Firebirds, Bulldogs Jostle for Playoff Positioning Tonight in Flint
Flint, Mich. – Four games are remaining in the 2022-23 Regular Season. The Firebirds are locked into the OHL Playoffs, but their exact final ranking and opponent, in addition to potential home-ice advantage, remains to be determined. Saginaw is just ahead and both Owen Sound and Guelph are right behind. Flint’s first concern, however, is getting past last season’s OHL Champions from Hamilton. Puck drop for Firebirds versus Bulldogs is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) tonight.
Tonight marks the second of two meetings between these teams and is the only match scheduled in Flint. The Birds dominated the first game, skating to the 5-1 road victory back on January 26. Amadeus Lombardi was named the ‘First Star’ for a three-point (2 G, 1 A) performance. Riley Piercey was the ‘Second Star’ with two points (1 G, 1 A) in the game. Marko Stojkov earned the ‘Third Star’ honors with two assists.
Not only did Flint sweep their recent five-game homestand, but they also went on to win two of their recent three-game road trip. After seven-straight victories, they dropped a tough 4-3 decision to the Attack in Owen Sound on Wednesday. On home ice, the Birds are riding a franchise-best six-game winning streak and have earned points in eight of their past nine tilts. On home ice, Flint has gone 16-12-2-1 this year and is 32-27-4-1 overall. They rank fourth in the West Division and fifth in the ten-team Western Conference.
After winning the OHL Championship a season ago, the Bulldogs now find themselves third in the East Division and fifth in the ten-team Eastern Conference with a record of 33-27-4-0. They carry seven wins in their past ten games and stand at 17-11-2-0 in road games. In ten combined meetings between these clubs, the Firebirds have points in seven with a record of 5-3-2-1. Six of ten matchups between these organizations have been settled by a single goal. Flint has yet to lose a game in regulation on home ice, having posted a 3-0-2-0 all-time mark at the Dort Financial Center in the series.
The Firebirds have converted on 20.5% of their power-play chances this season, ranking them 15th in the OHL. Hamilton has the tenth-best power play overall at 19.9%. However, in road games, the Bulldogs have the fourth-ranked power play with a 24.0% rate of scoring. While shorthanded, the Birds are ninth-best with a 77.9% success rate. The Dogs are killing penalties 77.5% of the time, good for 12th.
The Flint Firebirds celebrate a special St. Patrick’s Day game, brought to you by the Crim Foundation when they take on the Hamilton Bulldogs. The team will be wearing specialty St. Patrick’s Day jerseys set to be auctioned off after the game with the proceeds set to benefit the CANUSA games. Fans are encouraged to wear green and partake in various St. Patrick’s Day festivities throughout the game.
Players to Watch
Firebirds (32-27-4-1, 4th West Division):
Amadeus Lombardi has 43 goals and 50 assists for 93 total points. He’s potted the sixth-most goals in the league and owns the third-highest point total. Lombardi has also scored the first goal of a game nine times this season, the second-most in the league. Gavin Hayes ranks second on the team with 36 tallies and 37 helpers. Overage forward Riley Piercey is third with 64 points.
Defender Dmitry Kuzmin continues to top scoring from the blue line with 14 goals and 45 assists. He’s fifth among all league defenders in point total, sixth in assists, eighth with .92 points per game, and tied for ninth in goals scored. 2023 NHL Draft-eligible defenseman Tristan Bertucci is coming off a two-point night in Owen Sound and now has 49 points (11 G, 38 A) good for 10th among OHL defensemen.
Rookie netminder Nathan Day recently posted seven-consecutive wins for the Birds. For the season, he has 15 victories in 30 appearances and carries a 3.97 goals-against average (GAA) with a .872 save percentage (SV%). Veteran goaltender Will Cranley has appeared in 42 contests and now has 17 victories. He’s posted a 3.86 GAA with a .883 save percentage SV%.
NHL: The Firebirds have six players with NHL ties consisting of Will Cranley (St. Louis Blues), Amadeus Lombardi (Detroit Red Wings), Gavin Hayes (Chicago Blackhawks), Braeden Kressler (Toronto Maple Leafs), Dmitri Kuzmin (Winnipeg Jets), and Artem Guryev (San Jose Sharks). Additionally, Coulson Pitre, Tristan Bertucci, Ethan Hay, and goaltender Nathan Day were listed on the NHL Central Scouting’s 2023 Midterm Rankings for the upcoming NHL Draft.
