Brantford Bulldogs

Drobac Denies 53; Vanacker Records Hat-Trick To Earn Dogs A Point

February 24, 2024 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
Brantford Bulldogs News Release

SAGINAW, MICHIGAN. Closing out their weekend road trip road trip to Michigan, the Brantford Bulldogs met the Memorial Cup host, Saginaw Spirit for the first of an extended home & home at the Dow Event Center. The game marked the Bulldogs first meeting with old friend & 2022 OHL Champion Jorian Donovan.

The Saginaw Spirit, coming off a Friday loss to the North Bay Battalion, immediately jumped on the front foot, tossing 7 shots to Matteo Drobac's net in the first 3-minutes including a massive goal mouth scramble that saw Sebastian Gervias & Matyas Sapovaliv get whacks on net. Owen Beck followed with a net front chance of his own, turned aside by Drobac who denied an astounding 25 Saginaw shots in the opening frame. As in Flint on Friday, the Bulldogs responded to their goaltender's effort. While shorthanded at 9:15, Marek Vanacker stripped the puck from Rodwin Dionicio just outide the Saginaw blueline and carried down the middle of the Spirit zone. With Michael Misa giving chase, Vanacker fired a wrister from the middle of the slot low blocker on Nolan Lalonde to earn his 27th of the season giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Under a minute later, at 10:09, Lucas Moore collected the puck in the Brantford zone and hit a long-distance lead pass to Zakary Lavoie, turning into a 2-on-1 with Vanacker flying middle. Lavoie made a perfect chip pass to the middle of the ice that Vanacker caught in stride. Carrying the puck off his hip, Vanacker caught Lalonde cheating blocker side and rifled his shot high glove, striking the top corner for his 2nd of the game & 29th of the season, matching the Bulldogs team lead, to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead they held through 20 minutes.

The middle frame was more heroics from Matteo Drobac as he denied a Josh Bloom break chance off the right circle in spectacular fashion. As Bloom broke towards the net, Drobac split out across the goal line to deny Bloom and keep the Bulldogs' lead intact. Saginaw did find their way back in the middle frame, at 11:25 after Alex Christopoulos drove into the offensive zone, the puck dropped onto Ethan Hay whose slot drive just snuck through Drobac's arm for Hay's 12th of the season making it a 2-1 game. The Bulldogs offense found its groove again on the power-play at 13:12 on a brilliant cycle. Jake O'Brien at the top of the right circle found Marek Vanacker below the goal line, Vanacker paused and looked high in the formation as Florian Xhekaj darted loose down the left side. With a perfectly placed no look pass, Vanacker found Xhekaj for the touch to the back of the net for Xhekaj's 29th of the season and Vanacker's 3rd point of the game giving the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead. Saginaw struck once more before the period was out to pull the affair back to a 1-goal game. After Zayne Parekh's right point shot was deflected onto Matteo Drobac the puck bounced to the side of the goal where Rodwin Dionicio had raced down from the left point to catch and toss into the Bulldogs goal for the defenseman's 21st of the season pulling the Spirit to a 3-2 defecit as 40 minutes came to a close.

The third period wasn't without controversy, after Matteo Drobac was brilliant through the first 15:21, the Spirit were given a power-play on a mysterious holding the stick call to Florian Xhekaj where Josh Bloom's toss through the crease rolled on to Rodwin Dionicio who hit a yawning Bulldogs cage after Drobac had slid out to make two incredible stops. Dioncio picked up his 22nd of the season and 2nd of the game on the shot. Just 33-seconds later, after Braeden Hache tackled Zakary Lavoie, who had sped past in a 1-on-1, which went uncalled, the Spirit turned the puck forward with Sebastian Gervais infront of Matteo Drobac to bat in his 9th of the season giving Saginaw a 4-3 lead. The Bulldogs fought right down to the wire and with Matteo Drobac called to the bench earned their way back. Patrick Thomas and Zakary Lavoie battled the puck loose for Marek Vanacker in the left circle who hammered a drive through Nolan Lalonde for his hat-trick goal and 30th of the season to tie the game 4-4 at 18:20 forcing overtime. In the extra frame, Zayne Parekh was able to sneak down the left side and shelf a shortside shot to give the Spirit a 5-4 win on his 28th of the season.

The Brantford Bulldogs return to action hosting the second half of the extended home and home to open the March portion of the schedule on Friday, March 1st at 7:00pm.

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