HAMILTON – After Jamie Benn burned Hamilton for two goals in the American Hockey League Western Conference final opener, Bulldogs head coach Guy Boucher wanted his club to play closer attention to the Texas sniper.
His players responded in a big way.
Mike Glumac scored his team-leading 10th goal of the post-season Sunday and Benn was held off the scoresheet as Hamilton downed the Texas Stars 3-1 in Game 2 to seize a 2-0 lead in the series.
Hamilton, which took Game 1 by a count of 3-2 in overtime, is 8-0 in playoff series all-time when leading by two games. The Stars host Game 3 on Wednesday night.
Boucher credited a renewed commitment 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill with keeping Benn at bay.
“We matched him all game long,” Boucher said of Benn, who recorded just two shots all day.
“We were solid today on the penalty kill… in the previous game we just ran around. We pressed at the wrong moments.”
Curtis Sanford had 22 saves for Hamilton and kept the Bulldogs ahead in the face of constant Texas pressure. Ryan Russell and Alex Henry added singles for Hamilton, while Warren Peters countered for the Stars.
Two of the Bulldogs’ goals came off of failed clearing attempts by Stars defencemen. The second was the backbreaker, as Grant Stevenson stole the puck from Texas defenceman Andrew Hutchinson to create a 2-on-1. Glumac converted at 10:59 of the third to put Hamilton up 3-1, icing the win for the Bulldogs.
Hamilton controlled most of the first period, outshooting the Stars 14-6. But the Bulldogs failed to generate much traffic in front of Stars goalie Matt Climie, who finished with 27 saves.
“Certainly our starts need to get better,” said Texas coach Glen Gulutzan, whose team finished 0-for-4 on the power play.
“I thought we took away a lot of our own shooting lanes,” added the Texas coach. “We made some bad plays.”
The best chance in the first came on a failed clearing attempt by Bulldog Ryan White, which ended up on the stick of Benn but Sanford stood tall on the shot from the slot.
Russell opened the scoring 28 seconds into the second on the power play. The fresh sheet of ice may have played a role, as Trotter set up Russell with a deft fake-shot pass from the point to the right circle.
Trotter kept the momentum going, and it led to Hamilton’s second goal. After stealing the clearing attempt from Stars defenceman Trevor Ludwig, Trotter drove the net and played a no-look pass to Alex Henry, who scored at 4:52.
“I knew guys were coming… Henry made a good play coming in behind me and he buried it,” said Trotter.
Texas trimmed the deficit at 17:40 of the second on an unlikely goal from behind the net. Peters shot the puck in off the pants of Hamilton defenceman Mike Vernance, and the puck bounced up and over Sanford’s shoulder.
The Stars controlled the majority of the third period but were unable to beat Sanford in front of 2,897 at Copps Coliseum.
Despite the victory and a 2-0 series lead for the Bulldogs, Boucher said there’s still room for improvement.
“When we made it 2-0 we started to play a little differently and gave them a bit of hope that we shouldn’t have give him.”