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Bulldogs soar past Windsor Spitfires in OHL action

Brantford BulldogsBulldogs soar past Windsor Spitfires in OHL action

The Brantford Bulldogs mounted a strong team effort from start to finish, defeating the Windsor Spitfires 5-1 on Saturday, January 20, 2024.

Making their first appearance at the Civic Centre since February 19, 1984, the Spitfires were off to a quick start offensively. Although the visitors made a good effort in the opening minutes, Bulldogs netminder Matteo Drobac was up to the task by making several key saves to keep the game scoreless. The first notable sequence came less than a minute into the contest, as Drobac robbed three Spitfires players with multiple highlight-reeling sprawling saves.

The Bulldogs offence would then strike first at the 4:29 mark. Right winger Zakary Lavoie passed the puck to defenceman Daniil Sobolev in the attacking zone. Sobolev then fed the puck through a screen of two Bulldogs and Spitfires, only for left winger Marek Vanacker to redirect the puck through the pads of Spitfires netminder Joey Costanzo. The goal was Vanacker’s 20th of the season, with Sobolev and Lavoie rewarded with the assists.

As the period progressed, the Bulldogs continued to generate opportunities in their attacking zone, but Constanzo kept his team in the game early. But the Bulldogs extended their lead with 4:18 to go in the opening frame. Right after the face-off won by centreman Noah Nelson, right winger Calvin Crombie took the puck, skated near the boards in the left face-off circle, and rifled a shot that Nelson tipped in front of Costanzo. Crombie received the well-earned assist on Nelson’s fourth goal of the season.

The Spitfires answered back before the end of the period. With 1:40 remaining, left winger, Valentin Zhugin shoots the puck, initially stopped by Bulldogs netminder Drobac, but centreman Pasquale Zito gets the rebound and tucked the puck past the sprawling Drobac to cut the Bulldogs lead in half.

Both goaltenders played well as the period concluded. Despite the late goal, Drobac was efficient between the pipes in the first twenty minutes, stopping 10 out of 11 Spitfires shots. Costanzo was solid as well, stopping 11 out of 13 Bulldogs shots.

Bulldogs LW Joshua Avery (86) gets checked onto the boards by Spitfires D Djbril Toure during second period action on Saturday, January 20, 2024.

Both netminders continued solid work in their respective nets in the second period. After a stalemate for half the period, the Bulldogs restored their two-goal lead. Centreman Noah Nelson intercepted the puck in their attacking zone. He made the quick pass to right winger Zakary Lavoie, whose shot barely went in between the pads of the Spitfires netminder Costanzo. With the goal, Lavoie has tallied eight points (four goals and four assists) in four games with the Bulldogs. Nelson got his second point of the game with the assist.

With just over two minutes left in the middle frame, the Bulldogs overage netminder made another noteworthy save of the night. Spitfires centreman Ryan Abraham skated past multiple Bulldogs defenders from centre ice to their offensive zone and tried to shoot the puck up close, but Drobac made the excellent right pad save.

After forty minutes, the Bulldogs had a commanding 3-1 lead over the Spitfires but were down a man at the start of the third period after a penalty near the end of the middle frame.

The Bulldogs penalty kill successfully turned away the Spitfires comeback aspirations early in the final period, and the home side added more insurance not long after. On their only power play of the game at 3:06, defenceman Owen Protz received the pass from left winger Florian Xhekaj near the blue line. Protz fired the puck towards the Spitfires goal, causing a misdirection from the Spitfires defence and leaving Costanzo vulnerable, only for centreman Jake O’Brien to tip the puck in the open net.

At the 11:20 mark, the Bulldogs tallied one more to secure the win as centreman Ben Bujold seized the puck and passed it to right winger Adrian Rubelo, who then fired the puck at Costanzo, who made the save, only for left winger Lawson Sherk to batted the loose puck and it squeaked past the Spitfires netminder. It was the team captain’s fifth goal of the year, with Rebelo and Bujold collecting the assists. 

The Bulldogs would then toughen their defence the rest of the period, limit the Spitfires to only four shots in the final twenty minutes, and secure the win in front of 3,137 fans.

With the well-earned win, Bulldogs netminder Matteo Drobac has tied with Kaden Fulcher for the franchise’s all-time wins by a goaltender with 55.

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