Just a week ago, the Hamilton Bulldogs were coming off their worst slump of the season, losing six consecutive games and the team in desperate need of a spark.
With Hamilton winning four of the last five games and outscoring opponents 18-10 over that stretch, it appears the Dogs have indeed found that spark.
A major reason for Hamilton’s recent success is Dustin Tokarski, who’s outstanding play last week earned him AHL Player of the Week honours after going 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average and a .980 save percentage.
Despite a tough 6-3 loss to the Rochester Americans last night, Tokarski’s overall numbers this year are quite impressive with an 8-4-1 record and a 2.13 GAA and .928 save percentage.
With Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre electing to rotate between Tokarski and Robert Mayer earlier on in the season, it looks like Tokarski has emerged as the go-to goaltender after some solid performances in the month of November.
Lefebvre has been pleased with his team’s overall effort and contributions at both ends of the rink and credits Tokarski for his confidence in the crease.
"He feels that he can stop every shot and he’s doing a very good job at it," said Lefebvre. "His rebounds, he controls them real well, he looks like he’s in the zone right now and he’s very confident, he’s playing well."
Even during the Bulldogs’ hardest times, Tokarski’s teammates have credited their goaltender for keeping them in games and providing the team with a chance to win.
Veteran Bulldogs forward Nick Tarnasky praised Tokarski making the big saves when the team needs them most.
"He’s been playing great, obviously you see the second and third saves he’ll make in a situation where we need a big save and he’s done that for us," said Tarnasky. "You can’t say more good things … about how good he’s played and definitely we need to have that behind us and help us build our confidence as a team."
At a practice earlier this week, Tokarski spoke about being named the AHL Player of the Week calling the award a reflection of the team’s play.
"It feels good, it’s definitely a big honour," said Tokarski. "With team success, some individuals get noticed and I’ve just got to thank the team for playing rock-solid in front of me and helping me out."
Tokarski says that despite his recent strong play, he hasn’t changed his game much and attributes the team’s work ethic for getting back on track.
"I think earlier on we were good too and went through a little tough stretch there, but we’re just working hard in practice and as a team we’re playing a lot better and that helps too," said Tokarski.
The Bulldogs will be in action next when they host their North Division rival Toronto Marlies at Copps Coliseum on Friday night. Both teams are neck and neck in the standings with the Marlies atop the division with two games in hand. Hamilton will be looking to regain the division lead.
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