It took the Hamilton Bulldogs only five games to defeat the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears and bring the city of Hamilton, Ontario, it’s first professional hockey championship. Bulldogs center Ajay Baines scored a short-handed goal against Bears goaltender Frederic Cassivi midway through the third period to put his team up 2-1. The Bears, who spent most of the remainder of the period in the penalty box, would not recover from that backbreaking tally.
You could blame the loss on the Bears’ anemic offense, which managed to score only nine goals—five of which came off the stick of perennial whipping boy Jakub Klepis—on a whopping 191 shots through five games. So where the hell were Alexandre Giroux, Tomas Fleischmann, Joey Tenute, and the rest of the Bears’ go-to goal-scorers? (OK, the 5-foot-9, 188-pound Tenute, who had been leading the team in playoff goals, was out for the remainder of the season after suffering a broken rib and a punctured lung courtesy of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Jean-Francois Jacques in Game 2 of the Eastern Division Finals—so we’ll let the little guy off the hook.) Maybe they were too busy patting each other on the back for the complete drubbings they gave the Albany River Rats, the Penguins, and the Manchester Monarchs on their way to the finals. Or perhaps they were off dreaming of earning an NHL-sized paycheck next season with the Washington Capitals.
Either way, despite the many breakdowns and missed opportunities (including going an atrocious 3-for-41 on the power play) on the part of the Bears, the real credit for the Bulldogs’ convincing win was the play of 19-year-old rookie goaltender Carey Price. Price, who played a grand total of 2 regular season games with the Bulldogs after being signed out of juniors in early April, compiled a 15-6 record, 2.06 goals allowed average, and a stellar .936 save percentage throughout the playoffs. The Williams Lake, B.C., native, selected 5th overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft by the Montreal Canadiens, was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the 2007 Calder Cup playoffs MVP. And, if you need any more evidence of Price’s complete domination over the Bears’ offense (or the bright NHL future lying ahead of him), check out this bit of information posted to the Bulldogs’ Web site: “Price becomes the third goaltender in AHL history, and the first since Patrick Roy in 1985, to lead his team to a Calder Cup title as a teenager.”