By: Hamilton Bulldogs
04/13/2013 12:52 PM -
HAMILTON, Ont. – The Hamilton Bulldogs may not have qualified for the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs, but head coach Sylvain Lefebvre said he expects his team to find plenty to play for the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs have five games remaining after losing 6-2 to the visiting Lake Erie Monsters on Friday night. The Bulldogs visit the Monsters at 7:30 p.m. Saturday before returning home to entertain the Oklahoma City Barons at 5 p.m. Sunday.
“If we can be a spoiler we will,” Lefebvre said after Friday’s morning skate. “Every guy on our team has something to play for, whether it is a contract for next year or a roster spot or a spot on a certain line. The guys will find something to play for and they are going to need to do that. It’s tough to perform if you don’t do that.
“We need to finish strong. We need to play for something, we have to play for pride, we have to prove that we are not quitters and we need to show that even though we aren’t in the playoffs that we aren’t on vacation. It’s not to say the rest of these games will make a huge difference, but you have to prove something every game. It doesn’t matter what the situation is.”
The Bulldogs’ conclude their season April 21 against the visiting Rochester Americans and Lefebvre said some players will need to be prepared in case they get summoned to join the Montreal Canadiens for the Bulldogs’ National Hockey League parent club’s playoff run.
“You never know what might happen. I am sure some guys will get the call to go to the Canadiens to be one of the ‘Black Aces’ for the playoffs and if you are one of those guys you never know what might happen. You might find yourself in the lineup if there are a rash of injuries so you might as well make sure you are ready and finish strong.”
Heading into Friday night’s game Lefebvre was buoyed by the Bulldogs’ performance on a four-game road swing through the South Division. The Bulldogs lost 4-1 at Oklahoma City on April 2 and skated to a 4-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage three nights later. The Bulldogs got a goal from Charles Hudon at 19:35 of the third period to beat the Texas Stars, the top team in the Western Conference, 2-1 last Saturday night and dropped a 2-0 decision to the Houston Aeros the following day.
“It was good to not only get two wins but to see how well the guys played, especially defensively,” said Lefebvre. “We got good goaltending. We’d like to score more goals obviously and that has been the case all year, but I was pleased with our effort. We really battled against Texas, there were some big hits ands fights in that game and we got a big goal late. We hung in there with a very good team.”
The Bulldogs found themselves in a huge hole early Friday night as the Monsters built a 4-0 lead through 12:59 of the first period sending starting goaltender Dustin Tokarski to the bench in favour of Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, a 21-year-old making his professional debut after five seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Chouinard, whose older brother Joel is a defenceman for the Monsters, allowed two goals on 19 shots the rest of the way.
The Monsters led 6-0 in the third period before Kyle Hagel, squaring off for the first time against his younger brother Marc, a Monsters right winger, and Michael Bournival got the home side on the board. The Bulldogs lost centre Joey Tenute 13 seconds into the game after he was issued a major penalty for boarding and also saw rookie right winger Steve Quailer leave the game later on.
“Obviously it’s not the start we wanted,” Lefebvre told the media after the game. “I don’t know if it’s because this was our first game back after a long road trip, but we weren’t ready to start.”
Lefebvre said he was pleased with Gervais-Chouinard’s effort in relief and expects him to back up starter Robert Mayer on Saturday night.
“It’s tough to come in like that. It’s a good thing that it was early in the game so he didn’t get too cold. I thought he did fine.”
With files from www.allhabs.net