The Hamilton Bulldogs put the finishing touches on the Hershey Bears and the 2007 Calder Cup Finals on June 7, defeating the Bears 2-1 in front of an energetic 14,205 fans at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.
As defending champs, the Hershey Bears were the favorite to win the Calder Cup for a record 10th time in their history. After amassing 114 points in the regular season and posting a 12-2 record through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Bears were well on their way to making history.
The Bulldogs posted a respectable, yet unspectacular regular season finishing third in the Western Conference’s North Division with 95 points. The Bulldogs did not have home ice in any series during the playoffs, however, that did not bother them as they posted a 12-5 record on their way to meeting the Bears in the Calder Cup Finals.
A series that featured heavy hitting and a lot of bad blood in each of the five games saw an average of 19.6 infractions per game. The series also saw the highly potent offensive of the Hershey Bears be held to only seven goals, while the Bulldogs tallied 19 goals in the five games.
The key to the success of the Bulldogs was the utilization of their speed. Hamilton loved playing a fast-paced, up-tempo game, where they could get into the open ice and make things happen. Many times throughout the series Hamilton would block a shot on the defensive end and immediately they were flying down the ice for a two on one.
Hamilton boasted one of the best defenses in the league during the regular season and was made even stronger with the addition of super star 19-year-old goaltender Carey Price. Price joined the Bulldogs after his season finished with Tri-City of the WHL. He played two regular season games with the Bulldogs and was awarded the starting job for the playoffs. The Bears were never able to find an answer for the excellent positioning Price boasts. Price was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as MVP of the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The championship was the first for the Bulldogs and was also the first time a professional team from the city of Hamilton has won a hockey championship.
Game 1, June 1 @ Hershey
The most penalized game of the finals saw Price pitch a shutout on the way to a 4-0 victory for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were able to capitalize three times on seven power play opportunities during the game. Matt D’Agostini opened the scoring in the second with a power play tally that would prove to be the game winner. Also scoring for the Bulldogs were Mikhail Grabovsky and Corey Locke, who added two goals.
The Bulldogs undisciplined play gave the Bears nine power play opportunities, however, the Bulldogs penalty kill shut down a very potent Bears power play.
Price was outstanding, making 46 saves on his way to being named the game’s first star. Second star was awarded to Hamilton’s Locke who had three points on the night and the games third star went to Dan Jancevski of Hamilton with two assists.
Game 2, June 2 @ Hershey
Once again the undisciplined play of the Hamilton Bulldogs led to nine power play opportunities for the Hershey Bears. Unlike the night before the Bears were able to cash in on two of their power play chances en route to a 4-2 victory in front of 10,768 at Giant Stadium.
Barney added his second goal of the night in the second period, which would prove to be the game winner. Chris Bourque would add an insurance goal in the third period for the Bears.
Veteran Frederic Cassivi was solid in net for Hershey making 20 saves on 22 shots faced.
The game’s three stars all went to members of the Hershey Bears; first star went to Barney who tallied two goals in the game. The second star went to Klepis with one goal and the third star went to Matt Hendricks with one assist.
Game 3, June 4 @ Hamilton
A game that was once again filled with penalties saw the Bulldogs make the most of their opportunities on way to a 5-2 victory in front of 5683 at Copps Coliseum. The Bulldogs were able to take advantage of their six power play chances, scoring three goals with the extra man.
The Bears controlled play throughout the first period thanks to six power play chances in the first, however it took a late goal by Klepis to even the score at one. The Bulldogs opened the scoring on an early goal by Danny Groulx.
Hamilton blew the game wide open in the second period scoring four different times in the stanza. Hamilton enjoyed goals by Andre Benoit, Ryan O’Byrne, Dan Janceveski, and Danny Groulx’s second of the game. Klepis would add his second goal of the game midway through the third period.
Even given 11 power play opportunities, the Bears were once again unable to solve the mystery of Price, scoring only one power play goal. Price would make 38 saves on 40 shots on his way to the game’s second star.
A game that featured an offensive outburst by the Bulldogs defensemen, who scored all five of Hamilton’s goals. Groulx was named the game’s first star and O’Byrne was named the game’s third star.
Several times during the game the Bulldogs would make a good defensive stand and use their speed to break out of the zone and create scoring chances. O’Byrne goals in the second period was the perfect example. Matt D’Agostini used his speed to beat a Bears defender to the puck along the side boards and feed a pass through the center of the ice to find a streaking O’Byrne for the goal.
When asked after the game on what the Bulldogs did to come back from the Bears controlling the play the entire first period D’Agostini responded, “we just stuck to our game plan — tried to stay out of the box.” The Bulldogs were able to play much more disciplined the second two periods, only taking two more penalties the rest of the way until the last two minutes of the game when the outcome was pretty well solidified.
Game 4, June 6 @ Hamilton
The least penalized game of the series saw the Bulldogs control the play nearly the entire way en route to a 6-2 victory. Hamilton jumped out to a quick two-goal lead in the first on goals by Grabovsky and D‘Agostini.
Hamilton would also add a goal in the second by Eric Manlow and an early third period goal by Michael Lambert to make it a 4-0 game. Hershey fired back with goals by Klepis and Thomas Fleischmann at 5:07 and 14:03 of the third period.
Hamilton would take a late penalty only to score two short-handed goals, one by Ajay Baines on an empty net and one by Duncan Milroy just 16 seconds later.
Price stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced, while his counterpart from the Bears allowed five goals on 25 shots. The game’s three stars went to Grabovsky, Eric Manlow, and Benoit all from the Bulldogs.
Game 5, June 7 @ Hamilton
The lowest scoring game of the series saw Baines score a short-handed goal at 9:33 of the third period to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 victory and the franchise’s first ever Calder Cup Championship.
Maxim Lappiere opened the scoring at 14:37 of the second period with the assist going to Benoit. Klepis would tie the game up for the Bears just over four minutes later.
With the Bears on the power play midway through the third period Lapierre blocked a shot from the point, collected the puck and was off to the races. Using his great speed, Lapierre was able to fly down the right side as Baines sprinted toward the net where he received the pass and put the puck in the net as he went crashing into the end boards.
It was somewhat of a surreal feeling for Baines scoring the game winner on a pass from Lapierre. After the game, Baines recalled the first time he met new teammate Lapierre at training camp in Montreal, Baines recalled what Lapierre said to him “he said ‘Bainsey, I want to win something this year.’ It’s kind of a surreal feeling right now, when someone says that to you and you team up for the winning goal, it’s something we can talk about when we’re older.”
The game featured excellent goaltending on both ends of the ice. Price was named the game’s second star as he made 29 saves on 30 shots. At the other end of the ice, Cassivi stopped 24 of the 26 Hamilton shots and was named the game’s third star. The game’s first star went to none other than Baines who had the game and series-winning goal.
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.