HAMILTON - Dustin Boyd put on a show for his hometown Wednesday.
The Winnipeg native scored a hat trick to lift the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 3-0 win over the visiting Manitoba Moose in a rare weekday matinee Wednesday.
"Boyd obviously came up with a huge game for his family back home," said Bulldogs coach Randy Cunneyworth.
Curtis Sanford made 31 saves for the shutout in front of 10,270 fans—mostly school kids—at Copps Coliseum.
Boyd scored twice on Tyler Weiman before adding an empty-netter. Since being sent down from the NHL's Montreal Canadiens last month, Boyd has 14 goals and no assists in 17 games.
But he was in a slump heading into Wednesday's game with just one goal since Dec. 30.
"The last few games I've been a little snake-bitten but they were going in tonight," he said. "As long as you're getting chances hopefully things will happen."
The Bulldogs (27-13-1-4) have 59 points and now sit three points ahead of the Moose (25-13-1-5) in the AHL's North Division.
The game was close through two periods as the Bulldogs clung to a 1-0 lead. But Sanford made a couple of key saves to preserve the shutout, stopping a breakaway attempt from Manitoba's Garth Murray and robbing Cody Hodgson on the power-play with a diving save.
"The game at that point could have gone either way... to stand in there as tall as he did means the difference," said Cunneyworth.
Prior to Wednesday's evening play, Sanford led the league in goals-against average (1.66) and was tied for the lead in shutouts (5) and in wins (18).
"I'm feeling good but the guys are playing so well in front of me," said Sanford. "We're not making things complicated back there, there's a lot of communication between defence forwards and myself. We're making life easy on ourselves."
Boyd had nothing but praise for his goaltender.
"He amazes me every game... again tonight he kept us in there with that big save in third period on the power play," he said. "It got the boys revved up, it's what he's been doing all year and that's why he's going to the all-star game."
Boyd opened the scoring at 8:18 of the second, streaking up the right wing and beating Weiman over his blocker. Boyd was quicker than Weiman's blocker again at 14:02 of the third to put the Bulldogs up 2-0. He scored into the empty net at 18:26.
Boyd played 10 games with the Habs this season but found his reduced role with the NHL club difficult.
"It was really tough when I was up there not playing for a long time but it's good being down here again playing hockey again," said Boyd. "I still feel that I can contribute at (the NHL) level. For the most part when I was in the NHL I was mostly a fourth-liner... its all a matter of good timing and getting some lucky breaks."