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Bulldogs drop key division game to the Generals

Brantford BulldogsBulldogs drop key division game to the Generals

Despite a solid effort in the final two periods, the Brantford Bulldogs fell short in a 6-4 loss to the Oshawa Generals on Friday, March 8, 2024.

The Generals controlled the tempo from the early onset, wasting no time getting on the board, and silencing the raucous crowd of 3,167.  

Just 58 seconds in, Generals defenceman Luca Marrelli passed the puck from the blue line in the Bulldogs zone to centreman Rasmus Kumpulainen, who then passed to left winger Stuart Rolofs in front of the Brantford crease. After an initial pad save from Bulldogs netminder Matteo Drobac, Generals right winger Connor Lockhart jammed the loose puck past Drobac for the game-opening goal.

The Generals’ secondary offensive line of Rolofs, Kumpulainen, and Lockhart continued to find paydirt at 7:40. Lockhart passed the puck to defenceman Connor Punnett near the Bulldogs blue line. Punnett’s shot went through a crowd in front and through the pads of Bulldogs netminder Drobac. The goal was initially waived off due to goaltending interference but overturned after a successful coach challenge by Oshawa following a lengthy official review.

Oshawa continued to pour on the goals, scoring at the 9:32 mark. Right winger Bennett Sennecke deked Bulldogs defenceman Niko Krmpotic and made the reverse pass to streaking left winger Ethan Toms, who then rifled the puck past the left shoulder of Drobac for a 3-0 lead.

Generals added one more before the period concluded. It came on the powerplay at 11:34 after defenceman Luca D’Amato made a quick pass to centreman Calum Ritchie. Ritchie then finds left winger Dylan Roobereck, shooting up close and through the right side of Drobac.

After the first twenty minutes of play, the Generals overwhelmed the Bulldogs with their strong play and outshot their rivals 15-6. 

Bulldogs D Owen Protz (12) holds on to Oshawa Generals RW Connor Lockhart along the boards in the first period.

The Bulldogs flipped the script in the second period and found their rhythm. Unable to solve Generals netminder Jacob Oster for the first seven minutes, the Bulldogs’ offensive effort in the middle frame paid dividends, courtesy of centreman Patrick Thomas. At the 8:02 mark, Thomas won the faceoff; defenceman Noah Roberts got the puck from left winger Marek Vanacker and shot the puck at the Oshawa goal, only for Thomas to redirect the puck past Oster for his 19th of the season. Roberts and Vanacker with the assists.

The Bulldogs outshot the Generals 15-6 in the middle frame, sustaining offensive pressure in their attacking zone for most of the period and keeping the General’s threat to a minimum.

Bulldogs G Matteo Drobac (45) makes the glove save in the first period.

Brantford continued its momentum in the third period, outshooting its division counterparts 6-0 in the first six minutes. At 6:09, left winger Luca Testa won the battle for the puck along the end boards of the Bulldogs’ attack zone and dished the puck to rookie defenceman Krmpotic, who then rifled the puck through a screen. Right winger Cole Brown and past Oster tipped the shot. It was Brown’s 11th goal of the season, with Krmpotic and Testa getting the assists.

Bulldogs cut the deficit to a single goal over a minute later at 7:16. Defenceman Daniil  Sobolev made a short pass to right winger Zakary Lavoie from the blue line. Lavoie then made a wide-open pass to the streaking left winger Marek Vanacker, who deak the Oshawa netminder Oster before tucking in the puck between the pads for his 32nd of the season. Lavoie and Sobolev with the assists on the well-timed sequence.

Bulldogs C Lawson Sherk (39) tries to redirect the puck past Oshawa Generals G Jacob Oster in the second period.

The score remained 4-3 until the Generals again silenced the Bulldogs fans in attendance with less than four minutes left. After Oster made the save, the Generals quickly made the transition to offence, with left winger Dylan Roobereck providing the quick feed to centreman Calum Ritchie, who gets around Bulldogs defenceman Noah Roberts, passing the puck to the right winger Bennett Sennecke, beating the sprawling Bulldogs netminder Matteo Drobac.

With Drobac on the bench for an extra attacker, right winger Cole Brown responded for the Bulldogs with his second goal, which had less than thirty seconds remaining, to cut the deficit back to one at 5-4. Thomas notched his 100th career assist in the Ontario Hockey League on the Brown goal, while Vanacker notched his third point of the game.

The Bulldogs, once again, pulled Drobac for the extra attacker with 22 seconds left, but their last offensive push backfired in the closing seconds as the Generals right winger Sennecke buried the empty netter with three seconds remaining to seal the win and the division lead for the Generals.

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