By Riley Maracle
BELLEVILLE – The Belleville Bulls came close to beating one of the Canadian Hockey League’s best teams – and two former team-mates – Monday night.
Former Bulls captain Brendan Gaunce and former assistant captain Michael Curtis made their return to the Yardmen Arena with the Erie Otters. They ended the game with a point apiece as the Otters defeated the Bulls 4-1.
It was a physical game. An early fight between Adam Bignell of the Bulls and Joel Wigle of the Otters was the first of four. The first period ended scoreless and with another fight, between Kurtis MacDermid of the Otters and Jake Marchment of the Bulls.
The hit parade and fights continued in the second period. Late in the middle of the second the Bulls capitalized on an Otters penalty as Aaron Berisha scored off a rebound to give Belleville a 1-0 lead. Then later in the period Erie was finally able to beat Bulls goalie Michael Giugovaz, who had been helping keep Belleville in the game. Dane Fox scored his 52nd goal of the season with an assist from OHL points leader Connor Brown. Then shortly afterward Dylan Strome scored on a one-timer to give Erie the lead.
The third period started with a lot of chances for both teams but no goals until the 10-minute mark, when Erie scored to take a 3-1 lead. Belleville came close at the end, but Brown scored on the Bulls’ empty net to give himself his 100th point this season.
In his first start in over a month, and his first as a Bull, Giugovaz made 29 stops. How was he feeling about the start? “Definitely excited and anxious to get out there. I am not so happy with the outcome, but personally I thought I did pretty well.”
One player missing from the Erie lineup was 17-year-old superstar Connor McDavid, sidelined with a lower-body injury. McDavid told QNet News that he feels good about the team’s chances. The Otters are close to locking in a playoff spot and are ranked third in the Western Conference – an improvement from last year, when they failed to make the playoffs.
“As a team we are having a great season – obviously a big improvement from last year. We’re having a lot of fun right now and I do feel we have a good chance,” McDavid said. But he added: “There are other great teams in the league, so it’s going to be hard.”
The Bulls’ next game is against the Sarnia Sting on Thursday night.