Sound Tigers Battle Checkers in Mid-Week Slate
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (22-12-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, return to North Carolina for the second time in less than a month to battle the first-place Charlotte Checkers (28-9-3-0) in back-to-back mid-week games, beginning tonight with a 7 p.m. faceoff at Bojangles Coliseum. It features a head-to-head matchup of the top two teams in the AHL (points earned), but the Sound Tigers are looking to get back on track following six straight games without a regulation win.
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LAST TIME OUT
Defensemen Mitch Vande Sompel and Kyle Burroughs each found the back of the net against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday, but Bridgeport suffered a 4-2 setback at Webster Bank Arena, which snapped the club's franchise-record 15-game unbeaten in regulation streak. Former Checker Jeremy Smith made 25 saves on 29 shots between the pipes.
TIGERS VS. CHECKERS
Tonight's game features the fourth of eight meetings between the Sound Tigers and Checkers this season, and the third of four matchups in the Queen City. Bridgeport leads the series 2-1-0-0, but the division rivals recently split a two-game series in Charlotte (Dec. 21-22), in which the Sound Tigers notched their largest win of the season the first night (6-1), but fell the next day, 3-1. Sebastian Aho (BRI) and Andrew Poturalski (CHA) lead all players in the season series with four points in three games, but Aho did not make the trip with the Sound Tigers this week, still battling an upper-body injury. Steve Bernier will also miss this week's action as he serves the first two games of a three-game suspension handed down by the AHL on Monday.
VIEW FROM CHARLOTTE
The Checkers have won four of their last five games, including a 5-3 win against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday at home. Nicolas Roy (two goals, one assist) and Julian Gauthier (one goal, two assists) each had three points, while Alex Nedeljkovic made 32 saves for his league-leading 18th victory in net. Led by head coach Mike Vellucci, who was named the Atlantic Division's coach at the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic later this month, the Checkers are paced in scoring by Andrew Poturalski with a team-best 16 goals, 23 assists and 39 points, which also puts him in a tied for fifth in the AHL's scoring race. Charlotte continues a six-game homestand this week.
Tanner Fritz led the Sound Tigers with three points (one goal, two assists) in two games last weekend and now has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five outings. The 27-year-old forward is up to fourth on the team in helpers (16), fourth in multi-point games (seven), and tied for sixth in points (22), despite playing just 33 AHL games due to call-ups with the Islanders. Fritz has one assist in four NHL games this year.
Rookie power forward Otto Koivula had a remarkable first half of his first pro season in North America. The Islanders' fourth-round pick in 2016 scored in each of the first three games of 2019 (part of a five-game goal-scoring tear) and continues to lead all active players on the Sound Tigers with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists). Koivula is tied for fifth among rookie goal-scorers in the AHL, eighth among first-year point-getters, and sixth among league rookies in plus-minus (+13).
STREAKING INTO A NEW WEEK
A trio of Sound Tigers enter this week's action on a three-game point streak, including Travis St. Denis, Mitch Vande Sompel, and the AHL's all-time active leading scorer, Chris Bourque. St. Denis has three points (one goal, two assists) during that stretch and is tied for sixth on the team in scoring, while Vande Sompel has four points (one goal, three assists) and currently ranks second in scoring among Sound Tigers blue-liners. In addition, Bourque has three assists in as many games, but hasn't scored since Dec. 21 at Charlotte - a stretch of nine contests without a goal (his longest such streak with Bridgeport).
The Sound Tigers have played 25 one-goal games, most among all teams in the AHL... Bridgeport is 11-4-2-0 in the next game following a loss this season... The club is 15-0-0-1 when scoring at least four goals in a game... The Sound Tigers are outscoring opponents by 11 goals at five-on-five this season... The Sound Tigers' 44 first-period goals are fifth-most in the league... Bridgeport has been outshot in 15 straight games, dating back to Dec. 5... Jeremy Smith was named the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December.
NHL: New York Islanders (25-15-4): Next: Tonight vs. St. Louis Blues (7 p.m.)
ECHL: Worcester Railers (16-16-3-2): Next: Friday vs. Newfoundland Growlers (7:05 p.m.)
Next Home Game: The Sound Tigers host the Providence Bruins for their popular Star Wars Night this Saturday, featuring a 7 p.m. puck drop at Webster Bank Arena. The first 3,000 fans receive a free lightsaber and everyone in attendance is encouraged to meet Star Wars characters on the concourse. A $25 ticket package is on sale now (online or over the phone only), which includes access to the game and a food voucher valid for one (1) hot dog, one (1) soft drink, one (1) bag of chips and one (1) guaranteed lightsaber. Fans may call the Sound Tigers front office at 203-345-2300 ext. 7 or CLICK HERE to purchase!
Packed Promotional Lineup: The Sound Tigers boast one of their most extensive and wide-ranging promotional schedules ever for the 2018-19 season. The fan-friendly calendar includes the return of popular themes like Hockey and Hops (Mar. 17), Star Wars Night (Jan. 19) and Princess Night (Mar. 30). Regional hockey fans will also be elated for the addition of Hockey Weekend in Connecticut (Feb. 23-24). View the full 2018-19 promotional schedule.
For additional details or to reserve a group outing for any giveaway or theme night, please call the Sound Tigers' front office at (203) 345-2300 ext 7.
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American Hockey League Stories from January 15, 2019
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