After a very competitive development and training camp, the Hamilton Bulldogs opened their 2022 OHL Pre-Season with a trip to Pennsylvania over the Labour Day weekend to square off with the Erie Otters on Friday, September 2nd & Saginaw Spirit on Saturday, September 3rd.

Opening Pre-Season with the Otters

Bulldogs’ 2022 1st Round Selection Marek Vanacker opened the pre-season for the Bulldogs at 14:05 of the first period, crashing to the front of the net to knock home the rebound of a Callum Cheynowski blueline drive giving Bulldogs an early glimpse of an exciting future.

Hamilton’s offense stayed hot into the middle frame as Noah VandenBrink and Masen Wray took off on a 2-on-1 just past the midway point of the period with Wray eventually finding a trailing Adrian Rebelo for his first goal with the Bulldogs giving the visitors a 2-0 lead.

Before the second period was out the Bulldogs’ bite was felt again, Ryan Humphrey forced a defensive zone turnover and took off with Mark Duarte in a 2-on-1 and once again, the trailer would be goal scorer as Lawson Sherk arrived on the scene to bang home a rebound giving the Bulldogs a 3-0 advantage through 40 minutes.

To open the final frame and on the power-play, the Bulldogs put their cycle game to use with Marek Vanacker in exchange with Braeden O’Keefe, working the puck back to the right point for Lucas Moore who slid left for Gavin White. With White closing off the left circle, he split the seam with a brilliant pass to O’Keefe to give the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead.

The Otters battled back in the final frame scoring back-to-back goals at 4:50 & 5:29 to cut the Dogs’ lead in half. Adrian Rebelo’s 2nd of the game from Noah VandenBrink set the Bulldogs back to a 3-goal, 5-2 lead at 7:33. The Otters just wouldn’t go away though, with Malcolm Spence, Dylan Edwards & Bruce McDonald all scoring just over 7 minutes apart to tie the game 5-5 and send the pre-season opener to a shootout.

Six shooters aside would stride in at Matteo Drobac in the Hamilton goal and Jacob Gibbons between the Erie pipes and only three would hit the back of the net. Adrian Rebelo continued his impressive first twirl with the Bulldogs, scoring on the Dogs’ second shot of the contest. Cayuga’s Sam Alfano followed up one from regulation time to tie the shootout on Erie’s third shot. In the sixth round, Matteo Drobac slammed the door on Spencer Sova while Gavin White bested Jacob Gibbons to give the Bulldogs an exciting 6-5 victory.

Stopping the Spirit

Less than 24 hours following the Bulldogs victory over the Otters, they were right back into action against the Saginaw Spirit, meeting their Michigan rivals on the frozen river for the first time since March of 2020.

Hamilton got off to a slightly slow start with Lincoln Moore opening the scoring for Saginaw at 3:10. The deficit didn’t last long as Noah Van Vliet recorded his first of the pre-season at 9:51, unassisted, to send the game down the tunnel locked up 1-1.

Saginaw repeated their strong start in the second frame, scoring just 2:48 in through Luke McNamara with exceptional status rookie Michael Misa picking up his first OHL pre-season point on the goal. From there it was all Hamilton however as Florian Xhekaj got the game knotted at 3:59 from Braeden O’Keefe & Jorian Donovan followed by last season’s goal scoring leader Avery Hayes and 2022 Playoff MVP Logan Morrison taking over the game. Morrison struck first at 5:52 to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game and was quickly matched on the scoresheet by Hayes at 9:05 recording his first of the pre-season from Cole Brown giving the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead to the intermission.

Logan Morrison connected with Avery Hayes for the latter’s second of the contest at 7:14 of the final frame, diving both members of the Bulldogs’ dynamic duo a 2-point pre-season debut and the team a 5-2 lead that would prove insurmountable. The Spirit would claw one back in the third but its as close as they would get with 16-year-old rookie David Egorov turning aside 29 of 32 Saginaw shots for his first OHL pre-season victory and Bulldogs clean sweep of the weekend.

The Bulldogs will next take to the ice on Tuesday, September 20th from Morgan Firestone Arena when Hamilton plays host to the visiting Niagara IceDogs.

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