The Toronto Marlies and the Hamilton Bulldogs have a long
history of facing each other in the American Hockey League. While they’ve never
gone head-to-head in a playoff series, their proximity to each other has led to
the two teams playing each other a dozen times per regular season, plus a
couple of preseason games. Over the years, the QEW rivalry has done the see-saw
from thrilling to boring, depending on who punched who and how many of the
games had come in the prior weeks.
With the Bulldogs moving to St. John’s at the end of this
year, today marked the last time that the two teams will face each other. But
with the last playoff spot in the balance, the stakes haven’t ever been higher.
While the Marlies got off to a slow tart, it didn’t seem to effect them on the score sheet. In fact, they even struck first, courtesy of Greg McKegg. In a play that was a little bit scrambled, McKegg found room to drive towards the net and slip a backhander past Mike Condon for his eighteenth. Toronto carried this pressure well into the second period, and for quite some time, it looked for their game to lose.
However, it wasn’t meant to be. Early penalties to Petter Granberg and Stuart Percy put the Bulldogs on the powerplay for much of the third period, and unfortunately for Toronto, Hamilton capitalized spectacularly. Sven Andrighetto and Gabriel Dumont, both known for picking up huge points against the blue and white, scored within two minutes of each other to morph their team from trailers to leaders. The Marlies tried their hardest to equalize, putting on significant pressure in the final minutes, but nothing worked out for them. A nothing to lose hook on Matt Frattin in the dying seconds prevented the Marlies from entering the offensive zone, and confirmed the loss.
Greg McKegg has been all over the scoresheet in the past few weeks, and he was back on there tonight. His goal represented just one of his five shots, and he was a positive presence on the ice for the bulk of the game. If he wants a long-term NHL look next year, he needs to continue playing like this, and I’m sure he knows that and is using it to fuel him mentally.
Summing It Up
It’s a bittersweet moment, knowing these two won’t face each
other again. There was something special about having a local rival in a league
where any team that isn’t in the Northeastern US has next to no rivals. It ended in a pretty fitting way; an irritating loss to a team you love to hate, with the usual suspects landing on the scoresheet. With that said, it’s a loss that the Marlies couldn’t afford to suffer, and they now have serious ground to make up. Their next game is tomorrow afternoon, against Rochester.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com