The Acadie-Bathurst Titan came into their last round robin game against the Hamilton Bulldogs at 2-0 in the 2018 Memorial Cup and were looking to clinch their way to a spot in the championship game with a win.
“Not so fast!” said Hamilton. The Bulldogs hung on for the 3-2 win at the Brandt Centre in Regina to improve their record to 2-1 and complicate things just a little bit.
The game opened with a Acadie-Bathurst goalie Evan Fitzpatrick making a beautiful save on Hamilton’s Isaac Nurse. Nurse had the entire side of the net open and Fitzpatrick dove across and made a save with the paddle of his stick. A great way to get things going in the game.
Hamilton would, however, get the first goal of the game, scoring on the power play 14:33 into the game. Noah Dobson had taken a holding minor at 14:11 and was in the box when Benjamin Gleason scored from Brandon Saigeon and Matthew Strome. That made it 1-0 Bulldogs.
Hamilton would double their lead a little under three minutes later at 17:27 when Nicholas Caamano scored from Mackenzie Entwistle and Robert Thomas. It was now 2-0 Hamilton and the Bulldogs seemed to have things in control.
Things seemed to be going the Bulldogs’ way even further when about five minutes into the second period, Entwistle hit the crossbar off the rush and Fitzpatrick had to scramble to cover the puck up outside of his crease.
Maybe that was a momentum changer because the Titan would get the next one, when Jeffrey Truchon-Viel scored at the 14:11 mark of the second period from Dobson and Olivier Galipeau. That cut the Hamilton lead to 2-1.
But the winning goal would come relatively quick. Just 34 seconds into the third frame, Galipeau took a tripping call, setting Hamilton up for another power play advantage. It was on that, at 1:04, that Robert Thomas scored from Gleason and Saigeon to make it 3-1 Bulldogs.
At the 3;44 mark, Acadie-Bathurst’s Samuel Asselin would beat Bulldogs goaltender Kaden Fulcher to make it 3-2 and set up a frantic finish. He got assists from Truchon-Viel and Dobson.
A crucial moment at the 4:16 mark of the third. Elijah Francis of the Titan clipped Will Bitten of the Bulldogs with his stick and drew blood. That set up a double minor four minute power play for the Bulldogs. It was crucial and the Titan would kill it off, limiting Hamilton to just three shots.
Entwistle would take his own high sticking penalty at 10:23, but that was just two minutes that the Bulldogs were able to kill. Entwistle would make things harder for his team a little later in the period when he took a tripping call with less than two minutes to play.
Interestingly, although the Titan would finish the game on the power play, they would not pull Fitzpatrick for the 6-on-4 advantage to try to tie it. There is a goals for/goals against formula at work in case of a tie in how things work out for the rest of the tournament and the Titan did not want to risk giving up an empty netter so Fitzpatrick stayed anchored to his net.
It was all for naught anyway, as Dobson took a slashing call with 16 seconds left in the game, the faceoff came down in the Titan end and the Bulldogs won the draw, letting time run out and getting the win.
Fitzpatrick ended the game with 31 saves on 34 Hamilton shots while Fulcher made 33 saves on 35 Acadie-Bathurst attempts. Thomas was named the game’s first star while Truchon-Viel was the second and Gleason the third.
Studenic ended the game with two shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating.
That ends the round robin portion of the tournament for the Titan and Bulldogs. Tomorrow’s “Battle of Saskatchewan” between the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos (which we will be covering here) will go a long way in clearing things up in terms of who advances and who will ultimately lift the Memorial Cup.