Hamilton Bulldogs 2017-2018 Season Review

Hamilton Bulldogs 2017-2018 Season Review

The Hamilton Bulldogs concluded their illustrious and unforgettable 2017-2018 season with a Memorial Cup semifinal loss to the Regina Pats. Despite the gut wrenching defeat, this squad should reflect this season with a great deal of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Heading into the season, there were considerable thoughts into what the forthcoming campaign would unfold. The biggest question mark headed to the year was the year-long play of starting Goaltender Kaden Fultcher. How would he handle the everyday grind and also the gruelling postseason where anything could’ve happen? Well, not only the Brighton, Ontario native stepped up in big games, he was clearly the difference maker in the OHL championship run.

Furthermore, the defence and the great depth scoring prowess (led by Matthew Strome, Will Bitten and rookie sensation Arthur Kaliyev) alleviated the tension from early season struggles. Brandon “The Office Man” Saigeon and Isaac Nurse stepped up with a strong season.

Aside from the above, the hockey administrative management of the Bulldogs led by President and General Manager Steve Staios delivered a boatload of talent as the season progressed. The acquisitions of Landry, Mattinen, Cammano, Moore, Thomas and Stillman were a major gamble, but at the end, a greater reward as the hockey club proceeded into the postseason as the #1 seed at the Eastern Conference. At the playoffs, they went through Ottawa, Niagara, Kingston, and the number one team in the country Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds to win the OHL championship and a berth at the centennial Memorial Cup.

Give the Head Coach of the Bulldogs John Gruden and his staff a great amount of credit due to the great product they assembled every night and gettisoned these talented core through late-season leadership changes and delivered on the former’s mandate to earn the right to compete for the Memorial Cup the hard way.

Now, knowing the Bulldogs will undergo considerable overhaul for the next couple of years, it is worth knowing that patience will be acquired from this fanbase. As  supporter of this team since its inception, one give critical and commendable praise to the team operations from both hockey and business standpoints on their effort. I’ll look forward to see the Bulldogs in the coming season ahead!

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2018 Hamilton Bulldogs Playoff Preview

2018 Hamilton Bulldogs Playoff Preview

The Hamilton Bulldogs head to the postseason with great confidence and a plenty of playoff experience. 

With the likes of Thomas, Cammano, Moore, Strome, Bitten and Saigeon leading the charge, the Bulldogs are poised to make a long, deep run into the postseason and ultimately compete for the Memorial Cup. They are ranked first overall in the Eastern Conference going into the playoffs, and have the all important home ice advantage. However, the Bulldogs will face stern competition in the talent loaded upper portion of the conference in event Hamilton advances (see my prediction below).

Here are my three keys to success in the postseason…

  1. Kaden Fultcher. The Hamilton incumbent netminder will head to this postseason with limited experience. In game four of last year’s playoff series with Kingston, Fultcher relieved Dawson Carty for one period, and did admirably in relief. But when the current campaign commenced in September, it was widely expected that Fultcher was their number one guy, and had to prove that he’s a reliable commodity at a big game setting. With the playoffs in the horizon, and given the loaded talent the Bulldogs assemble, it is critical that Kaden Fultcher steps up and maintain a strong stable presence in net.
  2. Don’t get overconfident. Given the success of this team this year, it is normal to say that Hamilton can run the table with force in the conference rounds. In one’s opinion, don’t expect that. Regardless of pro, or in this case Major Junior hockey, the playoffs matter by how you deliver in the big games, and not solely on the regular season success. For the Bulldogs, take your opponents seriously and don’t overlook to the next round opponent, or otherwise they will be ousted in the first round like they did last season. In other words, never underestimate your opponent in this magnitude of the league season.
  3. Special Teams. Hamilton comes in to the playoffs with a great power play and an inconsistent penalty kill. The PP unit, led by Brandon Saigeon (16 goals with the man advantage), will need to answer the tasks of getting the big goal when needed. Regarding the PK, however, the Bulldogs need to step up and frustrate the opposition with the big bodies around the net and close the passing lanes in more efficient speed.

The Bulldogs faceoff against the Ottawa 67’s in the opening round of the 2017-2018 Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference playoffs. In the regular season, Hamilton convincingly swept their opposition in all five meetings.  

Here are my “fearless and passionate” predictions (in honour of Victor Newman parody from the Raw Mike Richards show) for the postseason of the Bulldogs in the Eastern Conference…

  • OHL Eastern Conference Round 1 — Hamilton wins series over Ottawa 4-1 (HAM has too much talent to not get dethroned by the still young Ottawa squad)
  • OHL Eastern Conference Round 2 – Hamilton wins series over Mississauga 4-1 (Steelheads pull upset over Barrie, but gets overwhelmed with the offensive weaponry and frustrates MISS defence a ton)
  • OHL Eastern Conference Round 3 – Hamilton wins series over Kingston 4-3 (Hamilton gets its sweet revenge against Kingston from last year. No better setting to do it than this round with OHL Championship appearance at stake. Hamilton outwits Kingston.)

Hamilton will then face the Sarnia Sting in the OHL Championship. If Hamilton remains healthy by this point, and Fultcher is as better than advertised, Hamilton could pull this one out and go on to the Memorial Cup. But I’ll get my official prediction for the OHL Championship series when the path is crossed.

In closing, it should be an exciting and memorable run for the team that should get its rightful due as one of the league’s best.

