Harper’s late goal sinks Generals in Bulldogs home opener

Bulldogs earn first win of inaugural OHL season

Stephen Harper dazzled in the Bulldog's 4-3 win over the Oshawa Generals.
Stephen Harper dazzled in the Bulldogs’ 4-3 win over the Oshawa Generals. (Hamilton Bulldogs)

HAMILTON – Stephen Harper’s go-ahead goal at 15:12 of the third period led the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 4-3 win over the Oshawa Generals in the teams’ inaugural home opener Saturday night.

After Jalen Smereck was sent off for interference late in the third period, Harper put the Bulldogs (1-1) ahead for good when his point shot beat a screened Jeremy Brodeur for his second tally of the night.

Harper’s first goal of the contest came at 14:52 of the second period with the Bulldogs trailing 2-1. After some good Hamilton pressure down low, he wrapped the puck around the net and somehow managed to jam it just over the line and under Brodeur’s leg. The referees reviewed the play, but it was deemed a good goal to tie the game 2-2.

The Burlington, Ont., native, who added two assists, was pleased with his performance.

“I want to perform my best obviously being a local guy,” said Harper, after his team’s win Saturday night. “It’s nice to contribute but getting the win is the most important thing.”

Don Cherry dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff to raucous cheers from the crowd, but bigger things were on the way for the Hamilton faithful.

Trent Fox opened the scoring for the Bulldogs just 2:53 into the game, banging a rebound past Jeremy Brodeur after a Harper point shot, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Brandon Saigeon had a great chance to extend the Bulldogs’ lead a few minutes later, breaking in all alone, but Brodeur shut him down with a nice right pad save.

“I was at the end of my shift, so I was pretty tired,” said Saigeon about the breakaway. “I pulled the ‘Stephen Harper’ there and went low blocker. He gave me a hard time about it because that’s his shootout move. I just tried to give it my best effort and he (Brodeur) kicked it aside.”

The good mood in the rink didn’t last long as Bulldogs’ Joseph Mizzi took a hooking penalty later in the period that proved costly for Hamilton. Stephen Desrocher blasted one on net that was tipped by Anthony Cirelli, beating a surprised Charlie Graham in net at 17:58 to knot things up at one.

The Generals (1-1) kept pressing. Lukas Lofquist rang one off the bar just over six minutes into the second period that somehow stayed out of the net.

Moments later, Maurizio Colella took a holding penalty that again proved costly for Hamilton. Lofquist got his revenge just 20 seconds into the man-advantage, snapping one just over the pad of Graham at 7:18 to put the Generals up 2-1.

After some great pressure down low in the Hamilton zone, Lofquist scored his second of the game, taking a feed from Jacob Graves and tucking one past Graham to make it 3-2 Oshawa just 1:20 into the third period.

The Generals looked poised to add to their one-goal lead, getting a two-man advantage after penalties to Cole Candella and Colella but were unable to capitalise despite a few good chances.

It seemed to spark the Bulldogs as they tied game just moments later. Christian Mieritz rifled one past Brodeur at 9:21 to tie the game at three after a nice feed from Harper to knot the game once again.

Bulldogs head coach George Burnett believes escaping the penalties unscathed helped give the team some momentum.

“It generally does,” said Burnett. “If you look around our league, to get a 5-on-3 goal or to stop one, it seems to give you a big momentum shift. It certainly did for us tonight and the guys handled themselves really well.”

Graham picked up the win for Hamilton, stopping 29 of 32 shots and was named the third star of the game. Brodeur took the loss, finishing with 32 saves on 36 shots.

Hamilton will take on the Ottawa 67’s in the nation’s capital next Friday while the Generals next see action at home against the North Bay Battalion tomorrow.