MONTREAL – The Bulldogs’ Calder Cup quest came to an end Tuesday night in the final seconds of their do-or-die game against the Houston Aeros.
Winning their way into the Western finals for a second consecutive year, the Bulldogs finished their season coming up just short against an Aeros squad that gave them all they could handle. If not for the ‘Dogs’ grit, however, the series could have been over much sooner, as Randy Cunneyworth’s troops clawed their way back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a deciding Game 7 against Houston courtesy of a clutch double-overtime goal from Nigel Dawes. In the 75 history of the AHL only two other teams managed to equal Hamilton’s feat with the 1960 Rochester Americans and the 1989 Adirondak Red Wings enjoying similar comebacks.
The Dogs’ series against the Aeros proved to be a battle every inch of the way, with five of the teams’ seven games played being decided by a single goal. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the last of those markers belonged to Houtson who snapped the 3-3 tie with a controversial goal with 73 seconds left in the game to advance to Calder Cup finals.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs can finish their season with their heads held high after managing to forge a successful campaign following the loss of several of their best players – most notably David Desharnais
, Max Pacioretty
and Ryan White
– to the Canadiens.
While Nigel Dawes stood out as one of the Bulldogs’ best since joining the team during the regular season, it was his playoff performance that earned him the most attention. The 26-year-old lit the lamp 14 times in 20 playoff games with Hamilton, managing to set a single season record for the Bulldogs in the process.
The 2010-11 season also marked a high-point for the Bulldogs’ Aaron Palushaj
who in addition to getting a taste of the NHL thanks to a three game stint with the Canadiens, also posted the best numbers of his AHL career notching 57 points in 68 regular season games before going on to add another 19 in the playoffs.
Goaltender Drew MacIntyre, initially brought in as reinforcement for the injured Curtis Sanford, also enjoyed a brilliant postseason performance, emerging as one of the leagues top netminders. He posted an average of 0,930, allowing only 1,95 goals per game, ranking him among the AHL’s playoff leaders.
Following back-to-back appearances in the AHL’s Western finals, the Bulldogs will be gunning for the three-peat in 2011-12, hoping the third time’s the charm.Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane. SEE ALSOCheck out the season-ending controversial goalStepping Up Czech Mark Anchorman