The Hamilton Bulldogs entered the 2002 Calder Cup Playoffs in the number 6
spot which matched them up against their Canadian Division rival Quebec
Citadelles. Going into this series both teams looked to be equally matched as
they split the season series at 3-3-2 with neither team winning on the road.
Would this trend continue?
Ty Conklin got the surprise start in net for game 1. Conklin looked shaky in
the first period but with help from his teammates came out with a 1-0 lead on
Brian Swanson’s goal just under the halfway mark of the first period. In the
period, Quebec out shot the Dogs 16-4. In the second, the teams traded goals
as Swanson got his second of the game. Then former Bulldog Mathieu
Descoteaux made it 2-1 on the power play. In the third period Remi Royer
scored to tie it up but Michael Henrich scored on the power play to give the
Dogs a 3-2 lead with 1:22 left in the third.
With Henrich’s goal looking like
it would hold up as the game winner Hamilton was assessed a weird penalty to
give the Citadelles a power play which lead to another former Bulldog getting
on the score sheet. Eric Landry tied it up and sent it to overtime on the
power play with 26 seconds left in the third period. In overtime, Bulldogs’
Captain Alain Nasreddine scored just 5:50 into the extra frame to give the
Hamilton Bulldogs a 4-3 win and a 1-0 series lead. Ty Conklin made 44 saves
as Hamilton was out shot 47-28.
Game 2 saw the two teams faceoff again at Le Collisee Pepsi. The Dogs came
out on fire as Henrich and Jason Chimera scored in the first and Hamilton
outshooting Quebec 15-5. In the second period was no scoring but Quebec came
back firing on all cylinders outshooting Hamilton 16-6. In the third period
Gennady Razin scored to tie the game up and to get the crowd back into it.
But with Mathieu Garon on the bench with time running out Jani Rita scored an
empty net goal to seal the game and take a 2-0 series lead.
Game 3 was back at the Dog Pound as Hamilton looked to create franchise
history by sweeping their first series. Could this happen or are they headed
to game 4?
Chimera opened the scoring on the power play but Francois Belanger tied it up
on Quebec’s power play. Swanson then picked up his third goal of the
postseason, this one shorthanded, when Garon gave it right to Swanson behind
the net and came out front to stuff it in the empty net. Just over midway
through the second period Marc-Andre Bergeron scored his first professional
playoff goal and gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead. But the Dogs fell asleep as
the next four goals were scored by Quebec to take a 5-3 lead. Benoit Gratton
and Craig Darby each scored twice. Hamilton woke up though as Peter Sarno
scored to bring the Bulldogs back to within a goal. Two minutes after Sarno’s
goal, Rita scored to tie it up after a great pass from behind the net from
rookie Nate DiCassmirro.
For the second time in the series the game went to
overtime. Halfway through the extra period, Peter Sarno was levelled by an
elbow in the corner which bloodied his nose. Sarno got back to the bench and
stopped the bleeding and didn’t miss a shift. With that Sarno got back on the
ice and found himself in the same corner skating through his own blood with
the puck. Sarno then walked out from the corner and stuffed the puck past
Garon to give the Hamilton Bulldogs a 6-5 OT win and the team’s first ever
sweep in the playoffs. This sent 3185 fans erupted, almost shaking Copps
Coliseum off of it’s foundation. Also, with the win the Hamilton Bulldogs, in
their 6 years of existence, have made the playoffs 5 times and every year made
it to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Now five days after sweeping Quebec, the Bulldogs are still waiting to find
out who and when they will play. That is because the St. John’s Maple Leafs
defeated Lowell on Saturday night to force a fifth and deciding game on
Tuesday night in Lowell. If the Leafs upset Lowell then the Bulldogs will
travel to Hartford for the first two games. But if Lowell wins then Hamilton
will be headed to Bridgeport for the first two games.