The Hamilton Bulldogs – their American Hockey League season about to come to a sorry finish – finally lived up to their name on Wednesday night (May 18).
Getting two goal performances from Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boys, the Bulldogs laid a beating on the Houston Aeros, 8-1, to avoid a sweep of their Western Conference final. The win allowed Hamilton to fight another day, which will be Friday (May 20) when the two teams resume their best-of-seven series at Copps Coliseum. The Aeros will carry a 3-1 edge in games into the contest and if the host Bulldogs survive another day, the teams will head back to Houston for Games 6 and 7, if necessary.
Wednesday, with a meager 2,859 fans looking on, the Bulldogs not only gave an offensive display, but played any equally strong defensive game. While the Hamilton sharpshooters peppered Aeros goalies Matt Hackett and his replacement Josh Tordjman with 40 shots, Drew MacIntyre between the pipes for Hamilton had to handle just 15.
Hackett was pulled after surrendering five goals on 22 shots.
Ryan Russell staked Hamilton to a quick 1-0 lead when he scored shorthanded only 1:03 into the game, but Houston rookie Casey Wellman answered 1:22 later while his club was still on the same power play.
Aaron Palushaj put the Bulldogs back on top at 15:09 of the first period, sparking a string of seven unanswered goals by the home team to close the game. The eight-goal total came from a Hamilton squad which had combined for just five goals in the first three games of the series.
Palushaj finished with a goal and two assists and was one of five Hamilton skaters to post multiple points on the night.
Boyd, held scoreless in the first three games of this series, added two-assists to his scores and was plus-5 to lead the Bulldogs’ attack, tallying his first goals since ending the division finals with a triple-overtime marker in Game 7 against Manitoba.
Dawes added his 11th and 12th postseason goals, and J.T. Wyman and rookie Gabriel Dumont also found the back of the net. Forward Ryan White and defenseman Kyle Klubertanz chipped in two assists apiece for Hamilton, and rearguard Frederic St. Denis joined Boyd in posting a plus-5 rating.