HAMILTON, ONTARIO. The Hamilton Bulldogs played host to the Barrie Colts for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal final series. The Bulldogs entered the game in a do or die situation trailing the series 3-2 after falling by a 4-1 score in Game 5.

The line of Thomas, Lardis and Panwar combined for an absolutely magnificent passing play entering the offensive zone, with Panwar finishing off the play deflecting the Thomas pass past Anson Thornton for his 1st of the playoffs, opening the scoring for the Bulldogs at 3:13. Barrie’s Roenick Jodoin was sent to the box for tripping Cedricsson Okitundu, giving Hamilton the first powerplay of the night. It took the Bulldogs less than 30 seconds of powerplay time to get setup and put the puck in the back of the net as Lucas Moore blasted a one timer past the glove of Thornton for his 2nd of the playoffs off a brilliant cross-slot backhand pass from Patrick Thomas putting the Bulldogs up 2-0 under halfway into the opening period. The Colts increased the pressure in the ladder half of the 1st period, hemming a gassed Bulldogs line in their defensive zone for over 90 seconds. Matteo Drobac was up to the task however, losing his paddle twice during the play but regaining it both times and getting his team a whistle with a spectacular series of stops. With 2 minutes left in the period, the crowd and the referee believed that Cole Brown wired a shot under the crossbar for a 3rd Bulldog goal, but the play was reviewed, and the puck did not cross the goal line, keeping the Bulldogs lead to 2-0 through 20 minutes.

The Colts continued where they left off at the end of the 1st and pushed heavy pressure right off the whistle. Despite Barrie being dominant in the shot department, Noah Nelson sent Florian Xhekaj a beautiful breakaway pass who made zero mistake tucking the puck, backhand through the five-hole of Thornton giving the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead at 4:43 on his 1st of the playoffs. Hamilton’s Braeden O’Keefe had his best shift of the playoffs, first setting up an offensive opportunity followed by drawing a hooking call on Barrie’s Beau Jelsma. Shortly after the power-play expired, Noah Van Vliet conjured a miracle to keep the puck out of the Bulldogs net, diving across the goal line and batting the puck back under Drobac. Brandt Clarke continued his hot streak and wired the puck past a screened Matteo Drobac on the power-play getting Barrie on the board to make it 3-1 at 13:40. Beau Akey continued the Colts momentum scoring to bring the visitors within one at 17:13, followed by an Ethan Cardwell pass attempt deflecting off Lawson Sherk’s stick at 18:34, and sneaking past Drobac’s pad inside the post to tie the game 3-3 heading to the intermission.

Nick Lardis showed off his quick release receiving a pass from Panwar and snapping the puck right off the crossbar and out to open the third period. In a moment of need on the penalty kill, Lucas Moore and Noah Van Vliet put their bodies on the line, each laying out to block a pair of shots with the crowd and bench roaring their approval. At 13:42 the puck landed on the stick of a very wide-open Ethan Cardwell. Matteo Drobac cross-crease in desperation but couldn’t get enough of his glove on and the Colts took a late 4-3 lead. As the Bulldogs amped up the late pressure, Artem Grushnikov raced down the left-wing side, ducking his shoulder and faking a net drive the stalwart defensive presence showed his offensive flare feeding Nick Lardis net front who hammered the puck past Thornton, tying the game 4-4 at 16:47. With just 9.9 seconds to play, after the Colts created a zone exit with speed through Evan Vierling, the Colts center found Ethan Cardwell darting into the zone alone on the right where he placed a perfect shot under the cross-bar to give Barrie a 5-4 lead that stood through the final seconds, eliminating the defending J. Ross Robertson Cup Champions.

With heads held high, the Bulldogs saluted their fans and skated down the tunnel to close the 2022-23 season and with it, an indelible chapter in Hamilton hockey history.

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