The Hamilton Bulldogs had their chance this year. They were four games above .500 on January 12th with a record of 19-15-0-4, and they were sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race. But just when the playoffs were looking like they were on the horizon, the team now two months later has fallen to new lows. With just 18 games left in the season, the Bulldogs are fighting to stay out of the basement of the Western Conference standings. You can pack it up and pack it in, because a playoff birth for the Bulldogs is not going to happen this year.
A number of things have gone wrong for the Bulldogs this season, and some will arguably point the finger at head coach Sylvain Lefebvre and his inability to win big games when big wins were needed. The team needed big wins on Jan 18th and Jan 24th against division opponents the Utica Comets and the Toronto Marlies and then a huge win was needed on the January 28th versus the Chicago Wolves, but in all three games the Bulldogs fell short. This weekend, winning two out of the three straight home games was paramount, and the Bulldogs just couldn’t win when they most needed to.
Unlike last year, the Bulldogs have also struggled to win at home this season, a record of 12-17-1-3 at home in mid March is not enough, like any good team, the Bulldogs must win at home if they are going to be successful. The team has now lost 9 of their last 12 home games and the Bulldogs can do no better than 17-17-1-3 at home this year.
Over the three home losses this weekend, the Bulldogs scored first in all three games, but in all three games they blew the lead and would never have the lead again. The team seems to struggle in the second period at home and they fell apart in the second period in all three games over the weekend. On Sunday against the Lake Erie Monsters, two goals within in three minutes late in the second period was enough to completely change the momentum of the hockey game.
Turning to scoring, or lack of it, the Bulldogs lack of scoring is evident once again this year, they are scoring at a pace of just under two and half goals per game and they are second worst in the Western Conference for goals scored.
In order for the Bulldogs to have a chance at the playoffs, they would need somewhere between 85-91 points at the end of the year, no team has made the Western Conference playoffs with less that 85 points dating back to the 2006-2007 season.
With 13 out of the final 18 games on the road, the task to at least finish strong will become even more difficult. The team will embark on a nine game road trip in late March and early April. The final 18 games for the Bulldogs will not be easy as they face a number of Western Conference playoff bound teams. To put this season into perspective, on March 9th of last year after 58 games played, the Bulldogs had a near identical record of 24-28-1-5 similar to this years 25-28-1-4 record, the team would then finish with a record of 29-41-1-5, they finished last place in the Western Conference. The end of the road for the Bulldogs is near.
Scoring for the Lake Erie Monsters on Sunday was James Van Der Gulik with two goals, while Matt Hunwick and Michael Shumacher each added a goal a piece. The Bulldogs only goal came from Christian Thomas.
Attendance for the three game home stand on the weekend averaged a very good 5146 while 6287 fans showed up for the Sunday afternoon home game.
Finals scores over the weekend:
Friday March 7th Oklahoma City 2 Hamilton 1
Saturday March 8th W/B Scranton 4 Hamilton 2
Sunday March 9th Lake Erie 4 Hamilton 1