Through seven OHL seasons thus far, Alex Nedeljkovic (Detroit), Kole Sherwood (Columbus), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas), Tyler Tucker (St. Louis), and Will Bitten (St. Louis) are five former Firebirds to play in the NHL. Riley Piercey (Detroit) and Gavin Hayes (Chicago) played in NHL preseason contests this year, joining Firebirds’ alumni Ethan Keppen (Vancouver), Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit), and Jalen Smereck (Arizona). The team has produced 25 signed or drafted players into the NHL.
Hamilton Bulldogs (33-27-4-0, 3rd Eest Division):
Nick Lordis tops the scoring for Hamilton with 36 goals and 27 assists for 63 combined points. Former Firebirds’ forward Sahil Panwar is second for the Bulldogs and has improved his performance since the trade from Peterborough earlier this season. In total has 63 points (28 G, 35 A) in 64 games, but logged 46 of those points (18 G, 28 A) in just 30 games since donning the yellow and black. He was named the most recent Cogeco OHL Player of the Week after netting three goals, adding four assists, and finishing a plus-4 after three games last week. Patrick Thomas sits third with 17 goals and 37 assists through 62 games.
The defense for Hamilton is paced by the Ottawa Senators’ prospect Jorian Donovan. He’s lit the lamp 12 times and chipped in 33 assists across 55 matchups this season.
Third-year goaltender Matteo Drobac has appeared in 41 games this season. He carries a 3.57 goals-against average (GAA) and a .887 save percentage (SV%) along with 19 victories, including one shutout. Sophomore netminder Tristan Malboeuf has 12 wins in 27 appearances and also has one shutout on the year. His GAA stands at 3.39 and his SV% is .893.
NHL: Artem Grushnikov (Dallas Stars) and Jorian Donovan (Ottawa Senators) are the two Bulldogs with NHL ties. Nick Lardis, Florian Xhekaj, Cole Brown, and Lucas Moore were also listed in the NHL Central Scouting’s 2023 Midseason Rankings.
Notable alumni from the Hamilton Bulldogs, formerly the Belleville Bulls, to play NHL are Steve Bancroft, Jonathan Cheechoo, Doug Gilmour, Al Iafrate, Darren McCarty, Marty McSorley, Darren Pang, Richard Panik, Jason Spezza, P.K. Subban, Scott Thornton, Mike Vellucci, Arber Xhekaj, and Mason Marchment.
This evening’s contest against the Hamilton Bulldogs can be heard live on the radio throughout Flint & Mid-Michigan on US 103.1 FM, online at www.us103.com, or by downloading the US 103 app here. Jack Sznewajs will call the play-by-play action on the Firebirds Hockey Network (FHN). Pregame coverage will begin before puck drop at 6:45 p.m. (ET) today.
The game will also be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 466 (4466 HD) for both Rogers TV and Cogeco TV cable subscribers. OHL fans with cable television in Ontario can add the OHL Action Pak to their television plan to catch the Firebirds in action, home, or away all season long.
Also, all Flint Firebirds’ home and away games throughout the 2021-22 regular season can be watched anywhere in the world online at https://watch.chl.ca/ohl. CHL TV is the league’s new and improved video streaming platform that delivers high-quality live and on-demand coverage of all regular season and playoff games annually. The cost is $6.99 for 24-hour access, $24.99 for monthly access, $109.99 for all-access to the 2021-22 Firebirds and OHL season, or $159.99 for all-access to the entire 2021-22 CHL season.
Next Up: The Firebirds welcome the Western Conference-leading London Knights for the final time this year on Saturday. Prior to the game, the Firebirds will honor their Overage players: Riley Piercey, Tyler Deline, and Will Cranley in a special pregame ceremony to celebrate their OHL careers. Additionally, it will be Dover Doors night where the first 2,000 fans will receive a FREE keychain tape measurer courtesy of Dover Doors. Tickets for Saturday’s game are available now from ETIX.COM HERE.
Story: Brandon Mills / flintfirebirds.com
For more information, contact:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club