Bulldogs get their growl back
HAMILTON 6, WINDSOR 3
The Hamilton Bulldogs have a new goaltending philosophy. You win, you’re in. After alternating puck stoppers for the past month and a half, head coach John Gruden said it was time for someone “to take the bull by the horns.”
And, over the weekend, that was Dawson Carty.
After backstopping the Bulldogs to a shootout win in his hometown Friday, the 21-year-old from Mississauga had 25 saves against the visiting Windsor Spitfires the following night.
The 6-3 win was his 20th of the season, and seventh since being acquired by Hamilton in late December.
“I like it,” Carty said when asked about the team’s new netminding approach. “It gives a little extra motivation and we need wins right now — so I’m all for it.”
Kaden Fulcher, the other half of the Hamilton tandem, is too.
“It’s going to be fun to get some more internal competition and I think it’s a good plan,” he said.
“He’s rolling right now, so you’ve got to keep him rolling. I’m happy to sit on that bench if we can keep putting wins together.”
Carty’s play — particularly in the latter half of Saturday’s game — was crucial to the result. It was also overshadowed by that of Grimsby native Brandon Saigeon, who registered the first hat trick of his Ontario Hockey League career in the win.
Saigeon, 18, scored twice in the first period to put the Bulldogs ahead, and again in the third into an empty net.
His linemates likewise had a big night, with Michael Cramarossa notching a goal and three assists and Will Bitten chipping in a trio of helpers.
Matt Luff and Marian Studenic rounded out the scoring for Hamilton, while Gabriel Vilardi, Mikhail Sergachev and Graham Knott found the back of the net for Windsor.
“It felt good,” Saigeon said when asked about his feat. “It felt even better, though, to get the win.
“I think some guys really stepped up and our line happened to click tonight, but it’s not always one line. We have a pretty deep team, so all lines can have good games and play well and that’s what we need to beat teams like that,” he added.
The Bulldogs had some help from a major penalty called with 5:29 to go in the match. They were visibly gassed and up by just a single goal over Windsor, the fourth-place team in the Western Conference, when winger Jeremiah Addison hit Ben Gleason from behind and into the boards. They tacked on two goals — including Saigeon’s empty netter — with the man advantage.
In general, Hamilton’s play on special teams was a difference maker against the Spitfires. The club was a perfect three-for-three on the power play — an impressive accomplishment against the OHL’s top PK — and managed to kill off both of its own minor infractions.
“That was pretty big for us,” said Saigeon. “It was a good team win start to finish.”
Gruden agreed. “I thought we managed it really well,” he said of the game. “We weathered the storm. We didn’t give any breakaways away or any really big-time opportunities. So, for the most part, I’m really pleased with the effort.”
The fifth-place Bulldogs — who are now floating above the .500 mark after their winning weekend — are back at it Thursday when they visit the Eastern Conference leaders, the Peterborough Petes. Carty will get the start in goal. NOTES: Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots in the first period Saturday. According to Jim Parker at the Windsor Star, it was the first time in 39 starts this season the 17-year-old, who leads the league in shutouts, save percentage and goals-against average, has given up three goals in the opening frame. Mario Culina turned aside nine shots in relief.
Bulldog Brandon Saigeon has his shot blocked by Windsor Spitfire goalie Michael DiPietro during Saturday’s 6-3 Hamilton win.
Bulldog Niki Petti flies down the ice during Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Windsor Spitfires.