Bulldogs Week 20 Review
The Hamilton Bulldogs wrapped up their twentieth week with their fourth straight loss thanks to an overtime defeat at the hands of divisional rivals, the Peterborough Petes. The team record this week was 0-1-2-0, and saw a few interesting stories develop between injury recoveries and new opportunities.
Oh Captain, my Captain
Following last week’s loss to the Kingston Frontenacs last Saturday, Feb. 6th, I asked Coach Burnett what the outlook was for the return of rearguard Justin Lemcke. He tentatively answered “We’re still thinking it’s going to be March, but if it happens sooner it’s going to be a bonus. I’m not counting on him to be here, he’s got some on-ice fitness to take care of to give him a chance to compete”. The team having their captain back into the line up is the biggest news this week, for a variety of reasons. Burnett made a lot of sense justifying the low-key roster insertion. “He had an x-ray a few days ago and we were going to make a decision at game time, we weren’t in a rush to do it. Had we announced something and have him not play, that wouldn’t have been very effective so we thought we’d bring him in under the radar”.
During the second intermission of the game, I sat down with the voice of the Bulldogs, radio play by play broadcaster Matt Holmes as well as Luke Vermeer, AM 900’s post game reporter. Our panel spent a length of time discussing the return of the captain, and what his addition to the lineup means for the team going down the stretch.
Seizing the opportunity
You hate to see guys get injured at any time in any sport, but especially when they’re just beginning promising careers. Brandon Saigeon’s fractured wrist is a huge let down for fans of the local product, and more importantly for the aspiring prospect who’s sights are set on a long career in hockey. That being said, his absence from the lineup has allowed for other players to have the chance to step up and show off their skills. Enter Mitchell Mendonca, a fourth line centre who at one point this season sent down to Thorold to play Jr. B. Mendonca has been fighting all season to stay a consistent presence in the lineup, and has been earning his keep with 4 goals in the last 8 games (Saigeon was injured 9 games ago). I had a quick conversation with him after his two point night against the Petes:
- On his power play goal: Mendonca: “It was a good play by all the guys, I think we moved the puck around good, and Cramarossa found the seam right to me, and it ended up in the net. You try not to think about shots like that too much, just shoot as hard as I can and find and opening“.
- What has he done to work his way into the line up: Mendonca: “I think just staying positive, taking all the opportunity I can get, and showing what I can do to make the most of it“.
- Describe what type of game you bring to the team: Mendonca: “I’d say I can play a speedy game, I’ve got good puck skills, I always like to make a pass towards guys, I like to make pass before I’d shoot. If a game gets chippy, I also have that grit that I can play with. I’d like to think I’m an all around player who can fit into any situation depending on the way the game goes“.
Ultimately, opportunities like this don’t come around often, and Mendonca is making the most of it. He had a strong game against Niagara on Wednesday, and had his first two point night in the OHL Saturday after getting the primary assist on Evan Krassey’s first OHL goal against the Petes. He’s been successfully handling the power play minutes he’s receiving, and was even on the ice during overtime. I asked Coach Burnett about the increased level of trust in Mendonca’s game we’re witnessing, and here’s what he had to say:
“He’s done a pretty good job on the power play, he’s maybe a little bit under the radar. He made a good decision tonight, made a great shot. We want to have two strong power play units, and we needed somebody to take some pressure off our first unit. He’s got the opportunity to go in their and do that and I think he’s done a pretty good job” – George Burnett on Mitchell Mendonca’s play.
Post-Game – The Other Side
I talked to Peterborough’s back-up goalie Dylan Wells, who got the start for the Petes and secured the 4-3 win. Wells was ranked the 5th North American goalie in the NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking, the top OHL draft eligible goalie. He was also recently ranked #55 by TSN’s Bob McKenzie on his mid-season ranking.