TEAM SPIRIT SPELLED OUT
Local elementary school students showed their support for the home team Wednesday at the Hamilton Bulldogs’ annual School Day game at FirstOntario Centre. Despite the colourful words of encouragement, the Bulldogs lost 5-2 to the Owen Sound Attack. Wednesday’s loss was their third in a row.
It’s a delicate balance, said John Gruden — finding a way to push his players over the hump without pushing too hard and sending them into a tailspin. That’s the last thing he needs. They’re already spinning enough.
Gruden’s Hamilton Bulldogs dropped a 5-2 decision to the visiting Owen Sound Attack in a rare morning matchup Wednesday. That loss, in front of a school day crowd of 8,400 local students, was the third in a row for the club, and sixth in seven games.
“We’ve got to get over it,” said the Bulldogs head coach. “If we sit and let it stir, it’s going to get worse. We have to find a way.”
After kicking off the second half of the Ontario Hockey League season with a solid 8-3 run, Hamilton — which is stagnating in fifth place in a weak Eastern Conference — has struggled to string together a solid 60 minutes in its last seven outings. The reason? According to Brandon Saigeon, it’s not an easy thing to do.
“We’re always trying to get better at that,” said the Grimsby-born forward. “Consistency is an important factor in winning teams and I think that’s probably the biggest thing Coach has preached to us.
“I think we’re starting to realize that if we’re going to be successful, we have to play 60 minutes,” he added.
The Attack, meanwhile, are at the other end of the consistency continuum. Over the past 20 games — a span in which they’ve outscored their competition a staggering 95-14 — they’ve racked up 18 wins and surrendered just a single regulation loss.
On Wednesday, defenceman Santino Centorame led the way with a goal and an assist — his league-leading 26th on the power play. Markus Phillips, Petrus Palmu, Nick Suzuki and Cordell James, a Hamilton native, also found the back of the net for the Attack, while Niki Petti and Michael Cramarossa scored for the Bulldogs.
Goalie Kaden Fulcher recorded the loss for Hamilton, despite being tugged after 40 minutes. He stopped nine of 12 shots, while his replacement Dawson Carty turned aside six of eight. At the other end of the rink, Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael McNiven had 29 saves in his 28th win.
The Bulldogs are back at it Friday when they travel to Mississauga to take on the surging Steelheads, who have lost just once in regulation in their last 10 outings. Their next home game is Saturday against the Windsor Spitfires. NOTES: The Bulldogs Foundation announced a $200,000 donation to the Dawgs Breakfast Program — the charity’s largest-ever commitment. The funding will help feed children at public and Catholic schools across Hamilton.
Hamilton’s Michael Cramarossa reaches around the goalpost and Owen Sound goaltender Michael McNiven to tap the puck across the goal line for the Bulldogs’ first goal Wednesday at FirstOntario Centre.