HAMILTON 5, MILWAUKEE 4 (OT)
Nigel Dawes continued on his remarkable offensive tear, registering a hat trick before the game was 22 minutes old and then assisting on the overtime game-winner by Alex Henry as Hamilton edged visiting Milwaukee by a 5-4 count on Wednesday at Copps Coliseum.
For Henry, it marked his first regular-season goal in more than two years, since scoring for the Bulldogs on Jan. 16, 2009 vs. Lake Erie.
Dawes, acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers organization last week, has racked up six goals – including one game-winner – and seven points in just four games since joining the Bulldogs.
Dating back to the end of his stint with the Chicago Wolves, the 26-year-old has tallied a goal in an AHL season-high eight consecutive games (11-3-14), and his effort on Wednesday vaulted him past Portland’s Mark Mancari and into the league lead with 33 goals (33-18-41) in 51 games overall.
Dawes scored twice in a span of 1:38 late in the first period before completing his hat trick just 1:23 into the second frame, staking Hamilton to a 3-0 lead in the process.
That advantage would prove to be short-lived, however, as the Admirals got second-period goals from Teemu Laakso (4:31), Matthew Ford (6:26), and Andreas Thuresson (18:27) to make it 3-3 heading to the final 20 minutes.
Hamilton’s Dany Masse and Milwaukee’s Gabriel Bourque traded markers in the third period before Henry ended it with just four ticks left in the overtime period. Dawes and Andreas Engqvist assisted on the game-winner.
Aaron Palushaj registered two assists for the Bulldogs, and ex-Admiral goaltender Drew MacIntyre – a teammate of Dawes earlier this year in Chicago – made 28 saves to earn the victory in his Hamilton debut.
The win pushed Hamilton (33-21-1-5, 72 points) back into sole possession of first place in the North Division, two points up on idle Manitoba and Lake Erie.
CONNECTICUT 3, SPRINGFIELD 2
Playing his first pro game in an organization other than that of the Toronto Maple Leafs, newly acquired forward John Mitchell snapped a 2-2 tie with just eight seconds left in regulation to give Connecticut a critical 3-2 win over visiting Springfield on Wednesday at the XL Center.
Mitchell, who spent his first five and a half pro seasons in the Toronto system and – including 159 games with the Maple Leafs and 213 more with the AHL Marlies – was acquired by the New York Rangers prior to Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
Springfield rearguard Brent Regner broke a scoreless deadlock on the power play with 6:47 gone in the second period, but the Whale grabbed a 2-1 lead on third-period strikes by Bickel – his first of the season – and Dale Weise.
The Falcons tied it up on the power play at the 19:18 mark when rookie Tomas Kubalik netted his 20th goal of the year, but Mitchell put the Whale back on top to stay just 34 seconds later.
Goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris (5-3-1) stopped 19 of 21 shots in net for the Whale, who ended a brief two-game losing skid and moved into the Atlantic Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot, one point up on idle Worcester and two ahead of the Falcons.
NORFOLK 6, HERSHEY 1
Norfolk, which had mustered just two goals in dropping its first three meetings with Hershey this season, scored six times – including the first two AHL goals of the year by Mattias Ritola – en route to a 6-1 win over the Bears on Wednesday at the Scope.
With the victory, the Admirals extended their points streak to five games (3-0-0-2) and moved within three points of idle Charlotte for third place in the East Division race. Norfolk (30-17-8-5) now sits two points up on Binghamton for the fourth spot.
Ritola, who has also appeared in a career-high 24 NHL games for Tampa Bay this season, had recorded nine assists in eight games since his reassignment on Feb. 9. But he buried his first AHL goal of the season midway through the first period and then closed the game’s scoring midway through the third.
Steve Pinizzotto scored for the Bears, who will get another crack at Norfolk on Saturday night at the Giant Center.
HOUSTON 8, ROCKFORD 1
Houston torched Rockford for six power play goals and scored a season-high eight times overall on its way to an 8-1 pounding of the visiting IceHogs on Wednesday at the Toyota Center.
It marked the Aeros’ greatest offensive output since opening their season with a 6-1 triumph at Oklahoma City on Oct. 9.
Defenseman Marco Scandella led the Aeros with two goals and an assist, while fellow rearguard Maxim Noreau (1-2-3) and forwards Patrick O’Sullivan (1-2-3) and Jean-Michel Daoust (1-2-3) also contributed three points on the night.
Houston, which entered the night with the AHL’s 19th-ranked power play (17.1 percent), finished 6-for-12 on the man advantage, setting an AHL season high for power play goals in a single game and increasing its overall conversion rate to 18.5 percent.
Rookie goaltender Matt Hackett made 23 saves in net for the Aeros, who closed to within two points of first-place Milwaukee in the West Division race.
IceHogs rookie Brandon Bollig spoiled Hackett’s shutout bid with an unassisted shorthanded goal at 12:04 of the third period.
SAN ANTONIO 3, ABBOTSFORD 2
Matt Watkins tallied a pair of goals and Matt Pope potted the eventual game-winner as San Antonio gutted out a 3-2 win over visiting Abbotsford on Wednesday at the AT&T Center.
With their second straight victory, the Rampage (35-23-2-0, 72 points) move from seventh place to fifth in the West Division, jumping past idle Oklahoma City and Chicago and into what would currently be a crossover playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Watkins sandwiched his goals early in the second and third periods around a second-period marker by Abbotsford’s Ales Kotalik, and Pope gave San Antonio a 3-1 advantage when he scored on the power play at 7:40 of the third frame.
That stood up to be decisive when Heat rookie defenseman T.J. Brodie brought his club within 3-2 with an unassisted marker at 16:57. Abbotsford was unable to tie it, though, and lost in regulation for just the third time in its last 10 contests (6-3-1-0).
Rampage goaltender Matt Climie (22-16-0) earned the victory with 33 saves on 35 shots between the pipes.