MALBOEUF STOPS 40, FIREBIRDS EDGE BULLDOGS 3-1
FLINT, MICHIGAN. The Hamilton Bulldogs travelled south of the border Friday night for their first of 2 games in the state of Michigan, matching up against the Flint Firebirds visiting the Dort Financial Center for the first time since February 2020. The Bulldogs entered the game shorthanded with just 16 available skaters due to injury.
The Firebirds put pressure on the Bulldogs early, with Amadeus Lombardi and Gavin Hayes leading the charge in the offensive zone. Flint’s Nolan Dann opened the scoring 5:02 into the game, receiving a pass from behind the net from Simon Slavicek, and quickly tapped the puck past Tristan Malboeuf for his 12th of the season. Sahil Panwar attempted to spark the Bulldogs, making a nifty move around the opposing Firebirds defenseman before being denied by Firebirds rookie goaltender, Nathan Day. Nick Lardis earned another great chance as he beat out Tyler Deline in a race for the loose puck but was once again denied by Day. With the clock expiring in a 33-second Firebirds 5-on-3, Amadeus Lombardi threw the puck to the net with Riley Piercey poked the rebound across the crease where Gavin Hayes beat a sprawling Malboeuf to the puck, slapping it into the net doubling the Firebirds at 19:42 on his 37th of the season, giving the Firebirds a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Despite Hamilton being unable to capitalize on an early second period man advantage, it was under a minute later that Adrian Rebelo toe dragged around a pair of Firebirds defenders and found Florian Xhekaj cross crease for a one-timer which the Bulldogs power-forward converted for his 13th of the season, chopping Flint’s lead in half at 5:37. The Firebirds regained their 2-goal lead shortly after, as Lombardi and Panwar lined up at the faceoff dot in the Bulldogs defensive zone, Lombardi pushed the puck through the legs of Panwar and dove at the puck to swipe it cross crease to Gavin Hayes for his 2nd goal of the evening and 38th of the season, giving Flint a 3-1 lead at 10:12. Tristan Malboeuf used the middle frame to make himself the story of the game, coming up big for his team, stopping Lombardi on a deflection opportunity, and Coulson Pitre point blank on a 2-on-1 and smothering the rebound. Nick Lardis was inches away from cutting a dent into the deficit, firing a shot on net that trickled behind Nathan Day, however Braeden Kressler dove behind his goaltender and swiped the puck away. Malboeuf had to make a sprawling right pad stop in the closing seconds of the period to keep it a 3-1 game after 40 minutes.
Five minutes into the period, Alex Bradshaw was sent to the box for tripping Lawson Sherk, giving Hamilton a prime opportunity to get back in the game, only to have Nathan Day deny a flurry around his goal. With the game back to even strength Amadeus Lombardi attempted to score a “Michigan” goal but couldn’t fool Malboeuf and the red-hot goaltender came up big with a glove save seconds later to settle the game down for the Dogs. With 3 minutes left on the clock and the Bulldogs still down by 2, Malboeuf went to the bench for the extra attacker. With 1:14 to go, the Bulldogs thought they cut the lead down to 1 on a Sahil Panwar one-timer set from a tremendous left half board pass through a pair of defenders from Patrick Thomas, however after a lengthy review, the play was determined to be offside. Malboeuf raced back to the bench and the Bulldogs didn’t quit, but time ran out and Flint took this one by a 3-1 score with Tristan Malboeuf starring, stopping 40 shots for the second time this season.
The Bulldogs are back in action tomorrow night, finishing up their Michigan road trip in Saginaw for a tilt against the Spirit. The puck drops at 7:00pm at the Dow Event Center.
For more information on Hamilton Bulldogs 2023 Playoff tickets call 905-529-8500 or visit hamiltonbulldogs.com.