HAMILTON, Ont. – The Hamilton Bulldogs solved a hot goalie, while the Abbotsford Heat couldn’t.
Cedrick Desjardins continued his scoring play of late, turning aside 20 shots as the Bulldogs blanked the Heat 3-0 in AHL action on Sunday afternoon.
It’s the fourth shutout of the season for Desjardins, with three of those coming in his last four games. He improved to 8-4-1 on the season, and he ranks second in the AHL in goals-against average (1.45) and save percentage (.944).
“He’s playing great for us,” said forward David Desharnais, who scored the game-winning goal. “He had to make four or five key saves in the game. You’re more confident (with Desjardins’s hot streak) – but you have to be confident whoever is in the net.”
Desharnais, Grant Stevenson and Brock Trotter scored for the Bulldogs (16-6-5), who have earned points in six straight games.
Matt Keetley was strong in defeat, following up a 37-save performance against Rochester on Friday with 32 saves for the Heat (15-13-4).
“This goalie was fantastic,” said Bulldogs coach Guy Boucher. “He stoned us so many times. He’s a big goalie that likes to challenge us a lot, so it took us time to figure him out.”
After hitting the post in the first period, Desharnais got the game’s first goal by deking Keetley on a shorthanded breakaway 13 minutes into the second period.
“I had to watch the goal between periods because I didn’t even see his move,” said Boucher. “His hands were so quick.”
Desharnais’s goal set off a barrage of 1,550 stuffed toys being thrown onto the ice in honour of Hamilton’s annual toy toss night. The team will take some of the toys with them when they visit a local hospital on Wednesday.
“I’m trying to explain something to the guys about the power play, and … boom,” Boucher chuckled, as he described being hit in the head with toys.
Stevenson added the team’s second goal one minute into the third period, poking home a juicy rebound given up by Keetley off a point shot by defenceman Mathieu Carle.
Brock Trotter added an empty netter with just over a minute left in the game.
Sunday marked the second time the Heat had lost to the Bulldogs in five days, following a 5-1 defeat Wednesday night. Abbotsford bounced back Friday with a 2-1 road win over Rochester, the top team in the North Division.
Abbotsford coach Jim Playfair blamed a lack of leadership in his team’s loss – not just one player, but “all of them.” With team captain Brett Palin out with a shoulder injury, Playfair couldn’t name anyone who has filled the void.
“Ask the players,” he said. “The top players have to step up and be top players. Our work ethic isn’t where it needs to get to, and it’s about holding each other accountable.”
Abbotsford heads home for games against Peoria on Saturday and Sunday, while Hamilton hosts Milwaukee on Tuesday before heading out on a four-game road trip.
Notes: Yannick Weber returned to the Bulldogs after missing a game due to a call-up with the Canadiens, where he did not dress. … Mathieu Darche returned to the Hamilton lineup after missing 12 games with a shoulder injury. Benoit Pouliot wasn’t dressed for Hamilton. The Montreal Canadiens assigned the 23-year-old forward to the Bulldogs on Thursday for a conditioning stint after acquiring him in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for Guillaume Latendresse. “He’s on the verge of being ready, but until we get the green light from our therapist, we won’t put him on the ice,” said Hamilton coach Guy Boucher.