G39: Bulldogs host IceDogs
The Niagara IceDogs are limping into Hamilton tonight with record of 3-6-1 in their last 10 games played. This by no means indicates that Hamilton should underestimate the rebuilding team, as they’ll come in with some confidence after besting Peterborough 4-3 last night at home. Hamilton has found the back of the net 15 times in the last three games, so they’re looking to build on their recent hot streak heading into the trade deadline.
- Bulldogs in September 2015: 1-1-0
- Bulldogs in September 2016: 3-1-0
- Bulldogs in October 2015: 5-6-0
- Bulldogs in October 2016: 5-4-1
- Bulldogs in November 2015: 3-8-1
- Bulldogs in November 2016: 5-5-2
- Bulldogs in December 2015: 5-2-2
- Bulldogs in December 2016: 3-4-0-2
- Bulldogs in January 2016: 0-3-0
- Bulldogs in January 2017: 2-1-0
- Bulldogs after 38 in 2015-16: 14-21-3, 31 points (-37 goal differential)
- Bulldogs after 38 in 2016-17: 18-15-3-2, 41 points (9 goal differential)
- Bulldogs PDO after 37: 99.41 (13th in the OHL, Source)
As we know, the Bulldogs coaching staff is evaluating the season’s progress in 5 game segments. Currently, the team has played at or above .500 hockey in 4/7 segments. Segment 6 in December was the lowest point, but the team’s PDO was quite low in that period. Collectively things seem to be levelling out, which seems to indicate that when all things are equal, Hamilton should win more than they lose. Given what we’ve seen to the midpoint this season, I’m still confident that this team finishes the regular season with the home ice advantage in the playoffs.
- Segment 1: 4-1-0 PDO: 110.3
- Segment 2: 3-2-0 PDO: 102.0
- Segment 3: 2-2-1 PDO: 96.9
- Segment 4: 2-1-2 PDO: 78.0
- Segment 5: 2-3-0 PDO: 98.9
- Segment 6: 0-3-2 PDO: 92.2
- Segment 7: 3-2-0 PDO: 99.3
Hamilton had a difficult time developing offensive chemistry when the injury bug bit hard and took out 2/3 of the top line. This team really needed their dynamic forwards Strome and Bitten to click, but it took some time for the players to get comfortable. Chemistry is rarely something that occurs overnight, and often can take half a season to develop. Adjusting to a new team, new systems and playing styles can take time.
We can say with confidence that Will Bitten has now found his stride on the top line for the Bulldogs. Over the past ten games, he’s scored 7-1-8. He can be counted on to pop in a goal at least every second game right now, and if this continues he should finish the season around the 30 goal mark.
A slow start to the season is likely what kept the young man from receiving an invitation to Hockey Canada’s selection camp for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Canada lost out to the United States in what has already been deemed a classic gold medal game. Bitten was pretty excited when talking about the prospect of one day representing his country on one of the biggest stages:
“That’s my dream, I’ve always wanted to play for my world junior team. It was kinda upsetting not getting invited this year, but that means I need to work harder. It’s motivation obviously for next year in Buffalo. Hopefully I can make it next year, they’ve got the Canada vs US outdoor game so that would be pretty cool.” – Hamilton Bulldogs’ Will Bitten on Jan. 6th, 2017
Coach Gruden put together a new first line with Bitten, Petti and Luff last night, who combined for eight points in an 8-2 victory over the Oshawa Generals. Should this trio find their feet together, Hockey Canada’s Ryan Jankowski will be forced to consider Bitten for next season’s roster. There will be at least 8 new forwards on Canada’s roster next year, and Hamilton is going to give him every chance to succeed.
Feature Image: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator