Brantford Bulldogs gave over 3,000 fans something to cheer about as they won their inaugural home game by defeating the Oshawa Generals 5-2 in Ontario Hockey League (OHL) action on Saturday, October 7, 2023.
Before the game got underway, the Bulldogs held a pregame ceremony, which included a video montage, player and staff introductions, as well as, a ceremonial face-off with members of City of Brantford Council and Michael Andlauer, owner of the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs came out quickly but controlled as they spent the opening minute on the attack in the Generals zone. Brantford continued to apply pressure, using puck pressure and a strong forecheck, to keep the Generals hemmed in their own zone for most of the opening seven minutes. The Generals responded with a handful of scoring chances off the rush but Bulldogs G Matteo Drobac shut the door through the opening ten minutes.
While Brantford controlled most of the play, it was the Generals who got on the scoreboard first after Stuart Rolofs tipped a shot past Drobac to give the visitor a 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs were then given the chance to tie things up when they were awarded their first man advantage when Lucas Rodriguez was sent off for interference. The Dogs spent the entire powerplay on the attack but couldn’t beats Generals G Jacob Oster for the equalizer. Brantford dominated most of the opening frame but the Generals took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Bulldogs came out flying to start the second period, spending the first 30 seconds in the Generals zone, hemming them in leading to their second powerplay of the game, 48 seconds into the period. Brantford continued to attack, playing well on the powerplay but couldn’t capitalize. Brantford finally got on the board ten second after the man advantage ended after solid work by C Ben Bujold, who kept banging away at a loose puck, and tapped it to RW Florian Xhekaj, who tapped it into a wide open net for the equalizer.
After tying things at one, the Generals found their legs and went on the offensive, spending most of the next five minutes in the Brantford zone. The Bulldogs responded with their own offensive attack before momentum shifted in the Generals way. Xhekaj was given a five-minute match penalty for a slew foot, leading to a five-minute powerplay for the Generals. Brantford played well on the penalty kill, being aggressive and getting in passing lanes, which led to the short-handed, go-ahead goal with 45 seconds left in the kill.
Masen Wray capitalized on a turnover at his own blueline, skated down the ice and fired a shot on Oster then Bujold buried the rebound into the open net, giving the home team its first lead of the game, 2-1. The solid penalty kill fired up the Bulldogs, who then went back on the attack but couldn’t increase their lead.
The game then turned physical after LW Marek Vanacker took a high stick from Generals D Thomas Stewart, which wasn’t seen by the officials. They both headed into the corner and after a hit by Stewart, both players dropped the gloves in a short scrap.
Brantford continued to dominate the Generals, continuing their aggressive forecheck and puck pressure, leading to their third goal with seven seconds left. After spending most of the last minute in the Generals zone, RW Dylan Tsherna and C Cole Brown had a great shift, keeping the play alive for captain Lawson Sherk, who jammed away at a loose puck at the side of the net to give the home team a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Both teams started the final frame playing four on four after a scrum to end the second stanza and the General took advantage 34 seconds in when LW Beckett Sennecke caught the Dogs napping and went in all alone and Beat Drobac to cut the lead to 3-2 very early in the third.
The Bulldogs responded three minutes later when LW Nick Lardis picked off a pass in the offensive zone, broke in all alone and beat Oster high glove-side to give Brantford a 4-2 lead.
Oshawa bounced back, pushing the pace for the next several minutes before running into penalty trouble. The Bulldogs were awarded consecutive penalties through the middle stages of the period and, while they had their chances, couldn’t increase their lead.
Brantford continued their strong play in the late stages of the final frame, led by Lardis. With six minutes remaining, Patrick Thomas gained the Generals blueline and fed Lardis for a one-timer who buried it past Oster for his second goal of the game. The Bulldogs played well down the stretch as they skated to the 5-2 victory.
Lardis, Bujold and Drobac were named the three stars of the game while 3,041 fans witnessed the inaugural win for the Brantford Bulldogs at the Civic Centre. The Bulldogs next home game is Friday, October 13 when the Peterborough Petes come to town.