Bulldogs News

A CLOSER LOOK: GREAT START FOR TOKARSKI

By: Hamilton Bulldogs
03/07/2013 3:41 PM -

Story By: Stuart McComish
HAMILTON, Ont. – Goaltender Dustin Tokarski has only played six games for the Hamilton Bulldogs, but he has already had a significant impact on the fortunes of the American Hockey League team.

Acquired for netminder Cedrick Desjardins on Feb. 14 in a trade between the Montreal Canadiens , the Bulldogs’ parent club in the National Hockey League, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the parent club of the Syracuse Crunch, Tokarski has posted four wins, including two shutouts, a goals-against average of 1.18 and a save percentage of.960.

Tokarski, a 23-year-old from Humboldt, Sask., has yet to allow more than two goals in any of his starts for the Bulldogs and is riding a shutout streak of 146:07 dating to Juuso Puustinen’s goal at 12:41 of the second period that opened the scoring in a 2-0 loss to the visiting Milwaukee Admirals on Feb. 24 that saw the Admirals’ second goal scored into an empty net.

In Tokarski’s next start he made 31 saves in a 2-0 road win over the Lake Erie Monsters last Saturday night and turned aside 27 shots in a 2-0 win at home against the Abbotsford Heat on Tuesday night. Tokarski is the sixth goaltender in Bulldogs’ history to record consecutive shutouts and the first since Curtis Sanford did it in January, 2011. The club record for longest shutout streak is held by Desjardins, who did not allow a goal for 212:37 over five games from Nov. 25 to Dec. 9, 2009.

“I feel good out there, but the main thing is the team is playing really well right now,” said Tokarski, who is expected to get the start at 7 p.m. Friday when the Bulldogs visit the Grand Rapids Griffins to open a stretch of three games in as many days.  

“The important thing for us is to keep winning games. The guys are playing a solid 60 minutes and we’re playing a complete game.”

Tokarski had praise for the Bulldogs’ young defence corps which features a number of rookies.

“I think they are great young defencemen and I am having a lot of fun playing with them. We are communicating well and they are sacrificing their bodies and doing their jobs.”

Tokarski said after practice Thursday that he isn’t focused on becoming the first Bulldogs’ goaltender to post three consecutive shutouts.

“I am just thinking about going out there tomorrow and giving us a chance to win. It’s all about the result. The shutouts have been nice, but that is a result of how well the team has been playing.”

The Bulldogs, who will host the Griffins at 5 p.m. Sunday, will also entertain the Peoria Rivermen at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tokarski said he will be ready if he gets the nod in each game, but he expects fellow netminder Robert Mayer, who has recorded wins in four of his last five starts, to see some action too.

“I never say no to a start. I have played three-in-three before. Robert is a great goalie and I am sure he will get a game in, but it’s the coach’s call and whoever he puts in net will be ready. It’s fun to compete with Robert, we push each other. He’s played some good games since I have been here.”

A fifth-round pick of the Lighting in the 2008 Entry Draft, Tokarski helped backstop the Norfolk Admirals to the Calder Cup last season. The Lighting moved its AHL affiliation to Syracuse this season and Tokarski appeared in 33 games with the Crunch, posting a record of 18-8-4 with three shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.46.

In 2011-12 the Admirals led the AHL in scoring with 273 goals and the Crunch is currently the highest-scoring team in the league with 198 goals while the Bulldogs’ 121 goals are the fewest in the AHL.

“Syracuse can score more than we can, there’s no hiding that fact,” said Tokarski when asked about moving from a high-powered offensive team to one that has struggled offensively at times this season. “But the guys are working hard and we’re starting to win games. It doesn’t matter if you win 2-1 or 7-5, the end result is two points and that’s what we are striving for every night.”

Tokarski came to the Bulldogs with a sterling resume. In addition to his Calder Cup win, he helped the Spokane Chiefs win the Western Hockey League championship and Memorial Cup in 2008 and was named the top goaltender and most valuable player in that tournament. He also helped lead Canada to a fifth consecutive gold medal at the 2009 World Junior Championship at Ottawa.

“He has a swagger about him,” said Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “He’s a great teammate who has won, both in the pros and junior. He knows what it takes. He knows if you want to win it is team first and if you play well as a team and win then individual rewards will come. It’s a six-man unit out there right now and everyone is doing their job and helping each other out.”

 



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