HAMILTON 4, ABBOTSFORD 1
Nigel Dawes factored into all four goals, nabbing his third hat trick of the season and adding an assist, as Hamilton bolstered its postseason hopes by taking a 4-1 win over visiting Abbotsford on Wednesday at Copps Coliseum, the Bulldogs’ second win over the Heat in as many days.
Dawes tallied his league-leading 36th, 37th, and 38th goals of the season and now shows 11 goals and 18 points in just 13 games since joining the Bulldogs after putting up 27-17-44 in 47 games with Chicago to begin the season.
Dawes collected his second hat trick in a Bulldogs uniform, following an identical three-goal, four-point performance on Mar. 2 vs. Milwaukee. The 26-year-old racked up a season-high four goals in a Jan. 5 game vs. Toronto as a member of the Wolves.
After Dawes gave Hamilton a 1-0 first-period lead, Aaron Palushaj netted his 19th goal of the season at 4:27 of the second frame for the eventual game-winner.
John Armstrong put Abbotsford on the board midway through the second frame, but Dawes struck again late in the period and finished off his hat trick with a last-second empty-netter.
Hamilton is now on its first three-game winning streak since a season-best six-game run from Jan. 12-26, and the Bulldogs (39-26-2-7, 87 points) have moved to within one point of second-place Lake Erie in the North Division while pulling seven points up on Toronto for the division’s last guaranteed playoff spot.
The Heat, meanwhile, are 0-3-0-1 in their last four outings and sit five points out of a potential playoff spot with seven games left.
MILWAUKEE 3, SAN ANTONIO 2 (SO)
Milwaukee converted on three of five shootout chances en route to a 3-2 win over visiting San Antonio on Wednesday at the Bradley Center, officially clinching a berth in the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Admirals will be making their ninth consecutive postseason appearance since missing out in their first season in the AHL back in 2001-02. Milwaukee, which won the Calder Cup in 2004 and was the league’s runner-up two years later, is now two points up on Houston for first place in the West Division.
Gabriel Bourque, rookie defenseman Roman Josi, and Andreas Thuresson all tallied shootout goals for the Admirals, and goaltender Atte Engren finished off his first career AHL win by denying three of San Antonio’s four bids.
Engren, a 22-year-old native of Finland, made 32 saves through the first 65 minutes.
Defensemen Teemu Laakso and Grant Lewis notched regulation goals for the Admirals, while rearguard Garrett Stafford and veteran forward Randy Robitaille countered for San Antonio. All four markers occurred in the second period.
With the point earned in the shootout loss, the Rampage (38-30-3-3, 82 points) moved within one point of the trio of teams – Peoria, Chicago, and Oklahoma City – who currently occupy fourth through sixth place in the West Division playoff race.
Courtesy of San Antonio’s loss, idle Houston also punched its ticket to the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
BRIDGEPORT 2, PORTLAND 1
Bridgeport erased a 1-0 deficit with a pair of third-period goals and escaped Portland with a 2-1 win over the first-place Pirates on Wednesday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Portland grabbed an early 1-0 lead on Paul Byron’s 21st goal of the season 3:32 into the contest, and that unassisted tally stood as the night’s only scoring until midway through the third frame.
Bridgeport goaltender Mikko Koskinen earned the victory with 33 saves in net, as Bridgeport improved to 5-1-1-2 in its last nine outings.
Portland remained three points up on Manchester for first place in the Atlantic Division and still holds two games in hand.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 4, NORFOLK 3
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton erupted for four goals on 13 shots in the opening period and held on for a 4-3 road win over Norfolk on Wednesday at the Scope.
Three of the Penguins’ four goals came on the power play, as Brett Sterling netted a pair – his 24th and 25th of the season – and rookie Keven Veilleux also converted. Pens captain and ex-Admiral Ryan Craig completed the flurry with an even-strength marker in the period’s closing minute.
The Penguins, who finished 5-3-0-0 vs. Norfolk this season and are 53-20-0-1 (107 points) overall, are now 11 points up on Portland and Milwaukee for the AHL’s best record and can clinch that distinction as early as this coming weekend.
Blair Jones, Troy Milam, and Mattias Ritola netted goals for the Admirals, who have now lost three of four (1-3-0-0) and remained one point up on idle Binghamton for fourth place in the East Division.
ROCKFORD 3, LAKE ERIE 2
Rockford continued its strong play of late and kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a 3-2 road win over previously-surging Lake Erie at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday.
Rockford extended its season-high winning streak to five games, improved to 12-4-1-1 in its last 18 contests, and pulled to within eight points of a playoff spot with six games left.
Julian Talbot (1-1-2) and Matthew Ford registered goals for the Monsters, who entered the night having won eight straight games since an identical 3-2 loss to the same IceHogs on home ice back on Mar. 5.
Lake Erie (40-26-3-5, 88 points) dropped two points back of Manitoba for first place in the North Division.
MANITOBA 5, ROCHESTER 4 (SO)
Garth Murray converted in the seventh shootout round, and Manitoba goaltender Tyler Weiman then denied Hugh Jessiman to give the Moose a 5-4 win over Rochester at the MTS Centre on Wednesday.
The Moose (42-27-1-5) earned a sweep of their two-game set against the Amerks, extended their winning streak to four games overall, and moved two points up on Lake Erie for first place in the North Division.
Rookies and former first-round draft picks Jordan Schroeder and Cody Hodgson also notched shootout goals for the Moose, while Marco Rosa paced the team with three points in regulation (1-2-3). Rosa now shows 3-4-7 in four games since returning from a two-month injury absence.
Defensemen Nolan Baumgartner (1-1-2), Mark Flood (1-1-2), and Yann Sauve rounded out Manitoba’s offense, and Weiman made 22 saves through the first 65 minutes en route to his 15th win of the year (15-10-2).
The Americans, who are now winless in seven straight games (0-5-1-1) and fell to 1-9-1-1 in their last 12 outings, received regulation markers from Mike Kostka, Triston Grant, Colby Robak, and Bill Thomas.
SYRACUSE 4, TORONTO 3
Rookie forward Kyle Palmieri continued his torrid pace with a pair of goals, and Syracuse outlasted Toronto for a 4-3 road win on Wednesday in matinee action at Ricoh Coliseum.
Palmieri picked up his 25th and 26th goals of the season, moving him past Portland’s Luke Adam and into the lead among AHL rookies in that category. The former first-round draft pick by the Anaheim Ducks has piled up 12 goals and 15 points in his last eight games alone.
Rick Schofield netted the game-winning goal for the Crunch; Josh Green also scored; and Patrick Maroon assisted on both goals by Palmieri en route to a three-assist afternoon. Nick Bonino contributed a pair of helpers of his own.
Crunch goaltender Timo Pielmeier earned the victory with 27 saves in net, as Syracuse extended its winning streak to four games and improved to 11-3-0-0 in its last 14 contests.
Toronto, which remained two points back of the Western Conference’s crossover playoff spot and four points shy of third-place Hamilton in the North Division, fell to 1-4-0-2 in its last seven games.