Kingston 4 Hamilton 3 (SO)

Kingston 4 Hamilton 3 (SO)

The Hamilton Bulldogs showed grit and continued to put pucks at the net, but couple of bad defensive miscues led to Kingston comeback twice to steal two points today in a shootout loss 4-3

The Bulldogs showed today that they can find the net, something they haven’t really done in the previous three games (4 goals overall in first three games), and still created multiple opportunities. Veteran Forward Will Bitten and rookie Forward Arthur Kaliyev were the major contributors for the home team with both a goal and an assist. 

The defense contained the experienced Kingston offensive attack, with limiting the opposition to single digit shot totals in the first forty minutes. But a couple of mistakes late in the second and the big rebound left unnoticed led to the comeback by the visitors. Goaltender Kaden Fultcher was good, but not as sharp like the previous two games. He allowed a saveable goal in the first minute of the third, and the eventual winner in the shootout.

Once again, discipline and lack of power play sustainability at the attack zone (0/6 in PP opportunities) was the two ciritical factors in the second period and the outcome of the game, but the positive was the penalty kill was very effective (4/4 in opportunities under a man). Another negative was the lack of face off victories (35-45 in face offs).

Despite the outcome, the Bulldogs got seven out of eight possible points to start the year. Hamilton remains at home for the next game next Saturday against the Niagara IceDogs.

Hamilton 2 Barrie 1 (SO)

Hamilton 2 Barrie 1 (SO)

The Hamilton Bulldogs win in an another nail biter performance, this time in a shootout. 

Goaltender Kaden Fultcher was incredible tonight, stopping 32 out of 33 shots. The defense showed grit, but was at times undisciplined, especially in the second period (had to kill three straight penalties). Give full credit to the penalty kill unit for preventing five opportunities by Barrie. The power play unit, however, it’s a work in progress. Can’t have several opportunities to have Barrie capitalize at the Bulldogs end when the opposition is short-handed.

Forwards Matthew Strome and Will Bitten provided enough offensive spark for a team that can go to the net a lot, but couldn’t cash in.

Next game to conclude the week is at home in FirstOntario Centre when the Bulldogs host their arch rival Kingston Frontenacs.

Hamilton 2 Mississauga 0

Hamilton 2 Mississauga 0

The Hamilton Bulldogs delivered a complete performance in Mississauga tonight. They won the matchup 2-0 in front of a sparse crowd at the Hershey Centre. 

Kaden Fultcher had a great performance in net today, with earning his first win and shutout of the 2017-2018 campaign. The Bulldogs goaltender stopped all 25 shots he encountered, and the defence helped him out with good hustle and timely blocked and diverted shots. 

The team managed to stay disciplined for the entire game, and engaged power play opportunities, but unable to captialize on both opportunities. The penalty kill was effective in its only one attempt. 

For the second straight game, the Hamilton Bulldogs offense went to the net with effective shooting at the opponent goaltending. The visitors outshot their opponent 34-25, with going double digit all three periods. Issac Nurse and Matthew Strome scored for the Bulldogs, while rookie Connor McMichael getting his first career OHL point with the assist on Nurse’s goal. 

Hamilton travels to Barrie to face the Colts on Saturday.

Niagara 4 Hamilton 1

Niagara 4 Hamilton 1

The Hamilton Bulldogs opened its third season this evening, but eventually fell 4-1 at the hands of its QEW rival, the Niagara IceDogs.

The Hamilton offense managed to find opportunities shooting the puck at the net. But with their untimely turnovers at their end of the rink, as well as the lack of discipline and luckluster D in the final thirty minutes proved to be the fate for the Bulldogs. The penalty kill units were very good this evening, especially killing three consecutive penalties (latter was the McCourt double minor). As far as the goaltending as concerned, Kaden Fultcher didn’t get significant support from the Bulldogs D, and struggled at times to maintain vision and skill getting to the puck. 

The Bulldogs travel to Mississauga next Friday for their tilt against the Steelheads.

HAMILTON BULLDOGS 2017-2018 SEASON PREVIEW

HAMILTON BULLDOGS 2017-2018 SEASON PREVIEW

After advancing to the last years playoffs, and eventually fall in a hard fought seven game series against Kingston, the 2017-2018 Hamilton Bulldogs look into a longer run in the postseason.

Returning to the team are the likes of Matthew Strome, Mackenzie Entwistle, Will Bitten and Brandon Saigeon with the second year returnees Marian Studenic and Connor Roberts to provide efficient leadership. Mixing with the returning core of talents will be first year studs Connor McMichael and Arthur Kaliyev, who are capable in producing right away for the team that needs scoring depth in which Niki Petti, Michael Crammerosa, and Matt Luff (potentially) are graduated from the club. 

Regarding the defensive corps, team captain Justin Lemcke and Connor Walters lead the experienced core of talent that can be a backbone going forward this year. Rielly Webb, Riley McCourt, Jack Henley, and newly acquired TJ Fergus (via Erie) will look to establish themselves as the league elite. Special Teams need to be better in both phases. The penalty kill and the power play were not very good, as the team was in the bottom five at both categories.

Goaltending will be the most glanced and scrutinized of the entire team. Kaden Fultcher comes in as #1 netminder, looking to improve a progressive 2017 season in which he lost his starting job midseason as the team brought in Dawson Carty from Kitchener. Nick Donofrio will be the backup (Cole Ceci was traded to Guelph Friday afternoon), and could see several games starting during the season. If he can duplicate what he was able to do last year in the USHL, he will be a fordmiable piece.

Pending injuries and inconsistency, this team should be a threat for the OHL and Memorial Cup Championship this season.