Its hard to see how things could have gone any better for the Belleville Bulls in Game One of their 1st Round playoff series. The Bulls hammered the visiting Mississauga Steelheads 8-1, to take a 1-0 lead in their OHL Eastern Conference playoff series.
I think at this point in the season, it might be safe to say that the Bulls are no longer just a great defensive team with great goaltending, that has problems scoring. Thursday night they showed that they are the Evander Holyfield of the OHL. This version of our Belleville Bulls is the "Real Deal" and can't be taken lightly because they will beat you. This is a very deep club, that has great goaltending, can play great defensively and refuses to pushed around and can SCORE. This doesn't mean that its going to be 16-0 cake walk to the Memorial Cup because its not, there will be hiccups along the way and this was only one game. I'm sure Coach Burnett is doing everything in his power to make sure his group buys it to that fact. But when you watch this club at the top of its game, like they were on Thursday night, you can feel the swagger. This team is loaded with game changers and high end talent.
Saying that, Mississauga's Head Coach James Boyd can use this game to his advantage. No one wants to lose and neither do the Steelheads, and Coach Boyd's job now is to convince his club that they can win this series. Its a lot easier to teach and repair when you get whipped, mistakes are easy to point out in a 8-1 loss, its not so easy to say "Well we have to be better" when your club has lost in OT. But the main thing The Steelheads will remember is that Belleville leads the series 1-0. It doesn't matter if the score was 1-0 in OT or 8-1. For ether side Belleville or Mississauga, both coaches will be saying "its only one game".
Belleville was strong in all aspects of the game. Starting in goal for the Bulls was Boston Bruins Prospect Malcolm Subban and to be fair he wasn't tested the way he has been but he was strong and made 25 saves. Early in the game we wondered if he was going to be tested at all, the Steelheads failed to register a shot on goal until the 6:39 of the 1st period. Subban only faced 4 shots in the opening frame, but was strong when he had to be facing 12 shots in the 2nd and 10 in the 3rd. For the Steelheads it was top NHL draft prospect Spencer Martin. The Oakville native made 28 saves and isn't the reason the Steelheads lost, no was stopping Belleville in this game.
After 20 minutes the Bulls had a 3-0 lead. A lot has been said about the moves that GM Burnett made at the trade dead line and they have really improved the power play and the team as a whole. Must notably the offensive side of the puck and team speed. For me right now one of the most important moves that Coach Burnett has made is moving Scott Simmonds to a line with Tyler Graovac (Wild) and Captain Brendan Gaunce (Canucks). Simmonds has always been a valuable asset on the Bulls roster. He plays well with veterans and rookies, he kills penalties and in many close games he's on the ice in very crucial times, very rarely is Scott out of position. Since Burnett has inserted Simmonds on the line he hasn't missed a beat.
It was Simmonds that scored 1st at 3:49 on a nice play and some great passes. Graovac and Gaunce drew the helpers. Garrett Hooey scored to make 2-0 Belleville before the game was 5 minutes old at 4:26 from Sabres draft pick Brady Austin. Brendan Gaunce scored the 3rd Belleville goal at 18:29 from Simmonds.
The Steelheads scored the first goal of the 2nd when Dylan DeMelo (Sharks) batted home his own rebound. Spenser Cobbold drew the lone assist. Cobbold is the brother of Bulls 2012 draft pick Conner Cobbold. Belleville restored the three goal lead when Jordan Subban rang a shot of the post and in at 17:23 from Alan Quine (Redwings) and Daniil Zharkov (Oilers) to make it 4-1. Brendan Gaunce got the Bulls power play on the score sheet, at 18:56 on a 5 on 3. Graovac and Quine had the apples. After 40 minutes the Bulls were up 5-1.
In the final frame Belleville just kept coming scoring three more goals. Jake Cardwell from Graovac and Gaunce at 9:59. Alan Quine at 12:43 unassisted with a nice back hander and Carter Sandlak from Simmonds at 13:20. Final score 8-1.
This was a chippy game. With all the after whistle stuff and fist a cuffs, you would have thought this was game five or six not game one. It was easy to see that part of both clubs game plan was to try and hit the other in to submission. Every hit from both sides looked like they were trying to run each other through the boards. There was also a lot of silly stuff after whistles. I like fights as much as the next dinosaur don't get me wrong, I will even go as far as to say I've being guilty of cheering a staged fight and no you can't let other teams push you around, but when your up by large margin in a playoff game. There is no reason to engage. The Bulls are healthy and have the line up then want moving forward, they cant afford to risk injury or suspension at this stage. Mississauga can and has to try and lure the Bulls in, being the underdog they have to do anything and everything to try and mess up the Bulls flow. Michael Curtis and Eric Diodati had a tilt as did Sandlak and Brett Foy before the game was 5 minutes deep. and before you could say, that's not going to please Coach Burnett all that much, Joseph Cramarossa laid a beating on Alex Cord. Jake Worrad was in a rare fight in the third and rookie Aaron Berisha handled himself well in his 1st OHL dance.
Bulls went 3/3 on the penalty kill and 1/6 on the power play.
Bulls sweep the 3 Stars : 3- Tyler Graovac, 2- Brendan Gaunce, 1- Scott Simmonds.
Game Two is Saturday night at the Yardman Arena, lets hope we see more then the 2222 fans that showed up for Game One. This is a 1st place club and it deserves our support. Wear Red and bring your Cowbells and be loud and proud of your Belleville Bulls.