Gru­den’s phi­los­o­phy? Play ‘right way’

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE

There’s some­thing that mat­ters more to John Gru­den than a win or the num­ber of points his play­ers rack up.

It’s play­ing the game “the right way” — and it’s a phrase he keeps com­ing back to in in­ter­views and in the dress­ing room this sea­son. But what does it ac­tu­ally mean? “It’s bat­tling,” the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs head coach ex­plained fol­low­ing Satur­day’s loss to the Ni­a­gara IceDogs.

“It’s be­ing a good team­mate, it’s short shifts, it’s stick­ing to the game plan we give them and it’s skat­ing on pucks. Get­ting to the dirty ar­eas, win­ning one-on-one bat­tles, work­ing hard for your part­ner, dis­ci­pline. It’s all those lit­tle de­tails and habits within a hockey game.

“You’re not melt­ing ice, you’re en­gaged,” he added. “Those are the things and, for the first time, it’s just a lit­tle dis­heart­en­ing. I ex­pected our guys to be bet­ter.”

The Bull­dogs jumped out to an early lead and later bounced back to knot the score in the sec­ond. How­ever, with for­wards Macken­zie En­twistle and Bran­don Saigeon out of the lineup and Will Bit­ten, an­other top­sixer, play­ing in­ter­mit­tently, they couldn’t pull off a win against a des­per­ate IceDogs squad ea­ger to snap a six-game skid.

“I don’t want to make ex­cuses,” Gru­den said. “Saig, sus­pen­sion; Bitts with his an­kle was in and out; En­wis­tle has mono; and guys play­ing too many min­utes, prob­a­bly, in sit­u­a­tions that they’re not nor­mally ac­cus­tomed to. And again, it re­sults in a loss. A one-goal loss.”

The 4-3 lost was Hamil­ton’s first loss in five games against Ni­a­gara this sea­son, and its 14th by a sin­gle goal. Only one team in the On­tario Hockey League has more one-goal losses — the IceDogs, iron­i­cally, with 16.

“It wasn’t good,” Gru­den said when asked if his club played the right way against Ni­a­gara. “They were fake work­ing, cheat­ing the game.”

Cheat­ing the game. That’s an­other one of the bench boss’s favourite say­ings — and it’s pretty much the op­po­site of play­ing the right way.

“All of those things I talked about be­fore — if they’re not do­ing them, they’re not do­ing the right things,” he added. There’s good news, though. De­spite los­ing four of their past five games go­ing into Sun­day’s mati­nee in Oshawa, the Bull­dogs have been do­ing some things the right way, said Gru­den — and more con­sis­tently.

The of­fence they gen­er­ated against the IceDogs (who they out­shot 41-32) is one ex­am­ple.

“Be­fore, we were just giv­ing games away with our de­ci­sion­mak­ing. Tonight wasn’t like that. It’s a team ef­fort, it’s a coach­ing ef­fort. We’re in this to­gether ... and we’ve got to fig­ure out a way to get through the week­end with a win.” That didn’t hap­pen. Against the East­ern Con­fer­ence­lead­ing Gen­er­als, the fifth-place Bull­dogs fell be­hind 2-0 in the first and never quite caught up. The re­sult was a sec­ond straight loss — this one by a score of 4-2.

Eric Hen­der­son led the way with two goals for Oshawa, in­clud­ing an empty-net­ter, while Re­nars Kras­ten­bergs and Danil An­tropov chipped in sin­gles.

Saigeon and Niki Petti had the Hamil­ton mark­ers.

Jeremy Brodeur was ex­cep­tional in goal for the Gens, turn­ing away a whop­ping 43 shots and be­ing named the game’s first star. At the other end, Daw­son Carty had 27 saves in his ninth reg­u­la­tion loss.

With that, the Bull­dogs fall to 1-5 in their past six out­ings. Their only win in the past two weeks came on Fri­day, when they downed the vis­it­ing Bar­rie Colts, 3-2. NOTES: Matthew Strome scored twice in Satur­day’s loss to Ni­a­gara and Mar­ian Stu­denic once — his third goal in two games. Oliver Castle­man, Ryan Man­tha, Akil Thomas and Da­nial Singer all found the back of the net for the IceDogs and Stephen Dhillon earned first star hon­ours with 39 saves. Kaden Fulcher stopped 28 shots for the Bull­dogs.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Bull­dogs’ Mar­ian Stu­denic gets laid out by a check Satur­day against Ni­a­gara. Hamil­ton lost 4-3 to the IceDogs and 4-2 to Oshawa on Sun­day.

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