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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
Last week, the City of Hamilton experienced it’s first winter storm warning of the season. What started out as freezing rain changed to blowing snow, accompanied by high winds and Arctic-like temperatures. As a result of this, most people in the area cranked up their furnaces and fireplaces……but not the Hamilton Bulldogs. They decided to turn the heat off. The Abbotsford Heat, that is.
Abbotsford, the affiliate of the NHL Calgary Flames, faced the Bulldogs in two games this past week in what was the fourth and fifth meetings between the two hockey teams this season.
In the first game, on Wednesday December 9, the Hamilton Bulldogs would defeat Abbotsford by a score of 5-1.
The Bulldogs opened the game’s scoring at 2:19 of the second period when Ryan White received a pass from J.T. Wyman before dishing the puck to Mikael Johansson, who was stationed in front of the net. Johansson fired a shot that sailed over the blocker of Abbotsford starting goaltender Leland Irving to give Hamilton a 1-0 lead.
The 'Dogs added their second goal at 13:24 while on the power play. Ben Maxwell blasted a shot on net that was saved by Irving. David Desharnais grabbed the loose rebound before sending a cross-crease pass to Grant Stevenson. Stevenson slid the puck along the ice and into the back of the net.
Brock Trotter scored Hamilton's third goal at 15:15. Shawn Belle sent the puck to P.K. Subban, who blasted a shot from the point. Irving could not contain the rebound which bounced onto the stick of Trotter, who was positioned at the left side of the net. Trotter whacked the loose puck past Irving for the goal.
The 'Dogs took a 4-0 lead at 5:37 of the third period. While on the power-play, Desharnais received a pass from Subban while at the right side of the net. Desharnais skated in front of the net before snapping a shot past Irving. Ryan Russell netted a shorthanded marker at 10:50. J.T. Wyman fired a shot on net that was saved by Irving. Russell whacked the rebound between the legs of Irving and into the back of the net.
Abbotsford finally got on the score sheet at 14:46 of the third period, scoring their only goal of the game, and in the process, ending Cedrick Desjardins franchise record shutout streak at 212 minutes and 37 seconds.
The AHL record for the longest shutout streak by a goaltender was set back in 1957 by hockey legend Johnny Bower, who was playing for the Cleveland Barons at the time. His shutout record of 249 minutes and 51 seconds still stands today after all these years. For those who want me to do the math, that means that Cedrick Desjardins needed only 37 minutes and 15 seconds more of shutout hockey to break that all-time record which has stood for 52 years.
How ironic that Desjardins would put in another 60 minutes of shutout hockey the following game on Sunday December 13, which would have given him the record.
What it did give him, however, was his fourth official shutout of the season (5th if you count the shared shutout he had with Curtis Sanford on November 27) as the Hamilton Bulldogs defeated the Abbotsford Heat once again by a final score of 3-0 in the second game of the two-game series between the teams.
In addition to what would be the Dogs 16th win of the season and the team’s 7th shutout overall, this game was special because it was also the Hamilton Bulldogs Annual Toy Toss Night. This is the yearly game during the Christmas Season where the Hamilton fans get to throw new stuffed animal toys on to the ice after the Bulldogs score their first goal of the game. The toys are then collected and are given to needy children for Christmas in the Hamilton area.
After a scoreless first period, David Desharnais was the Bulldogs player who was responsible for the hailstorm of toys raining down when he scored a highlight reel goal, unassisted, at exactly the 13 minute mark of the 2nd period. He grabbed the puck, shorthanded, from one of the Abbotsford players and had a beautiful breakaway on Heat goalie, Matt Keetley. Desharnais deked with the puck on his backhand before switching back to his forehand and putting the puck behind Keetley to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
The game was stopped for several minutes as 1,550 stuffed toys were thrown on to the ice. Desharnais was quoted after the game in the Hamilton Spectator newspaper: “I looked up and saw all these toys coming down on the ice. I forgot it was the toy toss game for the fans.”
Grant Stevenson would put the Bulldogs up 2-0 at 1:03 of the third period, on the powerplay, assisted by Mathieu Carle and Ben Maxwell.
Brock Trotter would seal the 3-0 victory for Hamilton with an empty net goal at 18:53, assisted by Stevenson and Ryan Russell.