The defending OHL champions were outclassed Thursday night, ending up on the losing end of a 2-10 walloping. The team will look to make quick amends Saturday night. Photo credit: Hamilton Bulldogs
The Hamilton Bulldogs opened up the 2023 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoffs on Thursday with a 2-10 loss on the road in Barrie.
The Bulldogs won the OHL championship in 2022 after a thrilling postseason in which they swept through the first three rounds of the playoffs going 12-0 in the process.
But this year’s team is very different.
Only six players remain from last season’s championship team.
Plus, the Bulldogs’ playoff opponent, the Barrie Colts, are no joke.
The Colts are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, while the Bulldogs are on a five-game losing streak.
The Colts finished the season with a 42-17-9 record and 93 points.
The Bulldogs finished 33-30-5 with 71 points.
Barrie Colts top scorer is centre Evan Vierling who finished with 95 regular season points. Their second top scorer Ethan Cardwell has 90 points.
In comparison, the Bulldogs top scorer is Sahil Panwar who has 69 points on the season.
Last year, the Bulldogs had star defencemen Arber Xhekaj and Nathan Staios, forwards Logan Morrison and Mason McTavish, and star goalie Marco Costantini.
All of those players are no longer on the team.
This year, the Colts are the ones with the star defenceman. Eighth overall 2021 NHL draft pick and Canadian World Junior gold-medal-winning player Brandt Clarke is on their roster.
And yet, interestingly, the two teams split the season series.
Barrie beat Hamilton 7-5 at Sadlon Arena on November 10, but then the Bulldogs won six days later with a 2-1 victory at the FirstOntario Centre.
The Colts then won the third matchup of the season 6-3 in Hamilton on February 17, but the Bulldogs won 7-5 in Barrie on March 2.
But now it’s the playoffs, so anything can happen.
After taking the first game with a convincing 10-2 victory at home, the Colts will also host Game 2 on Saturday, April 1.
The Bulldogs will host games three and four on Sunday, April 2 and Tuesday, April 4 at the FirstOntario Centre.
If the series does not go the Bulldogs way, it’s possible that those two games could be their last of the season.
It could also be the Bulldogs last two games in Hamilton for a long while, with the team moving to Brantford next season during FirstOntario Centre renovations.
If necessary, Game 5 would be played in Barrie on Thursday, April 6, Hamilton would host Game 6 on Monday, April 10 and Game 7 would be Tuesday, April 11 in Barrie.
Tickets are on sale now and are available at Ticketmaster.ca
Elsewhere in the league, the Ottawa 67’s finished the season with 107 points and are the championship favourites.
In the Western Conference, the Windsor Spitfires finished in top spot with 94 points.
Barrie Colts (3) vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (6)
Game 1 – Thurs. March 30 at Barrie, 7:30pm – 2-10 (Loss)
Game 2 – Sat. April 1 at Barrie, 7:30pm
Game 3 – Sun. April 2 at Hamilton, 7:00pm
Game 4 – Tues. April 4 at Hamilton, 7:00pm
Game 5 – Thurs. April 6 at Barrie, 7:30pm*
Game 6 – Mon. April 10 at Hamilton, 7:00pm*
Game 7 – Tues. April 11 at Barrie, 7:30pm*
Based in Hamilton, he reaches hundreds of thousands of people monthly on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. He has been published in The Hamilton Spectator, Stoney Creek News, and Bay Observer. He has also been a segment host with Cable 14 Hamilton. In 2017, he received the Chancellor Full Tuition Scholarship from the University of Ottawa (BA, 2022). He has also received the Governor General’s Academic Medal. He formerly worked in a non-partisan role on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.