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Hamilton blanks St. John’s, takes home Mary’s Cup

(stjohnsicecaps.com) — For the fourth consecutive year, the St. John’s IceCaps watched the visiting team skate away with the hardware as the Hamilton Bulldogs defeated the IceCaps 4-0, winning the Mary’s Cup preseason tournament.

For the first time this preseason, it was the opposition who drew first blood against the IceCaps.

Still buzzing around the net in the IceCaps zone after an early power play chance, Bulldogs defenceman Joe Finley gained possession of the puck near the top of the left circle and threw the puck on net. It deflected off an IceCaps leg and up over the glove of starter Connor Hellebuyck at 9:14 of the opening frame.

The Bulldogs continued to apply pressure throughout the scoreless second stanza but Hellebuyck stood tall, making nine saves in the period, including a breakaway stop on T.J. Hensick late in the frame. His Hamilton counterpart, starter Joey MacDonald, was equally strong, stopping all 13 shots he faced after 40 minutes.

The Bulldogs penalty kill was busy in the second period as Derek Army, Magnus Nygren and Shane Bakker were each nabbed for minor infractions. The Dogs killed all three penalties.

Bobby Shea and JC Lipon shared some fisticuffs at the end of the second period, resulting in a Hamilton power play, but Hellebuyck was resilient, making several strong pad saves to keep St. John’s in the game.

With 11:33 remaining in the third period, the Bulldogs stretched the lead to 2-0 as defenseman Shea wristed a shot from the point, which was deflected by Daniel Carr behind a screened Hellebuyck.

At the 12:17 mark of the third period and moments after Scott Kosmachuk was turned away by goaltender MacDonald on a breakaway, the Bulldogs’ Riley Brace started a quick rush up the right side of the ice and chipped a shot from close range over Hellebuyck’s glove hand for a shorthanded goal.

The IceCaps’ Will O’Neill showed great passion late in the game in dropping the gloves with the Hamilton’s Bakker with 2:18 remaining, but the Bulldogs would get the last laugh as Brace notched his second of the night into the empty net with just over a minute remaining.

MacDonald earned the victory and the shutout with 22 saves in net for the Bulldogs, while Hellebuyck was the busier goaltender and finished his night with 27 stops.

The IceCaps failed to score on four power play opportunities, while the Bulldogs went 0-for-2 with the man advantage.