The Hamilton Bulldogs hosted their annual Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday, Dec. 9 in support of the Salvation Army and Bell Media’s Toy Mountain when the Saginaw Spirit came to town. Fans were asked to bring new or gently used stuffed animals to toss on the ice for collection for donation.
Just over four minutes after the puck dropped, Hamilton Bulldog Will Bitten scored the go-ahead goal on the power play to signal fans to throw their teddy bears. Immediately after the goal, volunteers and game crew rushed onto the ice to help the players collect all the toys. Three trucks were needed to remove all the toys from the playing surface and even that didn’t carry them all. 4,500 plush toys were collected for charity. Scoring the Teddy Bear Toss goal was special for Bitten.
“It’s my fourth year in the league now,” said Bitten. “It’s my fourth time playing this game and I’ve always wanted to score this one. So it feels good to have it finally to put one in and I mean, it’s an awesome feeling. Everyone smiling, having a good time.”
Once the Bulldogs got started, it was as if they couldn’t stop. Halfway through the first period Nick Caamano scored to make it 2-0. With eight minutes left in the period, Arthur Kaliyev put the Bulldogs up 3-0 and they would take that lead to the dressing room.
Nothing slowed down in the second period as Marian Studenic scored a power-play goal at 4:53. The Saginaw Spirit tried to battle their way into the game when Aiden Preuter put them on the board at 5:11. But the Bulldogs showed they weren’t done yet with a goal from Matthew Strome and then Kaliyev’s second of the game to put the team up 6-1.
Tensions were high in the third as both teams were getting chippy with lots of action on the boards. The Bulldogs managed to effectively play the clock but still picked up one more point. Rookie Connor McMichael pocketed his first OHL career goal to finish off the scoring for the night at 7-1. The Bulldogs outshot the Spirit 42-23. After losing 6-3 Wednesday night against the Guelph Storm, Head Coach John Gruden was pleased with the how the game played out.
“They were great. They were just on a different level,” said Gruden. “Their decision making was outstanding, they were hunting loose pucks, they were winning all the 50-50 battles.”
The Bulldogs will return to the FirstOntario Centre on Dec. 17 for their last game before Christmas, against the Peterborough Petes.