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Nick Lardis leads Bulldogs to game one victory over 67’s

Brantford BulldogsNick Lardis leads Bulldogs to game one victory over 67's

The Brantford Bulldogs scored three powerplay goals on their way to a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa 67’s in game one of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup on Friday, March 29, 2024.

OHL playoff hockey returned to Brantford for the first time in 40 years on Friday. The last OHL playoff game at the Brantford Civic Centre was back on April 8, 1984 when the Brantford Alexanders hosted the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

A Bulldogs fan is all geared up and ready to go for the first OHL playoff game in Brantford since April 8, 1984 when the Brantford Alexanders hosted the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Bulldogs RW Nick Lardis led the way for the home team, recording two goals and an assists in the playoff victory.

Lardis wasted no time making his return count, on the power-play at 2:18. Zakary Lavoie and Jake O’Brien played catch with the puck on the left side with O’Brien finding Lardis on a cross-seam feed from the left circle to the right where Lardis hammered home his first of the playoffs past 67’s netminder Collin MacKenzie, giving the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.

Bulldogs G Matteo Drobac makes a save during a first period penalty kill against the Ottawa 67’s on Friday, March 29, 2024.

The Bulldogs doubled their lead on the power-play at 14:35 when Bulldogs D Daniil Sobolev held the puck onside battling through a Jack Dever check at the left point feeding to the bottom of the left circle for Marek Vanacker who found Nick Lardis in the right circle. Lardis’ shot deflected off the end boards, back through the crease, off the skate of MacKenzie and trickled over the goal-line and into the net for Lardis’ second goal of the game, giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 after the opening 20 minutes. 

Bulldogs G Matteo Drobac tracks the puck before making one of his eight first period saves.

The Bulldogs opened the middle frame with a three-on-one opportunity with Lawson Sherk, Calvin Crombie, and Marek Vanacker on the rush. Sherk’s drive rattled around end glass, springing an odd man opportunity for the 67’s the other way that Matteo Drobac held off. The 67’s cut into the Bulldogs lead at 6:56, as Jacob Maillet dropped the puck back from the right circle to the right point to an open Derek Smyth whose shot was deflected by Luca Pinelli at the hash marks giving the 67’s captain his first of the playoffs, cutting the lead to 2-1.

Bulldogs LW Adrian Rebelo chases after a loose puck behind the 67’s net during second period action on Friday, March 29, 2024.

The hosts bounced right back at 9:59, gaining a two-on-one with Jake O’Brien finding Marek Vanacker on the right side , putting the pass on a tee, where the Bulldogs leading scorer sent his drive back bar down, giving the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead. The Bulldogs attempt to keep the momentum flowing in the final moments with an opportunity coming from Florian Xhekaj in the slot, but MacKenzie turned aside his drive from the top of the slot, keeping it a 3-1 game after two periods.

Bulldogs C Lawson Sherk breaks down the far wing and rips a shot on goal during second period action on Friday, March 29, 2024.

In the early moments of the final frame, Nick Lardis drove the net and was able to pick up his own rebound but both shots were turned aside by MacKenzie. At 6:46, Bulldogs D Lucas Moore sent the puck around the boards to Cole Brown where he found Lawson Sherk at the right post, rolling the puck through the crease to Calvin Crombie who rolled the puck over the goal line for his firs of the playoffs, opening up a 4-1 lead.

Bulldogs D Lucas Moore battles for the puck against the Ottawa 67’s on Friday, March 29, 2024.

The home team added to their lead at halfway through the final frame when Bullodgs C Patrick Thomas found Lardis, who took the initial shot through a crowd that was stopped by MacKenzie, but Sherk is able to backhand the rebound around the 67’s netminder’s pad and into the back of the net giving the Bulldogs a 5-1 lead on the captain’s first of the playoffs.

Bulldogs captain Lawson Sherk taps the puck past the outstretched pad of 67’s goalie Collin Mackenzie for a third period powerplay goal on Friday, March 29, 2024.

At 15:04, the 67’s were able to claw one back with Caden Kelly scoring and Jack Dever getting the assist. Ottawa pressed a little further late with Cooper Foster jumping on a turnover in front of the Bulldogs goal only to be denied by a spectacular Matteo Drobac save, who stopped 26 of 28 in the victory, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-seven series.

Ottawa 67’s D Samuel Mayer wrestles Bulldogs D Owen Protz to the ice during third period action on Friday, March 29, 2024.

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