Bull­dogs take aim at fourth place

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE tpecoskie@thes­pec.com 905-526-3368 | @Te­ri­atTheSpec

One down. Four­teen to go.

The Hamil­ton Bull­dogs kicked off the fi­nal 15 games of their sched­ule with a hard­fought, 4-3, win in Peter­bor­ough Thurs­day. Brandon Saigeon led with a pair of goals, and Jack Han­ley got the late-game win­ner.

With 14 games left, the Bull­dogs are po­si­tioned to make their first play­off ap­pear­ance. But head coach John Gru­den doesn’t just want to make the post-sea­son, though, he wants to make it as the fourth-place team in the East­ern Con­fer­ence. That’s “the most re­al­is­tic goal.” “Home ice is al­ways im­por­tant,” he added. “If you look at our record, it doesn’t seem so much for us, but in gen­eral it’s al­ways nice to get home ice. At the end of the day, if we can con­tinue to get some more fans, some more en­ergy, some more buzz sur­round­ing the play­offs and the push for that spot, it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to help.”

If they make post-sea­son — and there’s no rea­son they shouldn’t — it will bring an end to a six-year play­off drought in Hamil­ton. The last time Bull­dogs played in the post-sea­son was 2011, when they were still in the Amer­i­can Hockey League and ousted by Hous­ton in the con­fer­ence fi­nals.

The Bull­dogs went into Peter­bor­ough in fifth place, three points back of Kingston and 14 shy of the third-place Pe­tes. With the win, they’re a sin­gle point short of Gru­den’s goal.

Truth is a lot could change over the course of th­ese 14 games — for bet­ter or worse. All but one — Mon­day’s mati­nee against the Kitch­ener Rangers — are against teams within Hamil­ton’s con­fer­ence, which means a win could re­ally help, and a loss re­ally hurt. As Gru­den sees it, “we con­trol our own des­tiny.”

On Thurs­day, Matt Luff and Nikita Korostelev ex­changed power play goals in the first be­fore Saigeon banged a re­bound past Dy­lan Wells to put the Bull­dogs ahead — his fourth goal in two games. He dou­bled the lead mid­way through the se­cond, but Kyle Jenk­ins cut it, again on the power play, two min­utes later.

The Pe­tes’ Cole Fraser beat Daw­son Carty to tie it up again early in the third, but the Bull­dogs goalie re­bounded. He made sev­eral big saves in the clos­ing min­utes to earn his — and his team’s — third straight win. Han­ley scored the win­ner with a lit­tle over 10 min­utes left on the clock.

With the win, the Bull­dogs im­prove to 2-01-0 against the Pe­tes this sea­son. They face off an­other three times — twice in Hamil­ton and once in Peter­bor­ough.

The Bull­dogs are back at it Satur­day night when they host the slump­ing Ottawa 67’s.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.