The Brantford Bulldogs began their three games in three nights on the right note with a solid 5-3 win over the Niagara IceDogs on Friday, November 10, 2023.
IceDogs controlled the pace to start the game, outshooting the Bulldogs 9-3 in the first eleven minutes. The first significant scoring chance came less than five minutes in as IceDogs forward Kevin He tried to bury the puck stick side, only to have Bulldogs netminder Matteo Drobac make an excellent pad save.
The Bulldogs offence also generated a few quality chances early in the period. The first was by a pass by right winger Dylan Tsherna to left winger Marek Vanacker with a wide-open shot, only to be denied by IceDogs netminder Owen Flores. Another came with just over seven minutes remaining, as Defenceman Noah Roberts’ shot up close was denied once more by the sprawling Flores.
Moments later, the Bulldogs opened the scoring. At the 13:05 mark, Centreman Ben Bujold tallied his second of the season after Nick Lardis’ shot was initially stopped in between the pads of Flores, only for Bujold to tap the loose puck into the open net. Lardis and Patrick Thomas picked up the assists. With the assist, Patrick Thomas extended his point streak to nine games.
Then, at 2:37 remaining in the opening period, Centreman Florian Xhekaj extended the Bulldogs lead with his fifth goal of the season. Xhekaj retrieved the puck from the right winger Calvin Crombie, who then shot from the right circle area, which went past IceDogs netminder Flores. Forward Calvin Crombie received credit with the assist.
The Bulldogs finished the period strong and outshot the IceDogs 9-1 in the period’s final nine minutes.
In the second period, the Bulldogs capitalized on most of IceDogs’ discipline issues.
The first power play marker came on the five-on-three at 7:23. Flores stopped Defenceman Jorian Donovan’s shot from the blue line, but left winger Marek Vanacker jammed the rebound past the IceDogs netminder to increase the Bulldogs lead to 3-0. Defenceman Jorian Donovan received credit for the primary assist. Thomas recorded his second assist of the game as well.
Less than five minutes later, the Bulldogs power play unit hit paydirt again. This time, it was Luca Testa with his seventh goal of the season. Flores stopped Lardis’s shot from the right circle, but Testa jammed the puck past the Niagara netminder. Lardis and Vanacker each recorded their second point of the night with the assists.
Another bright spot for the Bulldogs came with seven minutes left in the middle frame. IceDogs right winger Zackary Lavoie took the penalty shot, only to be denied by a great stick save from Bulldogs netminder Drobac.
After forty minutes of play, Drobac stopped all 17 shots he faced from the IceDogs.
In the third period, Drobac’s shutout bid ended. Former Bulldog Ryan Humphrey tipped the Defenceman Daniel Sobolev’s shot past the goaltender to cut the deficit to 4-1.
Bulldogs responded with 5:38 left, as Xhekaj got the puck from left winger Dylan Tsherna, then shot top corner past Flores for a 5-1 lead. Tsherna gets credited with a well-earned assist, and Vanacker tallied his third point of the night with the secondary assist.
The IceDogs scored twice in the final 2:45, but that was as close as they would get as the Bulldogs sent their fans home happy with the 5-3 victory.