Separated from the powerhouse teams of the Western Conference that dominate the Ontario Hockey League, the Hamilton Bulldogs are marking their territory as beasts of the Eastern Conference.
Heading in to a road match against the Soo Greyhounds, Hamilton is the top team in the Eastern market with 74 points from a record of 34-14-6.
The Greyhounds are first overall in the OHL with 94 points from a rousing record of 45-6-4.
Tonight’s meeting between the two Conference leaders follows a match from last weekend in which the Bulldogs cuffed the visiting Greyhounds 5-2.
Hamilton also had a pair of recent, strong outings against the Kitchener Rangers, who are the no. 2 seed in the Western world. But despite out-shooting Kitchener by 45-30 and 40-24 margins, the Bulldogs dropped a pair of 4-3 decisions to the Rangers and their standout overage goalie, Mario Culina.
To be sure, second-year general manager Steve Staois pulled out all the stops in making a Hamilton a howitzer that is a legitimate contender for the OHL playoff title.
Staois began the push several weeks before the January 10 deadline when he pried high scoring forwards Nick Caamano and Ryan Moore from the Flint Firebirds and then added plum defenseman Riley Stillman from the Oshawa Generals.
And just before the deadline, Staois struck again when he landed Team Canada forward Robert Thomas from the London Knights and defenseman Nicolas Mattinen from Flint.
With a forward lineup that also includes 30-goal scorers Brandon Saigeon and Matthew Strome, the Bulldogs have no shortage of lamp lighters and boast a solid defensive crew in front of workhorse starting goalie Kaden Fulcher, who has 26 of Hamilton’s 34 wins to date.