DOGS DERAILED DROPPING 3-1 DECISION TO FIREBIRDS
BRANTFORD, ONTARIO. The Bulldogs continued their 3-in-3 weekend facing off with the Flint Firebirds for their only visit at the Brantford Civic Center for this season with the Saturday matinee marking the first of two meetings in the 2023-24 season.
The Bulldogs entered Saturday adding Tomas Hamara to Nick Lardis on the injured list following the blindside hit the Czech defenseman took on Friday night in Guelph. With Flint goaltender Jacob Brown seeing his first action in just under a month, the Bulldogs were quick to jump on the visitors at 2:21. Florian Xhekaj scored his 21st of the season, driving down the right wing and blowing past the Firebirds defence to back-hand a shot through Brown into the net to take the 1-0 lead. Oliver Peer earned an opportunity to quickly knot the game, sprinting in behind the Bulldogs defense on a sneakaway, but Matteo Drobac came up with a blocker save. On a short-handed opportunity, Marek Vanacker’s shot is stopped by Jacob Brown but Patrick Thomas, driving the crease, shovelled the puck into the Flint goal only to have it ruled no goal with the official incorrectly assessing that Brown had frozen the puck. Noah Roberts exited the game late in the opening frame, receiving a match penalty for a head butt on Matthew Wang giving the Firebirds a 5-minute major power play opportunity. Within the final minutes of the opening frame at 18:19 Nolan Dann evened up the game scoring his 20th of the season on a set up in the right circle from Oliver Peer & Roberto Mancini with Dann’s shot deflecting off a Bulldogs defender on the way through to the net.
The Firebirds opened up the middle frame with 2:59 left on the major power play advantage ringing the crossbar off a Roberto Mancini drive. After the Bulldogs killed the major, just surrendering the one goal, Luca Testa drove the net where his initial shot was stopped by Brown, the Bulldogs winger spiked the rebound out of the air back to the crease but was unable to get past Brown with the game staying even. The Firebirds took the lead at 9:44, on the power-play, with Alex Kostov scoring his 8th of the season deflecting a Nolan Dann right circle shot off his hip to give the visitors the 2-1 advantage. Nolan Dann thought he added to the Firebirds lead shortly after, however, following a booth review Oliver Peer was deemed offside on the zone entry, and the goal was disallowed with the score still sitting at 2-1 for Flint. Cedricsson Okitundu produced the best chance for the Bulldogs in the later stages of the middle frame with a blast from the middle of the blueline taking a deflection through the slot, rolling past Brown and bouncing off the goal post. Though Cole Brown was able to jump on the rebound a diving Connor Clattenburg got enough of the puck to hammer is out of danger. Following 40 minutes, the Firebirds hit the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
The Bulldogs piled on shots in the Firebirds zone trying to tie the frame early but none of their chances could find the back on Jacob Brown’s net. Adrian Rebelo looked to set up Ben Bujold in a scramble out front of Brown’s crease with Bujold’s stick snapping in half as he tried to fire it past Brown. Luca Testa followed up, driving a point blank opportunity on net, but his shot is directed wide by Brown with a desperation save. Despite furious pressure down the stretch with the Bulldogs directing a game high 10 shots to Brown’s net in the frame, and creating a handful of goalmouth scrambles, they hosts were unable to find the equalizer. With the Bulldogs net empty at 19:01, Alex Kostov grabbed Patrick Thomas from the back side after Thomas had accelerated past Kostov from behind the net forcing the offensive zone turnover and hitting the empty net to salt the game, ending in a 3-1 Firebirds win.
The Bulldogs wrap up their 3-in-3 weekend tomorrow, February 11th, at the Brantford Civic Center hosting the Peterborough Petes with puck drop at 2:00pm.