HAMILTON, ONTARIO. The Hamilton Bulldogs entered their second Memorial Cup in franchise history on Monday night, opening the tournament against the host Saint John Sea Dogs. Saint John enters the tournament looking to right their ship after being bounced from the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs while the Bulldogs arrived on the east coast off a 7-game Robertson Cup Finals victory but missing Colton Kammerer, Ryan Humphrey and Lawson Sherk to open the tournament.
Saint John got the start they were looking for at 2:17 of the opening period as Yan Kuznetsov fired a shot from the left point that had eyes through a screen and past the blocker of Marco Costantini to give the Sea Dogs a 1-0 lead. After Mark Duarte drew a penalty in the offensive zone through hard work on the end boards the Bulldogs power-play showed the Memorial Cup audience why they were so feared through the OHL playoffs. Off a zone entry from Avery Hayes the puck was pushed into the left wing corner for Logan Morrison who fed Ryan Winterton wide open in the bumper position to beat Nikolas Hurtubise, tying the game 1-1 at 8:43. Before the period was out Saint John wrestled the lead back, after a Philippe Daoust top of the slot shot was stopped by Marco Costantini the puck leaked out from under the Bulldogs goaltender as he tried to fall back on it, opening possession for Raivis Kristians Ansons to collect and score at 16:31 giving the hosts a 2-1 lead. A late first period pad save on a Ryan Francis 2-on-1 shot by Costantini appeared to charge the Bulldogs with Arber Xhekaj just missing over top of the Saint John goal in the final seconds of the opening frame sending the game to the dressing rooms with the Bulldogs down a goal after 20-minutes.
The second period didn’t go the way the Bulldogs we’re hoping as Saint John would continue to control the game adding a pair of goals on the board. At 10:50, Nathan Staios made a brilliant breakup of a 2-on-1 batting the puck out of the air but it settled right back at the feet of Philippe Daoust who fed William Dufour out front of the net to make it a 3-1 Sea Dogs lead. Despite a pushback from the Bulldogs with Nikolas Hurtubise making an incredible stop on a Morrison/Hayes 2-on-1 it was Saint John who again extended the lead with Ryan Francis scoring on a wraparound at 18:33 to cap the second period with a 4-1 Sea Dogs lead.
It was a furious comeback in the final frame for the Bulldogs as they found their legs and their offensive rhythm. With Hamilton on the power-play at 10:06 Logan Morrison connected on a brilliant cross zone pass to Avery Hayes, which Ryan Winterton let run through his legs for his 1st of the tournament to cut the lead to 4-2. With Marco Costantini on the Bulldogs bench at 16:41 Arber Xhekaj kept the puck alive and Hayes found Winterton for the second time in the game finding the back of the net and getting the Bulldogs back to within a goal, 4-3. With the press continuing a late change by the Sea Dogs found Peter Reynolds up ahead of the play to hit the empty net giving Saint John a 5-3 victory on opening night.
The Hamilton Bulldogs return to action at the Memorial Cup on Thursday night, June 23rd, facing off with the QMJHL Champions Shawinnigan Cataractes at 6:00pm from TD Station looking to get in the win column at the 2022 Memorial Cup
For more information on Hamilton Bulldogs 2022-23 Season Ticket packages call 905-529-8500 or visit hamiltonbulldogs.com