10/18/2012 7:07 PM
Story By: Stuart McComish
HAMILTON, ONT. – Darryl Boyce is about to experience both sides of the rivalry between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Toronto Marlies.
Boyce played 191 games over five American Hockey League seasons with the Marlies before joining the Bulldogs earlier this month. He will make his debut against his old team on Friday night in the first game of a home-and-home set as the Bulldogs open their home schedule in front of a sold-out crowd at 7:30 p.m.
The North Division rivals will meet at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum at 7 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be broadcast across Canada on Rogers Sportsnet One. The Bulldogs will face another division rival, the Rochester Americans, at 7:35 p.m. Tuesday in a game at Buffalo, N.Y.
“Since I got to the AHL Hamilton and Toronto has been one of the best rivalries,” Boyce, a 28-year-old centre, said after practice at Copps Coliseum on Thursday. “Coming here with the Marlies we knew we wanted to win really badly. We always wanted to beat the Bulldogs.”
Boyce said many of the Bulldogs’ younger players might think they have stepped into a National Hockey League game between the two parent clubs, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“They just have to look at the colours of the jerseys they are wearing, it will remind them of Montreal and Toronto. I know it’s all I saw the first time I played in this game. It’s a Canadian rivalry and a rivalry between your parent clubs. Every point is big, especially the ones in your division, but there are bragging rights here too.”
Friday night’s game is the first of 12 regular-season meetings between the Bulldogs and Marlies. The teams squared off in two exhibition games, both won by Toronto. The teams, who have never met in the playoffs, have squared off 82 times in the regular season since2005-06 when the Maple Leafs relocated their AHL affiliate to Toronto from St. John’s, Nfld. The Bulldogs, who will play five of their first 13 games against the Marlies, own a record of 38-31-6-7 against their provincial rival.
“Those two exhibition games were pretty intense, everybody was finishing their checks,” said defenceman Frederic St-Denis, who is in his fifth season with the Bulldogs. “You finish a game against the Marlies with a lot of bruises. It’s great for the fans. We will be pumped up with a sold-out crowd here tomorrow night.”
The Bulldogs opened their season last Saturday night with a 4-3 win via shootout over the host Grand Rapids Griffins. The Marlies, reigning Western Conference champions, split their first two games, both at home, beating the Americans 3-1 on Saturday and losing 4-0 to the Lake Erie Monsters the following day.
“The Marlies have a veteran team and guys like me who have been here for a while have to show the young guys what this rivalry is like,” said St-Denis, 26. “We know what to expect, they are a physical team with big defencemen. The new guys to this league have to learn how big and tough the defencemen and forwards are on teams like Toronto and Rochester. It all comes down to details, the Marlies have been a strong team lately and if you give them even a little chance they can score. We need to be ready for that tomorrow.”
Said Boyce: “There has been a lot of talk about the Marlies and how good they are supposed to be. They have a lot of great players and a lot of guys who are on the cusp of being full-time NHLers. This will be a test for us as a young team and hopefully we show what we did in Grand Rapids this weekend.”
Boyce said having nearly a week off between games has been beneficial to the team.
“You can either roll off the momentum of a win or you can take the time to watch video of mistakes we made in Grand Rapids. “We got almost a week to prepare for the Marlies and the time has been good for us. It has given the young guys a chance to get another week of practice and get adjusted to the pro life.”
St-Denis echoed Boyce’s sentiments.
“It’s great to have that much time off to prepare. It allows us to work on our defensive game and our power play and penalty killing. I don’t think the power play was so good against Grand Rapids. It also helps the chemistry with the forwards and defence.”