After a season filled with ups and downs, the Chicago Jr. Bulldogs closed out the season in the Minnesota Junior League playoffs.
The Bulldogs were in position to compete in the playoffs thanks to some key performances from players up and down the roster. From Day 1 of training camp up until the final stretch of the season, there were players that improved their overall game and those whose additions gave the lineup a spark.
â€œThere are a number of unsung heroes,â€ said Bulldogs head coach Tom Clarke, just as the team was heading into the March 1-3 playoffs. â€œThat is why we [were] so successful down the stretch. Obviously [Michael] Maines and [Luke] Morin have been huge late-season factors. I would also add Adam Marshall. He has been our best d-man since the [MnJHL Minnesota Showcase in December].â€
The Bulldogs lost 2-1 to the Tri-City IceHawks in the playoffs to end the season.
Helping to carry the Bulldogs throughout the season were forward Joseph Close and goalie Matt Young. Close was an alternate captain and Chicagoâ€™s leading scorer, while Young provided a stabilizing presence in net along with fellow netminder James Maher.
â€œHe hasn’t missed a game, leads the team in points, gives it his all and works hard on both ends of the ice,â€ said Clarke, about Close.
Another player bringing his game to new heights was forward Richard Molnar, who didnâ€™t always show up on the scoresheet, but made himself a factor on the ice.
â€œMolnar has been great down the stretch,â€ Clarke said. â€œHe has all the tools to play at the next level. I think he is just starting to learn how good he really is.â€
Bulldogs to join NA3HL: Also, in February, the Bulldogs announced their membership in the North American 3 Hockey League for the upcoming 2013-14 season.
Chicago will join one of the top developmental leagues in the United States next year, giving its players more exposure and opportunities to advance in their hockey careers. The Bulldogs are set to become the leagueâ€™s 18th franchise and the second team in the NA3HL representing Illinois.
For more information, visit www.na3hl.com.
Read past stories about the Chicago Jr. Bulldogs: