A hat trick from Nigel Dawes powered the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 4-1 victory over the Abbotsford Heat at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum on Wednesday evening.
Dawes ran his AHL-leading goal total to 38 as the Bulldogs (39-26-2-7) solidified their grip on the North Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff berth.
The Heat, meanwhile, suffered their fourth consecutive defeat while out-shooting their opponent by a double-digit margin. They sent 37 shots at Bulldogs goalie Drew MacIntyre, while surrendering just 25.
In the wake of back-to-back losses in Hamilton, the Heat’s playoff hopes are tenuous at best. At 34-29-4-6, they’re sixth out of seven teams in the North Division, and trail the Bulldogs by nine points with just seven games remaining in the regular season.
Goals by Dawes and Aaron Palushaj staked Hamilton to a 2-0 lead on Wednesday, before John Armstrong got the Heat on the board at 13:07 of the second period.
Dawes notched his second game before the middle frame was up, and completed the hat trick into an empty net with three seconds left in the third period.
Matt Keetley returned from a knee injury to make his first start in goal for the Heat since Jan. 3. He stopped 21 of 24 shots.
Abbotsford’s 26th-ranked power play struggled on Wednesday, going 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
The Heat return home this weekend for a Friday-Saturday set at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre against the Grand Rapids Griffins.