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 Brantford Bulldogs

Pinelli Pair Tames Dogs In Game 3; Ottawa Takes 2-1 Series Lead

April 2, 2024 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
Brantford Bulldogs News Release

OTTAWA, ONTARIO. With the series switching to the nation's capital, the Brantford Bulldogs opened Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with two chances to return home ice advantage to the black & gold.

As in Games 1 & 2 the Bulldogs got off to an outstanding start, in a 3-on-3 rush up into the Ottawa zone, Jake O'Brien carried the puck into the right circle, hitting a hard stop pulling up at the top. With Zakary Lavoie driving through the middle of the ice opening up a cross-ice seam, O'Brien hit Marek Vanacker tape to tape in the left circle where the Bulldogs' leading goal scorer on the season strode to the bottom of the circle and beat Collin MacKenzie for his 2nd of the playoffs, just 1:47 into the game. Just before the halfway point of the opening frame, Frankie Marrelli blew a tire coming out of his own zone turning the puck over inside the blueline to O'Brien who raced in 2-on-0 with Vanacker. Feeding the puck from the right side of the slot to the left, Vanacker had MacKenzie sprawling across the crease where the 67's netminder made a spectacular cross crease splitting blocker save to keep the 67's within a goal. Only a few minutes following the Vanacker chance, the Bulldogs wouldn't be as lucky on a defensive zone turnover as Luca Pinelli took a Nick Lardis turnover just inside the blueline. Striding down the slot, Pinelli fired a shot over Matteo Drobac's shoulder to tie the game 1-1 at 12:58. Drobac was excellent the rest of the way in the opening frame turning aside 11 of the 12 turned to his net to keep the game equal through 20 minutes.

The hosts got the jump in the middle frame, taking their first lead of the game. As Adrian Rebelo tried to corral a puck through his feet, Bradley Horner locked up his stick and forced it loose to Braeden Kressler who had a free run down the slot and was able to pick his spot past Drobac to give the 67's a 2-1 lead just 30-seconds into the period. The Bulldogs knotted the game at 5:12 as Cedricsson Okitundu cycled the puck through the right corner for Marek Vanacker. Carrying up the right-wing half-wall, Vanacker hit the top of the circle curling towards the middle of the ice and whipped a shot towards the front of the net that Jake O'Brien tipped past MacKenzie for his 1st OHL Playoff goal, equalizing the game 2-2. Disaster struck in the Bulldogs defensive zone once more at 7:00, as O'Brien knocked the puck to the blueline, Will Gerrior was able to reach out and hold the puck onside right at the line, batting the puck to Jacob Maillet. Wasting no time, Maillet fired a backhand pass through the slot to Luca Pinelli who had snuck behind the Bulldogs defense pair and tucked the puck around Drobac's pad for his 4th of the playoffs and 2nd of the game to give the 67's a 3-2 lead. Matteo Drobac once again came up with heroics after an offensive zone turnover led to a Brady Stonehouse breakaway, Drobac split post to post, denying Stonehouse with an incredible to save. The 67's added to the lead at 12:02 with Brady Stonehouse cutting inside off the right-wing boards, taking a huge hit from Lawson Sherk but moving the puck to Caden Kelly at the top of the left circle who skated past Cole Brown just inside the blueline and sent a wrist shot through a Bulldogs defender, past Drobac and in to make it a 4-2 score, which the 67's held onto through 40 minutes.

The Bulldogs pressed in the final frame with Luca Testa earning a brilliant chance, tip toeing through three 67's defenders and dragging the puck to the front of the net but MacKenzie was able to turn him aside. With time ticking away and Matteo Drobac on the bench, the Bulldogs got the set-up they wanted, with Daniil Sobolev hammering a left point shot clean through a crowd but denting the goal post on the drive. After another set of furious pressure, Braeden Kressler was able to carry the puck out of the zone and toss it, from just past the red line, down the rink and into the empty net for his 2nd of the game & 3rd of the playoffs, giving Ottawa a 5-2 win and a 2-1 series lead.

The Brantford Bulldogs will square off with the Ottawa 67's for Game 4 on Thursday night, April 4th with a 7:00pm puck drop at the Arena at TD Place.

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