|Thomas Beauregard and Brock Trotter |
MONTREAL – It may be the dead of winter with cold and snowstorms wreaking havoc in the East but those looking for a reprieve needn’t go far; the Hamilton Bulldogs are providing plenty of heat.
Boasting a 7-3-0-0 record in their past 10 games, the Habs’ farm team has moved into a tie for second in the North Division with 46 points, just three shy of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Much of the success is due to the resiliency and consistency of Don Lever’s troop, which has yet to endure a slide longer than three games this season.
The team’s knack for finding the back of the net has also worked in their favor; the Bulldogs remain one the league’s top offensive juggernauts, tied for second with 129 tallies. That’s been propelled by a successful power play that has converted at a 20.4% clip, to rank fifth in the league.
Like their NHL brethren, the Bulldogs have also been able to count on call-ups and new faces stepping in and not missing a beat.
Up came Olivier Latendresse, Thomas Beauregard and Loic Lacasse from the Cyclones, the club’s ECHL affiliate. On Monday, depth was added to the blue line and the wing with the acquisition of T.J. Kemp from Pittsburgh and the inking of Steve Gainey to a professional tryout contract.
Called up on Dec. 10, Latendresse needed just a few games to get things going in Southern Ontario. Held off the scoresheet in his first four outings, the 22-year-old finally broke the ice on Dec. 20 and hasn’t looked back since, collecting seven points in his last eight contests.
Just a few days after Latendresse got some good news, so did Thomas Beauregard. He made his AHL debut on Dec. 19 and has enjoyed the early days of the new year, picking up three points in the last three games, including his first American League tally.
|Olivier Latendresse |
With Marc Denis in Montreal and Cedrick Desjardins nursing an injury, Lacasse got his chance to make his AHL debut on Jan. 2. He didn’t have to wait long for his first victory in a Bulldogs jersey, earning the W in a comeback win over division rival Syracuse. The Habs’ sixth round pick in 2004 has appeared in all three Hamilton games so far in 2009, and earned his second win on Tuesday night over the Philadelphia Phantoms.
Kemp and Gainey, the newest additions to Hamilton’s roster, wasted little time in having an impact on their new club. Gainey potted what would become the winning goal in the 4-2 triumph over Philadelphia while Kemp added an insurance marker in the final frame. Both were in the midst of solid campaigns with their previous clubs before joining the Bulldogs; Gainey had 11 goals and 30 points in 33 games with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads and Kemp had nine points and plus-5 rating in 22 games with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The Bulldogs wrap up a six-game homestand on Friday against the Lake Erie Monsters before hitting the road for a pair. While many teams enjoy the comfort of one over the other, Lever and Co. aren’t picky. They’ve found success at home and on the road, notching 23 points apiece in both rinks.
That bodes well for the ‘Dogs as they kick off the second half of the season, with the intention of raising the heat in rinks around the league come spring.Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com