The Hamilton Bulldogs have drawn first blood in the Eastern Conference Finals against the North Bay Battalion with a 5-2 victory in steel town Friday evening.
The win gives the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series.
“Not the outcome we’re all looking for in game one,” Battalion head coach Ryan Oulahen said post game.
“Believe it or not, I didn’t mind our start. I thought we came out prepared, liked our jump early even though we gave up that early one but from then on, it was a night where we got our feet wet.”
“They’re a really good hockey team, and as much as you talk about it, as much as you prepare for it, I think it was really good for our guys to feel what that pressure was like, feel the things they are going to do and, in that sense, we are going to take some positives from that one for sure.”
Hamilton got off to a quick start in the game as just over a minute in Ryan Humphrey (3) beat Joe Vrbetic. After some push back from the Battalion, Brandon Coe (6), who missed the series clinching game against Kingston, beat Marco Costantini on the powerplay to tie the game at one. However, the score would not remain tied for long as just over a minute later and with Liam Arnsby serving a penalty for cross checking, Ryan Winterton (3) put one past Vrbetic to give Hamilton a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
After some more back and forth action to begin the second, Logan Morrison (10) added on to Hamilton’s lead just under seven minutes in. Three minutes after the Morrison goal, Avery Hayes (3) capped off a four-point night with a goal. Later in the middle frame, Dalyn Wakely (1) gave the Troops some life as his shot ricochet into the net off a Bulldogs defender for his first career OHL playoff goal.
In the third, Montreal Canadiens prospect Arber Xhekaj beat Vrbetic at the halfway mark of the period to give Hamilton the 5-2 victory.
“I think we need to keep our game simple,” Brandon Coe said on what the Troops need to do differently in game two. “Get in on the forecheck on their big slow defence. Once we take advantage of that, I think we will have a lot more shifts in the offensive zone. I think we spent too much time in our D zone, and didn’t really cause too much on the back end for them.
“I think once we get pucks deep on them and grind them a bit more, the game will open up a bit more for ourselves and generate more offence. I don’t think we did that enough tonight and we will need to bring that for game two.”
Game two is set for 7:00pm Sunday from Hamilton. You can watch live on YourTV North Bay, or listen to the Frontline Gameday Broadcast on the North Bay Battalion YouTube channel.