DROBAC DENIES 31 & XHEKAJ POTS A PAIR IN 2-1 WIN OVER 67s
OTTAWA, ONTARIO. The Brantford Bulldogs opened up a weekend road trip to the east with their first meeting of the season against the Ottawa 67s at TD Place Arena. The Bulldogs entered the evening shorthanded up front with captain Lawson Sherk missing his 3rd straight game, while sniper Nick Lardis was unable to go for the game Friday night.
The Bulldogs had the opening jump on Friday night with a makeshift forward group showing quick chemistry cycling the puck at will in the Ottawa end. The hard work had its exclamation point at 4:36 as Marek Vanacker & Jake O’Brien combined to force the puck to the front of Max Donoso’s net. After O’Brien’s initial jam shot was denied, Florian Xhekaj was on the scene to push the puck past the 67s netminder for his 8th of the season, staking the Bulldogs out to a 1-0 lead. The 67s found their legs as the period went along, eventually throwing 12 shots to Matteo Drobac’s goal. Ottawa captured the equalizer at 7:40, after Drobac’s initial pad save hopped out to Cooper Foster who was able to bat it past the Bulldogs starter to tie the game 1-1. Marek Vanacker shortly after earned a breakaway chance on Donoso utilizing his blinding speed, trying to flip the puck over Donoso’s blocker with the 67s goaltender just managing to knock the attempt aside. Drobac wouldn’t be outduelled in the first period as the 67s drove the Bulldogs goal with Luca Pinelli’s first shot being turned aside with Drobac hitting the splits, the Dogs goaltender extended his toe as far as it would go to deny Cooper Foster a second of the night in spectacular fashion, sending the game to the locker room tied up 1-1.
The story of the second period could simply be summed up as Matteo Drobac. With the Bulldogs needing to kill a pair of penalties in the frame, Drobac was incredible. Turning aside all 13 he faced, none were finer than his 2-on-1 save late in the period. With Luca Pinelli hitting a burst on the left wing, he floated the puck middle to Brad Gardiner who cut across the net front attempting to tuck the puck past Drobac’s pad. Drobac split across the net making an absolutely brilliant right pad save that brought the Ottawa crowd to its feet in appreciation. The Bulldogs captured the lead once again in the middle frame with Tomas Hamara off the right boards feeding Cole Brown at the blueline who whipped a shot to the front of the net that Florian Xhekaj tipped past Max Donoso for his 2nd of the game & 9th of the season giving the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes.
The final 20 minutes was a brilliant defensive effort from the Bulldogs, holding the 67s to a mere 7 shots at Matteo Drobac’s goal while they were chasing the one goal defecit. Drobac turned aside all 7, with his finest coming just past the halfway mark as Kaleb Lawrence worked his way from the blueline through the slot for a drive that Drobac turned aside. Making 31 saves in all, Drobac played a starring role as the Bulldogs earned a 2-1 victory over the 67s to run their record over the last 5 games to 4-0-1-0.
The Brantford Bulldogs close their eastern weekend excursion with the season’s first matchup with the Kingston Frontenacs at Leon’s Centre in Kingston on Saturday, November 18th with a 7:00pm start.