Because the NHL players and owners are showing their lack of consideration for hockey fans in order to get your hockey fix this winter season it seems like the AHL will be your best choice. If you are not familiar with the league the AHL (American Hockey League) is filled with farm teams for the NHL. For local hockey fans the farm team for the Montreal Canadiens are the Hamilton Bulldogs. Players like Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and Tomas Plekanec have come up to the Habs from the Bulldogs. Like the last hockey lock out in 2004-05 the AHL will benefit in a couple of ways. One way is that young players who might have made NHL squads now will stick with AHL teams and hockey fans will pay more attention to them.
Last year the Bulldogs had a tough season. They had a 34-35-2-5 record and did not make the playoffs finishing in last place of the league’s North Division. Their leading scorer was Brian Wilsie (no longer with the team) and he only had 44 points. With plenty of young talent due to some high draft picks by the Montreal Canadiens, the Hamilton Bulldogs have high hopes for the 2012-13 season. The team doesn’t have too many veterans, but what they do possess is a nice blend of skill and speed.
Amidst the 25 man roster of the Hamilton Bulldogs there are plenty of names that Habs fans will recognize. Several like Louis Leblanc (center), Aaron Palushaj (right wing), Blake Geoffrion (center), Mike Blunden (right wing), and Frederic St-Denis (defence) are because they spent some time with the big team. Others are because they are high profile up-and-comers like Brendan Gallagher (right wing), Jarred Tinordi (defence), Nathan Beaulieu (defence), Michael Bournival (center), and Morgan Ellis (defence). Rounding out the team are names you might know because they have been around like Cedric Desjardins (goalie), Zack Stortini (right wing) and Alexander Avtsin (right wing).
The strength of the Bulldogs will be their defence with veteran St-Denis showing the way to talented youngsters like Ellis, Beaulieu and Tinordi. The defensive corps will be rounded out with a talented player like Brendon Nash and big bodies like Greg Pateryn and Antoine Corbin. Goaltending should be solid with the 1-2 tandem of Desjardins and Robert Mayer. Up front new coach and former NHl defenceman Sylvain Lefebvre is expecting players like Palushaj, Leblanc, Geoffrion, Gallagher, and Bournival to provide most of the team’s offense. Two-way players like Patrick Holland (right wing), Blunden and Gabriel Dumont (center) will provide solid play in their own end as well as the offensive zone.
The first game of the regular season has already occurred and the Bulldogs won against the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ farm team) on the road. It was a 4-3 shootout victory with Michael Blunden scoring the winning shootout goal. The Bulldogs goals were scored by Blake Geoffrion, Aaron Palushaj and Gabriel Dumont. Rookies Gallagher, power forward Steve Quailer and Bournival all had their first point (assists) in the AHL.
Team 690 AM will broadcast the Hamilton Bulldogs games on the radio while French-language TVA Sports announced it will air a number of the teams games this season. The first change for Montreal fans to see these young players in person will be on November 9 at the Bell Centre against the Syracuse Crunch (farm team of the Tampa Bay Lightning). Tickets are on sale through www.evenko.ca.
-Regular Season: October 13, 2012 – April 21, 2013
-Home Arena: Copps Coliseum