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Aeros grounded: Bulldogs stay alive in AHL West final with huge 8-1 win

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HAMILTON - The Hamilton Bulldogs emphatically showed they're not giving up on their quest for the Calder Cup without a fight.

Dustin Boyd had two goals and two assists as the Bulldogs hammered the Houston Aeros 8-1 in American Hockey League playoff action Wednesday.

Hamilton, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, still trails the best-of-seven Western Conference final 3-1. But at least the Bulldogs showed signs of life in Game 4 after a largely listless affair in a 3-2 loss Tuesday night saw them fall into a 3-0 hole in the series.

"A lot of guys had more jam and more speed. We seemed to have more energy out there," Boyd said.

Game 5 is Friday in Hamilton. The winner of the West final will face the Binghamton Senators, AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators, who swept the East final with a 4-3 overtime win over the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday.

Nigel Dawes also scored twice for Hamilton, while Aaron Palushaj had a goal and two assists. Their top line of Dawes, Boyd and Palushaj combined for five goals, four assists and a plus-12 rating.

Ryan Russell, Gabriel Dumont and J.T. Wyman had the other goals for the Bulldogs.

Hamilton head coach Randy Cunneyworth said his team finally followed its game plan to the letter, and the chances followed.

"We did it tonight," Cunneyworth said. "When you play the right way some things bounce your way."

Casey Wellman had the only goal for Houston, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild.

Drew MacIntyre needed to make just 14 saves for Hamilton.

Houston's Matt Hackett was pulled after allowing five goals on 22 shots. Backup Josh Tordjman was beaten on the first shot he faced in relief and ended up allowing three goals on 18 shots.

Hamilton's Ryan White spent the majority of the game in the box, racking up 29 penalty minutes, two assists, a fight and a plus-2 rating.

"I'm always playing with emotion. Sometimes I go over the edge and get myself in a little bit of trouble," White said.

He said the penalties weren't part of his game plan, but with the series on the line, the emotions got the better of him.

"It's do or die. Something's flowing in your blood," White said.

Hamilton captain Alex Henry was also throwing his body around early, bringing a much-needed spark to the Bulldogs.

"Henry was jacked up," said White, "That's what our captain needs to do."

The Bulldogs put the game away with a three-goal outburst over a 2:28 span in the second period. Wyman put Hamilton up 4-1 at 13:05 of the second, then 31 seconds later Hackett gave up a big rebound on a weak point shot, which Boyd buried to end the goaltender's night.

Dawes gave Tordjman a rude welcome 1:17 later, scoring on a diving effort after a give-and-go with Boyd to make it 6-1.

White started his parade to the box with a 10-minute unsportsmanlike misconduct after he assisted on the third Bulldogs' goal. He added a delay of game, and then responded to a Justin Falk hit on Gabriel Dumont by instigating a fight. He was hit with a two-minute instigator penalty, a five minute fighting major and a ten-minute misconduct.

The Bulldogs got things going just 1:03 into the game with their first short-handed goal of the series. Russell intercepted a cross-ice pass by Jared Spurgeon, springing himself for the breakaway, beating Matt on the blocker side.

Spurgeon recovered from the early gaffe on the same power play, and set up Houston's lone goal when Wellman tipped in his point shot.

Palushaj put the Bulldogs up 2-1, driving past Maxim Noreau on his backhand, bringing it across and scoring top shelf on Hackett.

Dumont score from the same spot with 26 seconds left in the frame to cap off a 14 shot, three goal first period for Hamilton.

Dawes and Boyd added third-period goals to complete the rout.

"When we're playing our game we're a tough team to beat," White said.

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