With four goals and an assist in the first round against Rochester, Maxim Lapierre has been a welcome addition to the Bulldogs lineup.
MONTREAL - You can only cage a Bulldog for so long. Resting since last Saturday, the chase for the Calder Cup continues for Don Lever's crew this weekend against the Manitoba Moose.
The Bulldogs earned the right to face the Moose by vanquishing their playoff nemesis the Rochester Americans for the first time in franchise history. The triumph was a long time coming for Hamilton, ousted by Rochester four times before this season, including back-to-back sweeps in 2004 and 2005.
Undaunted, Maxim Lapierre put the finishing touches on the Bulldogs' series victory with a pair of goals in a clinching 6-2 win over the Americans, a team made up of prospects from the Panthers and Sabres organizations.
Despite having all of two regular season games under his belt, 19-year-old goalie Carey Price slammed the door on the Amerks with a 2.39 goals against average and .917 save percentage. Selected fifth overall by the Canadiens at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Price also picked up his first pro shutout in Game 1 in Rochester to set the tone for the series.
Corey Locke led the way offensively for the Bulldogs with a team-leading eight points and five goals in six games. The diminutive center will now be able to count on a little extra firepower with the arrival of Sergei Kostitsyn, fresh off the London Knights' third round loss to the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL playoffs. Kostitsyn will have to wait a little until he can play alongside his big brother Andrei, who is still nursing a nagging groin injury.
The regular season series between the Bulldogs and the division-leading Moose was a hotly-contested one with Hamilton holding a 4-3-1 edge. Speedy Mikhail Grabovski feasted on the Moose with a team-high eight points with all of his damage coming by way of assists, just ahead of Duncan Milroy, who scored a Bulldogs-best six goals against Manitoba.
The Canucks' elimination at the hands of the Ducks may not be good news for the 'Dogs, with the Moose being Vancouver's farm team. Regardless of whether reinforcements are on the way for Manitoba, you can bet Lever will have his Bulldogs ready for battle.
The puck drops Saturday night in Winnipeg with Game 2 slated for Sunday.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com