Perhaps knowing they were facing the American Hockey League’s top goalie of the month for November gave the Toronto Marlies a little more incentive.
The visitors to Copps Coliseum wasted little time in taking control of Friday night’s game and peppered Bulldog netminder Jaroslav Halak with 13 first period shots that paved the way to the Marlies 3-2 win over Hamilton.
Hamilton would bounce back somewhat in the second and third periods but the Marlies momentum from the opening period carried them to victory.
The loss snapped the Bulldogs four-game win streak before their largest crowd of the season – 6,244.
Toronto took a first period 1-0 lead and the second 20 minute session ended in a 1-1 tie. Toronto’s first goal and the game winner were scored on two of the five powerplay opportunities the Marlies had. Hamilton was unable to score on its eight extra-man situations.
Jamie Sifers (1), Alex Foster (2) and Kris Newbury (7) were the Toronto marksmen. Andrei Kostitsyn (6) and Mikhail Grabovski (5) replied for the ‘Dogs.
Despite losing, Halak did stop 26 of Toronto’s 29 shots. After the slow first period start when Hamilton had only four shots on net, the Bulldogs finished with 28 on the night.
Toronto had only three shots on net in the final period.
Halak got the AHL’s recognition after a stellar November. He posted a record of 7-1-0 with a league-best 0.82 goals against average, a .972 save percentage, four shutouts, and allowed just six goals on 214 shots in November. Halak’s efforts helped the Bulldogs move into second place in the North Division standings.
Halak picked up his first win and shutout of the season by making 27 saves in Hamilton’s 1-0 win over Albany on Nov.1. After stopping 42 of 43 shots in a 2-1 win at Toronto on Nov. 11, he turned in a 20-save performance to shut out Omaha 5-0 on Nov. 14. Halak then blanked league-leading Rochester on Nov. 25 and finished the month by stopping all 32 Milwaukee shots on Nov. 28.
With his shutout on Nov. 28, Halak tied former ‘Dogs goaltender Steve Passmore for the franchise lead by recording his seventh career shutout in the ‘Dogs 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Admirals. Halak achieved the milestone in only his 23rd career game, good enough for an average of one shutout every 3.29 starts, and in 78 less games then it took Passmore to reach the seven-shutout mark.
Halak was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 9th round, 271st overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The 5-foot-11, 181-pound netminder currently leads the AHL in goals against average (1.29), save percentage (.957) and shutouts (4).
The last Hamilton goaltender to receive the award was Marc Lamothe in November of 2001. In seven appearances, Lamothe was a perfect 7-0-0, allowing just eight goals for a 1.17 goals against average and a .956 save percentage.
The Bulldogs face the Marlies again on Wednesday in Toronto, 7.30 p.m. at the Ricoh Coliseum.