Captain Strome leads the way
The last player remaining from team’s inaugural season in Hamilton awarded the captain’s ‘C’
It was a strange weekend for Matt Strome.
“I’ve been going around like, ‘oh, remember the first ...’ and then no one else was here,” he said. “I kind of have to stop myself and explain the whole thing.”
Now that Brandon Saigeon and MacKenzie Entwistle are gone, Strome is the only player on the Bulldogs roster remaining from the team’s inaugural season in Hamilton four years ago.
He said it’s “very weird,” especially without Entwistle, his close buddy and longtime teammate, around.
But he’s excited for the future, whatever it holds.
“I love the new guys,” he added — players like Cameron Supryka, Eric Henderson and Jan Jenik, who all came to Hamilton in the lead up to the trade deadline.
“They’re really good, they’re good in the room, and now we’ve just got to keep building on this weekend.”
The Bulldogs won twice: 4-0 against the visiting Kingston Frontenacs Saturday and 6-5 in overtime against the host Flint Firebirds the previous evening. Strome was awarded the captain’s ‘C’ shortly after scoring the OT winner.
“He deserves it,” said head coach Dave Matsos. “He’s a great leader and he’s a great mentor. The guy does everything the right way for us.”
Strome, meanwhile, said it was “awesome” to be named the third captain in team history after Entwistle and Justin Lemcke. Newcomer Henderson and Arthur Kaliyev will also serve as alternates alongside veteran Isaac Nurse.
“It was just really cool to have that on my jersey and to know that guys are looking up to me on and off the ice,” Strome added.
“I really enjoy it and I’m going to embrace the moment.”
For the Bulldogs, Friday’s game — their first since the deadline — marked the start of a new era. Including Saigeon and Entwistle, 15 players have now moved on from last year’s OHL championship squad and, unlike a little earlier in the season, the team is officially in rebuild mode.
So far, those left behind have made the most of their extra ice time and opportunity. Jenik, for instance, wasted no time in notching his first OHL goal against Flint, while Liam Van Loon and Kade Landry both found the back of the net for the first time in months, against Kingston.
Logan Morrison also scored in both games, while fellow rookie Zach Roy registered his first OHL shutout with a 25-save performance Saturday.
“It’s just capitalizing,” said Matsos. “It’s not easy, but I think our young guys are doing a phenomenal job.”
That said, it will only get more difficult for the new-look Bulldogs as the campaign wears on and they start to face better competition. The Firebirds and Frontenacs, respectively, are in last and second-last place in the league. Matsos admitted “it’s going to be tough,” and Strome agreed. But the 20-year-old winger plans to keep his head up and hopes his younger teammates will follow his lead. “Not every game is going to go as we want it to and we’re still going to make mistakes. A lot of things are going to go wrong,” he said.
“I think it’s on us to not get down when things are going bad. If that happens, we’ve just got to stay positive and keep looking forward.”
NOTES: Dave Matsos doesn’t
expect D.J. King to be sidelined for long after suffering what appeared to be a shoulder injury and leaving Saturday’s game early. The same can’t be said, however, for fellow defenceman
Conor Ali, who injured his hand against Saginaw Wednesday. Matsos had no timeline for his return but did say he doesn’t expect Ali to be back any time soon. The Bulldogs are also missing blueliner Michael Renwick, who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury suffered back in November.
Matthew Strome, in his first game as captain of the Hamilton Bulldogs, just missed tipping this one in, but found the back of the net later against the Kingston Frontenacs on Saturday night.
Goalie Zachory Roy of the Bulldogs, above, was a barrier to players such as Kingston’s Ryan Crawford on Saturday, posting a 4-0 shutout.