ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Andre Benoit scored the winner late in the third as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the Abbotsford Heat 5-2 on Saturday to take a 3-2 lead in the American Hockey League North Division final.
With the score deadlocked 2-2, the Bulldogs defenceman wired a shot off the faceoff past Heat netminder David Shantz at 16:37.
"That was a great face-off win by Ryan White there and I was just trying to miss the guys that were coming at me," said Benoit. "I got lucky the shot went in."
Mike Glumac scored twice for Hamilton, while Ryan Russell and David Desharnais added empty-netters in the final minute for the Bulldogs, who can clinch the series at home in Game 6 on Monday.
"Unbelievable game by (Mike)," Benoit said. "He plays hard and he's always disturbing their breakouts. We need him to continue to play like that, he's playing tremendous for us right now."
Gaelan Patterson and Cam Cunning scored for the Heat, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second.
Curtis Sanford - making his first start since suffering a high ankle sprain on March 27 in a win over the Heat - turned aside 30 shots for Hamilton, while Shantz finished with 24 stops for Abbotsford.
"To me, life is about deserving so I don't mind putting my players first line guys down to the fourth line if he deserves it and (Curtis) has worked so hard for us," Hamilton head coach Guy Boucher said of his decision to play Sanford.
"He did everything he could every single day, twice a day, to make sure he could come back at some point and he certainly wanted to contribute. I wanted to give him that gift that he totally deserved."
John Lammers had an excellent chance to tie things for the Heat with just under a minute left in the third but he couldn't beat Sanford.
The Heat opened the scoring at 11:50 of the first when Patterson, who joined Abbotsford at the conclusion of his WHL season with the Saskatoon Blades, poked a loose puck past Sanford
Cunning made it 2-0 early in the second on a power play when he one-timed a Jason Jaffray feed past Sanford.
Hamilton cut Abbotsford's lead in half when Glumac cut to the slot and beat Shantz with a wrist shot at 6:55.
Abbotsford led 2-1 after two periods, but Glumac completed the comeback for the Bulldogs at 10:41 of the third when his shot redirected off Heat defenceman Gord Baldwin and past Shantz.
After Benoit gave Hamilton its first lead, Russell and Desharnais added goals into an empty net for a 5-2 final.
"I've been there before and I think we've got a resilient group here," said Heat veteran defenceman Andy Delmore. "It's a tough loss for us, but we've got a day to get ready for the next one.
"I like our chances still, we just got to play our game and take it one at a time here."