kept their one-goal lead safe. Hamilton’s Tag Bertuzzi and Kingston’s Lucas Rowe got in a scuffle behind the Hamilton net after Bertuzzi knocked Kingston’s Shane Wright into the boards from behind. Bertuzzi was assessed a two-minute checking from behind call, and Rowe sat for roughing. But Hamilton was able to capitalize during the 4-on-4, as Logan Morrison found Avery Hayes at the back door, and he beat Kingston goalie Christian Propp to score his 15th of the season and tie the game at one.
The third period was quiet, with no action for the first 18 minutes. With just over two minutes to play, Hamilton’s Bradey Johnson got his fourth of the year to give the Bulldogs the lead for the first time in the game. Hamilton’s Isaac Nurse got the insurance marker in the empty net to put the Bulldogs up 3-1. That would be enough, as Hamilton would top Kingston 3-1 at home.
“We talked a lot this week about our team identity and really sticking to that, and just getting back to work and being united,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Vince Laise on the team’s approach to the game coming off a two-game losing streak.
On to Sunday’s afternoon game, with the Niagara IceDogs visiting at the FirstOntario Centre. Hamilton came out quick, outshooting the IceDogs 5-1 in the opening 10 minutes, but Niagara goaltender Josh Rosenzweig was able to keep Hamilton off the board. But Hamilton was finally able to slip one past Rosenzweig with just over six minutes to play in the period, as Cameron Supryka took a shot that deflected off the foot of Mutter and into the net for the 1-0 Bulldogs’ lead.
Hamilton piled it on in the last minute of the first. With 25 seconds left in the period, captain Isaac Nurse got his sixth of the season — on his bobblehead night — with a shot that beat Rosenzweig glove side. Just 21 seconds later, George Diaco got his second of the year to put the Bulldogs up by three heading into the break.
The IceDogs made a goalie switch to start the second, with Christian Sbaraglia taking over the crease. Hamilton’s Bertuzzi took an early minor penalty for tripping, but the Bulldogs were able to kill it off and keep their 3-0 lead intact. At the 12:47 mark, Nurse scored his second of the game and seventh of the season to extend the Hamilton lead to 4-0. The Bulldogs continued to pull away, as Jake Gravelle put his second of the season past Sbaraglia to put Hamilton up by five. Soon after, Hamilton’s Davis Young deflected a shot from the point from Supryka to extend the lead to 6-0. Niagara was able to break Hamilton’s shutout bid on the powerplay with Hamilton’s Ryan Winterton in the box for roughing — IceDog Oliver Castleman got one past Roy to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to five. That would be it for the second, as Hamilton went to the locker room with a 6-1 lead.
It took only 23 seconds in the third for Nurse to complete the hat trick, scoring his eighth of the season to put Hamilton up 7-1. Soon after, Niagara’s Jake Uberti had a break and made a move on Roy, getting his 10th of the season and cutting Hamilton’s lead to 7-2. But the Bulldogs continued to carry the play throughout the period. After a long possession, Bulldogs defenseman Michael Renwick took a shot from the point that was deflected by Young over the glove of Sbaraglia to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 8-2 and complete the rout. Hamilton walked away with this one by a score of 8-2 to pocket four points on the weekend.
“It’s huge,” said Nurse on scoring a hat trick on his bobblehead day. “My teammates all worked hard and without them I wouldn’t have had the hat trick today, so I give all credit to them.”
The Bulldogs are back in action at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines facing the IceDogs Thursday night.