Blake Geoffrion made a quick transition from recipient to creator to propel his team to victory on Sunday.Geoffrion had a goal and assisted on Aaron Palushaj’s game-winner in the second period, as the Hamilton Bulldogs defeated the Abbotsford Heat 2-1 in American Hockey League action.
“That’s a good team, Abbotsford. They hadn’t lost yet in regulation,” said Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “We played well on our special teams and we did some good things, things that we need to do to win games.
“Things like sacrificing your body and doing the little things right like getting the puck in deep and getting in on the forecheck.”
Robert Mayer made 29 saves for the Bulldogs (3-2-1) in the win.
Roman Horak had the lone goal for the Heat (4-1-2), who lost for the first time in regulation this season. Danny Taylor stopped 28 of 30 shots for Abbotsford.
Mayer injected life into a largely uneventful first period with eight minutes remaining, denying an Abbotsford breakaway and the resulting rebound before smothering the puck.
The Bulldogs had an opportunity to break the deadlock when a penalty to the Heat’s Dustin Sylvester at 14:00 put them on their first power play, but they couldn’t take advantage.
The Heat opened the scoring 3:36 into the second period, when centre Horak finished an attacking flurry by sliding the puck past Mayer. The Hamilton goalie had saved a 2-on-1 break, but could not get back into position before Abbotsford’s Max Reinhart found Horak in the slot.
The goal was Horak’s seventh of the season and tied him with Drayson Bowman of the Charlotte Checkers for the league lead in goal-scoring.
Hamilton responded three minutes later, when centre Geoffrion collected a pass from Greg Pateryn at the right faceoff dot and snapped the puck over Taylor’s blocking glove for his second of the season.
“I think this year we’ve shown resiliency, being down a goal and bouncing back,” Geoffrion said of his team. “I think that’s great to see in a young team. Getting that goal kind of wakes you up.
“I’ve had a lot of chances here lately, and they just haven’t been going in. So it was nice to get that one finally.”
“We focus on staying composed and nothing bothers us,” said Lefebvre. “If they score a goal, you just stay with it and keep working hard. You try to get the big shift after they score.”
The hosts took their first lead of the contest midway through the second, after the Heat’s Adam Estoclet was whistled for slashing at 9:06. Palushaj scored his third goal of the season on the ensuing power play, tipping Geoffrion’s pass from the point past Taylor.
“My coach and I have worked on a number of different plays and that was one of them and it just happened to be open,” said Geoffrion of the power play goal. “(Palushaj) is a great talent, obviously, and he was able to make a really nice deflection there.
“It fools the goalie. We’ve got the guy in front and the deflection is hard for the goalie to react on.”
Mayer produced an eye-catching glove save with three minutes remaining in the second to preserve Hamilton’s 2-1 lead, and stopped all five shots he faced in the third.
“He played good tonight and coming back from being sick for a couple of days, it’s not always easy,” said Lefebvre. “Sometimes the energy is tough to get back. But he played really well tonight and he kept things simple and didn’t give up too many rebounds.”