The Hamilton Bulldogs got themselves one step closer into getting into the AHL history books in the 75th year anniversary of the league. Down 3-0 in the series, the Bulldogs battled back to force game 7. Nigel Dawes scored off a feed from Aaron Palushaj in the 2nd OT to become only the third team to ever come back from such a deficit. The 5-4 victory leads the Western Conference Finals to a game 7 showdown on Tuesday night in Houston, the winner will play the Binghamton Senators, the affiliate of the Ottawa Senators. Drew MacIntyre was busy all night stopping 57 shots in his 40th straight start to improve his record in elimination games to 10-2.
In the three one goal losses suffered by the ‘Dogs, they have scored a total of five times. Ever since, the Bulldogs bulldozed the Aeros scoring a total of 17 times and allowed 7 goals. This club never gave up. Credit should be given to the staff and to the players for taking a win at a time and going 3 for 3, hopefully they can go 4 for 4 by the end of Tuesday night.
It wasn’t the best effort for the Bulldogs, but they got the bounces and enough of them to beat the Houston Aeros at the Toyota Center for the first time this series. The Aeros wanted to end this series on this night; the shot count says it all. The Aeros outshot the Bulldogs 61-38. It’s safe to say the Aeros will look at this game as a positive but this victory was an even greater boost for Bulldogs' confidence. You can see it in their eyes of the ‘Dogs after Nigel Dawes scored the game winner at 9:11 of the second period. All their effort and determination was paying off.
"It shows the will of the players and commitment we have made," Hamilton coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "It's part of the process. These guys have earned it. We blame ourselves for the start to the series, but they have certainly turned it full circle, and we want to finish it the right way."
The Bulldogs were down twice in game 6, but they still found a way to get even. Andreas Engqvist and Dustin Boyd were the first two scorers for the ‘Dogs.
Late in the second period, Nigel Dawes caused a huge blow for the Houston Aeros as he scored his 13th of the playoffs late in the second period at 18:37.
Andreas Engqvist, another hero of the night, scored his first multi goal game when he scored an early short-handed marker at just 27 seconds into the final period. The goal was the third shorthanded goal in the last three games. The Bulldogs sat on the 2-goal lead while the Aeros attacked relentlessly. The Aeros took 19 shots on net, two of them finding the back of the net, including a late goal with just 1:56 remaining.
In the second OT, the ‘Dogs number one line came to the rescue. Dustin Boyd intercepted a pass, made a gutsy drop pass to Aaron Palushaj who skated on a partial 2-on-1 and sent it along the ice to Nigel who made no mistake. The players jumped on Nigel, looking all pumped up and ready to go at war for game 7.
"They took it to us, but the beauty about hockey is that you have to get one more," Dawes said of blowing the 4-2 lead. "They tied it up, so good for them. You have to give them credit, but we battled back hard in overtime. We're able to find a way, and I think it's deservedly so."
It all comes down to Tuesday night at 8:05. Can the Bulldogs be the third team to erase a 3-game deficit? Only time will tell.