Gabriel Dumont has a history of memorable performances at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, and he fashioned another on Saturday.
The Hamilton Bulldogs forward scored the tying and go-ahead goals to spark his team to a 3-1 victory, capping a sweep of the two-game weekend set vs. the Abbotsford Heat. Hamilton also won 2-1 on Friday.
Rewinding back to the spring of 2010, Dumont made his pro debut against the Heat in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. He’d signed an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens at the conclusion of his junior season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, and was subsequently assigned to the Bulldogs, their AHL affiliate.
In Game 3, he notched his first pro goal in a 3-2 Hamilton victory at the AESC, and the Bulldogs went on to win the series in six games.
“For sure, I remember my first goal,” Dumont said with a grin following Saturday’s win. “It’s already starting to feel like a long time ago.
“It’s always a fun environment to come back here and play. We’ve had good playoff games against Abbotsford so those are some good memories.”
The 23-year-old Dumont, who has notched six of his 42 career AHL regular season goals against the Heat, stands just 5’9″. But he’s an outlier size-wise on a Bulldogs squad which boasts tremendous size and speed. They made life difficult for a typically high-scoring Heat squad on both Friday and Saturday, but the hosts did get off to a solid start in the second game.
Markus Granlund opened the scoring midway through the first period on the power play. Kane Lafranchise kept the puck in the offensive zone and walked in from the point, then attempted a centring pass over to Granlund. The puck took a deflection but found its way to the Finnish centre anyway, and he roofed a close-range shot on Bulldogs goalie Dustin Tokarski for his 14th goal of the season, tops among rookies in the AHL.
Heat keeper Joey MacDonald, making his first start since Dec. 12 after Joni Ortio got the nod six games in a row, did his best work late in the first. Hamilton forward Mike Blunden took a pass in the slot with MacDonald seemingly down and out, but he scrambled back in time to kick out Blunden’s shot with his right pad and stone him again on the rebound attempt.
Blunden, who also rang a shot the post in the first minute of the game, had a snakebit start, but he got a measure of revenge late in the second period. His sharp-angle shot got behind MacDonald, and Dumont tapped it in.
Dumont got his second of the night just 49 seconds into the third period on a power play, jamming a rebound between MacDonald’s pads.
The Heat’s vaunted power play, which came in ranked second in the AHL with a 25 per cent success rate, had three opportunities to generate the equalizer in the third period. But the Bulldogs smothered them, with a late assist from Heat centre Ben Street – he took an interference penalty with 1:18 remaining in regulation, during an Abby man advantage with MacDonald pulled for an extra attacker.
Hamilton’s Maxine Macenauer rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter with 16 seconds left.
Heat head coach Troy Ward noted his team brought a better level of competitiveness in Saturday’s rematch than they had Friday, but acknowledged the power play “struggled all weekend.”
“They gave us every chance to try and get back in the game,” Ward said. “We had three power plays down the stretch and then took ourselves off the power play in the last two minutes. A veteran guy who we don’t need a penalty from took a penalty.
“The difference in the weekend was their goalie gave them a lot of confidence. They played with a reckless abandon knowing he was on his game, sort of how we’ve played with Orts. They were chaotic and that caused us problems. We showed our youth tonight.”
Lafranchise theorized that the Heat’s man-advantage miscues might have come from players trying to do too much individually.
“That happens when you’re down and everyone wants to get that goal,” he said. “Guys might not be making the passes they need to make, and I know myself, there’s better plays I can make, maybe a little bit quicker.”
The Heat (23-11-2, 48 points) still occupy the second seed in the Western Conference, but the Texas Stars (21-10-5, 47 points) are just one point back of them in the West Division, with both teams having played 36 games.
Hamilton (17-14-4, 38 points) is seventh in the Western Conference, having won five in a row. Their last defeat was against the Heat on Dec. 22, when Abbotsford rallied to win 3-2 in a shootout at Copps Coliseum.
“Before this we had four losses in a row,” Dumont noted. “Sometimes it takes a little slap in the face to wake up. After the fourth loss some guys got up in the room and talked things out. Since then we haven’t lost so it has been a big step forward for us going towards the end of the season.
“Abbotsford’s obviously one of the best teams in the league,” Dumont added. “We both tried to play a tight game. We tried to limit their numbers and when we had chances tonight we scored.”
The Heat now embark on a six-game road trip, beginning on Tuesday at the San Antonio Rampage.