Bulldogs put the hurt on Heat’s playoff chances

The Hamilton Bulldogs dealt the Abbotsford Heat's playoff hopes a huge blow on Tuesday, winning 3-1 at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum.

The Hamilton Bulldogs dealt the Abbotsford Heat’s playoff hopes a huge blow on Tuesday, winning 3-1 at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.

The Heat’s third consecutive loss followed a familiar script. Over two weekend games against the Manitoba Moose and Tuesday’s date with Hamilton, Jim Playfair’s bunch has out-shot its opponent by an average of 18.7 shots per game.

But the high volume has not yielded results, as the Heat have scored just four goals over that span.

Aaron Palushaj and Nigel Dawes each notched a goal and an assist for Hamilton on Tuesday, while Drew Macintyre made 37 saves.

Jon Rheault, on a five-on-three power play in the second period, mustered the lone goal for the Heat, who out-shot Hamilton 38-24. Carter Bancks picked up an assist on Rheault’s tally, running his points streak to three games since returning to the lineup after concussion symptoms sidelined him for 51 games.

Abbotsford (34-28-4-6, 78 points) remains mired in sixth place in the AHL’s North Division. With eight games left in the regular season, they’re seven points behind Hamilton for the division’s third and final guaranteed post-season spot (the West Division’s fifth-place finisher could cross over and claim the fourth playoff berth in the North).

According to sportsclubstats.com, Tuesday’s loss chopped the Heat’s chances of making the Calder Cup playoffs in half. Heading in, the website had Abbotsford listed at 12.8 per cent to qualify for the post-season. Afterward, their chances shrunk to 6.3 per cent.

The Heat have three games remaining against the Bulldogs this season, including a rematch at Copps Coliseum on Wednesday. The Abbotsford club returns home this weekend for a Friday-Saturday set with the Grand Rapids Griffins.