MONTREAL -- Following closely in the footsteps of their NHL counterparts, the Hamilton Bulldogs clinched a playoff spot in identical fashion to the Montreal Canadiens with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night with two games remaining on their regular season calendar.
While the Bulldogs are now guaranteed a run in the AHL’s second season, securing a berth in the playoffs was no easy feat for Randy Cunneyworth and his troops. After a year packed with personnel loss due to a series of injuries and call-ups, the Bulldogs took their destiny in their own hands, racking up at least one point in eight of the their last nine games, winning six in the process. Hitting the 93-point mark on Tuesday with a win against the Abbotsford Heat, Hamilton finally earned that all-important “X” next to their name in the standings.
With two games still left to play, the ‘Dogs will battle it out with the Manitoba Moose for first place in the AHL’s North Division. The two teams may currently be neck-in-neck, but don’t count on that to last as the Bulldogs and the Moose will be facing off against each other for their final two games of the 2010-11 season.
A main reason for Hamilton’s recent hot-streak can be attributed to the offensive boost forward Nigel Dawes is providing the lineup. In the midst of an impressive season, Dawes continues to make his mark with the Bulldogs, helping to fill in the gaps left by players called up to Montreal.
Since being returned to Hamilton following a short stint with the Canadiens, Dawes has been furiously lighting the lamp for the ‘Dogs, adding eight goals to his stats-sheet in his nine games back. During that stretch, Dawes’ production has accounted for 42% of all Bulldogs’ goals and his 41 markers in 2010-11 stand as an AHL career-high for the 26-year-old forward.
Most recently, Dawes single-handedly lifted the Bulldogs to a 3-2 victory over the Manitoba Moose on Apr. 2, scoring both of Hamilton’s goals in regulation time before going on to pot the only goal in the shootout. His 41st goal of the season came on a penalty-shot in the Bulldog’s latest win over the Abbotsford Heat, effectively ending goalie Leland Irving’s shutout streak at 132 minutes.
To add to his already impressive numbers, Dawes has also notched five assists in those nine games for a total of 13 points. Acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers in a deal that also brought Brent Sopel to Montreal, Dawes has now registered 23 points as a Bulldog, for a grand total of 67 in 2010-11, already equalling the best year of his career.Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOPut on your game faceYear One Habby Birthday Hal and Travis! The X-Factor