MONTREAL – Heading into the season, no one knew what to expect from a Hamilton Bulldogs squad filled with fresh faces. Approaching the midway mark of the campaign, it’s safe to say that Don Lever and his troop have plenty of reason to smile.
|Yanick Lehoux |
Boasting an 18-9-2-0 record through 29 games, Lever’s squad is on pace to reach the 50-win mark for the first time in franchise history. The Bulldogs nearly hit the plateau in 2002-03, when they made closed out the season with 49 victories en route to a run to the Calder Cup Finals. That year, the club counted on current Habs Tomas Plekanec
, Mike Komisarek and Francis Bouillon to lead the way to the AHL Championship final series.
This year, Hamilton is looking to its solid mix of youth and experience to propel the team to the AHL postseason, after missing out in 2007-08.
While Matt D’Agostini has been proven to be quite comfortable in the NHL over the last month, Yanick Lehoux has stepped up his game and taken over the Bulldogs’ scoring lead with 31 points in 29 games. Should the pivot keep producing at that pace, he could eclipse his previous career bests in assists and points set back in 2006-07.
Lehoux is just one of 13 ‘Dogs to have hit double digits in points, including D’Agostini and Ben Maxwell. Among those in the baker’s dozen is Gregory Stewart. Though offense is far from the name of his game, the gritty winger has proven to be a valuable commodity at both ends of the ice in his sophomore campaign; the 22-year-old has scored five goals and 11 points so far, in addition to posting a plus-7 rating. His offensive totals have him just six shy of his 2007-08 output and could see him reach 30 points this season.
Currently third in the AHL’s North Division, the Bulldogs are riding a three-game winning streak into the holiday break. Cedrick Desjardins has taken the “W” in those three contests, allowing just three goals on 109 shots.
Hamilton returns to action with a busy weekend, visiting division rivals Rochester and Syracuse on Friday and Saturday before hosting Rochester on Sunday.Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com