Brantford Bulldogs prepare for play-offs

Serena Anagbe / Photo Editor
The Brantford Bulldogs on the ice.

It’s been an exciting opening year for the Ontario Hockey League’s Brantford Bulldogs to say the very least.

The team had fairly low expectations heading into this season, after the formerly known Hamilton Bulldogs have had a large roster turnover since winning the OHL Championship in 2022.

Now in Brantford, the Bulldogs have managed to turn their squad around, featuring a mostly younger group of players, and are now one of the top contenders in the OHL’s Eastern Conference.

“Going into the season I wasn’t expecting play-offs,” said Riley Eechaute, a local Brantford hockey fan and game operations intern with the Bulldogs. “It’s been refreshing having high-level sport back in Brantford and the team to be doing so well has been the cherry on top.”

After a shaky start to the season, the Bulldogs have been one of the hottest teams in the OHL since, being one of the first teams to clinch a play-off spot and holding the number one spot in the Eastern Conference for a good chunk of time.

The Bulldogs have been led by a young core of players, including 2024 NHL draft prospect Marek Vanacker and Chicago Blackhawks’ draft pick Nick Lardis, with a few remaining veterans who formerly won the OHL Championship back in 2022, including starting goaltender Matteo Drobac, who recently set franchise records for wins, saves and games played by a goaltender.

The City of Brantford has been very receptive to the Bulldogs since moving from Hamilton, selling out almost every home game and providing a play-off-like atmosphere each time the Bulldogs play.

“I think the Bulldogs have one of the strongest fan bases in the OHL,” said Bulldogs fan Koyal Vyas, who is also a sixth-year digital media and journalism student here at Wilfrid Laurier University. “It is such a unique experience to see how passionate the fans are at every game.”

With the regular season wrapping up, it’s safe to say that the Bulldogs’ inaugural year in Brantford has been nothing short of eventful. Some notable moments include Jake O’Brien setting a franchise record for points scored by a rookie, the team winning the first OHL game held in Brantford since the 1980s and the Teddy Bear Toss game.

“The Teddy Bear Toss goal was so cool, after the no-goal call, giving all the bears back to the fans, just to score and throw them again two minutes later, that was pretty cool to be a part of,” said Eechate about his most memorable moment of the season.

The Bulldogs will play their final regular season game of the year vs. the Ottawa 67’s on March 24 and will play either the Mississauga Steelheads or the formerly mentioned 67’s in the first round of the play-offs.

This article was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 8 on Thursday, April 4.

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