HAMILTON, ON – On a day where former Hamilton Bulldog Cedric Desjardins was called up to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the man he was traded for, Dustin Tokarski, didn’t want to be shown up.
The ‘Dogs netminder has been nothing but stellar since being acquired by the Canadiens, and on Tuesday he recorded his second straight shutout, making 27 saves to earn a 2-0 decision over the Abbotsford Heat.
Hamilton played a strong first period – a period that has been a weakness for them much of the season – but came away with nothing to show for it, as goaltender Leland Irving had the last word.
The second period was a relatively even one, as the sparse mid-week crowd had little to get excited about. One could say it was a tight defensive affair with both teams putting up barriers in their own end, but that would be a polite way of describing the unmotivated sloppy “action” (or lack thereof) taking place between the two bluelines.
There were few scoring chances either way, until a solo rush by Hamilton native Joey Tenute produced a highlight-reel goal with just over a minute to go in the period.
“I saw that I had a couple of guys with me, but I know on a play like that, the goalie is going to be thinking I’m going to make the pass and be cheating a little, and I just kinda went to my backhand and put it upstairs,” described Tenute. But the goal was initially waved off, and the referees had to go upstairs to confirm it hadn’t simply bounced off the crossbar. “I saw it go in, but I don’t think the ref did. No doubt in my mind. I saw it, the whole bench saw it. I think maybe the ref was the only one that didn’t.”
The Bulldog penalty kill was proficient throughout the night, limiting the scoring chances on Tokarski, but he came up big in the third period as Abbotsford pressed for an equalizer with Tenute in the box.
“Sometimes in the game you get momentum, sometimes with the powerplay even if you don’t score, and sometimes with the penalty kill. Guys feel very confident right now in their play and that they can keep the lead if they get it,” summed up coach Sylvain Lefebvre.
Tokarski wouldn’t take all the credit for the win, rightfully pointing to his teammates who – while they conceded 27 shots – kept most chances to the outside and allowed few true scoring opportunities.
“We’ve been playing solid 60 minutes of north-south hockey. Playing some good D and capitalizing on chances,” said the always modest netminder nicknamed ‘Ticker’ of a true team effort. “Guys are staying tight, keeping guys to the outside. Giving me the first shot and then clearing the rebound or I’m controlling it. I thought the D core’s been outstanding the last couple of games.”
In addition to usual stand-up efforts from Greg Pateryn and Frederic St. Denis, Joe Stejskal had a particularly good game on the back-end, delivering several crunching hits.
The third period saves were all the team would require, as Louis Leblanc sealed the deal into an empty net after starting a rush that drew a late Heat penalty.
The win is Hamilton’s 9th in the last 13 games, but the team has to continue to take things one game at a time, as they remain far out of a playoff spot. “We’ve been in playoffs in our mind for a little while here,” said Lefebvre, concluding by anointing Tokarski the starter for the team’s next game Friday night.