Sound Tigers Face Bears, T-Birds this Weekend
HERSHEY, Penn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (36-19-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, face a back-to-back set of games this weekend against the Hershey Bears (34-22-3-4) and Springfield Thunderbirds (27-25-7-5). The doubleheader kicks off with a 7 p.m. matchup at Hershey tonight, which completes a five-game road trip, and ends with a 5 p.m. contest against the T-Birds at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday.
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LAST TIME OUT
The Sound Tigers will go for their ninth win in 10 games and fourth victory of this road trip tonight following a 3-2 shootout win against the Toronto Marlies at Coca-Cola Coliseum last Sunday. Josh Ho-Sang and Jeff Kubiak each scored a second-period goal and Jeremy Smith made a season-high 40 saves in 65 minutes, while Otto Koivula notched his first shootout winner in the AHL. Bridgeport improved to 12-1-1-0 on Sunday afternoons with the victory.
TIGERS VS. BEARS
Tonight's game marks the fifth of six meetings between the Sound Tigers and Bears this season, and the third of three matchups at Giant Center. Bridgeport leads the series 3-1-0-0 and has outscored Hershey 12-7 in the first four contests, including a 4-1 win in Chocolate Town on Mar. 2. Michael Dal Colle and Travis St. Denis each had one goal and one assist that night, which opened Bridgeport's current five-game road trip. The Sound Tigers have won both meetings in Hershey this season.
VIEW FROM HERSHEY
The Bears have earned points in five straight games (2-0-2-1) and continue to sit third in the Atlantic Division standings entering tonight's contest. Last night, Jayson Megna, Garrett Pilon, Nathan Walker and Devonte Smith-Pelly each scored in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Toronto Marlies at Giant Center, which continued a four-game homestand. Vitek Vanecek made 22 saves on 27 shots between the pipes. Leading scorer Riley Barber was held quiet for the first time in five games, but continues to pace Hershey in goals (29) and points (55), which places him in a tie for 10th place in the AHL's scoring race. Former Sound Tigers captain Aaron Ness is third among AHL defensemen in scoring with 45 points (three goals, 42 assists).
TIGERS VS. T-BIRDS
Sunday's contest features the ninth of 10 meetings between the Sound Tigers and T-Birds this season, and the final matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport is 6-2-0-0 against Springfield this season and has won four straight games, including a 4-3 shootout victory at home on Feb. 23. Connor Jones led the way that night with one goal and one assist, while Jeremy Smith made 28 saves for one of his 18 wins this season. Five of the first eight meetings have been decided by just one goal.
VIEW FROM SPRINGFIELD
Geordie Kinnear's club is seventh in the Atlantic Division and seven points out of a playoff spot with 12 games remaining. On Friday, the Thunderbirds continued a four-game road trip with a 2-1 win in overtime against the Utica Comets, which saw AHL All-Star Anthony Greco score the game-winning goal at 3:40 of the extra session. Former Sound Tiger Matt Mangene also had a goal in regulation. Without a point was Paul Thompson, but the eighth-year veteran continues to lead the T-Birds in goals (25) and points (50), while Greco leads all players in the AHL with 216 shots. Springfield has the day off Saturday before wrapping up its road trip Sunday night in Bridgeport.
HO-SANG MAKES IT HAPPEN
Josh Ho-Sang got loose for a second-period breakaway last Sunday and beat Toronto's Kasimir Kaskisuo with slick left-to-right move to score his seventh goal of the season. Ho-Sang, a Toronto native, is up to 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his last seven games and is fourth on the team in scoring (37 points), and third in assists (30). He also leads the Sound Tigers in points-per-game (0.82, minimum 35 games played).
SMITH'S SUPERB EFFORT
Jeremy Smith enjoyed his best game with the Sound Tigers last Sunday, making 40 saves on 42 shots over a 65-minute span. He also turned aside two of the three shootout chances he faced in Bridgeport's win. In fact, 40 saves are the most for a Sound Tiger in any game this season and Smith was 18-for-18 in the third period alone, also a season-high. The 29-year-old has won four of his last five decisions and had been Bridgeport's go-to netminder with Christopher Gibson on emergency recall with the Islanders (Gibson, who has won seven straight decisions, was returned to the Sound Tigers on Wednesday).
LEADING THE WAY
Former Bear Chris Bourque continues to lead the Sound Tigers in scoring through 62 games this season. His 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) are tied for 38th in the AHL and he also leads Bridgeport in shots (146), power-play points (18), game-winning goals (5) and shootout goals (4). Bourque is attempting to lead his AHL club in scoring for the fourth time in the last five years and remains the AHL's all-time active leading scorer (23rd all-time) with 738 career points (249 goals, 489 assists) - three points behind Rene Drolet for 22nd place. His first goal as a Sound Tiger came at Giant Center on Oct. 7.
Steve Bernier is third in the AHL in shooting percentage (24.4%)...Otto Koivula is tied for eighth among AHL rookies in points (40) and tied for fifth among blue-liners in goals (17)... Sebastian Aho is tied for ninth among league defensemen in points (38) and tied for fifth among blue-liners in assists (32)... The Sound Tigers lead the Eastern Conference in overtime games played (22) and pace the league in wins beyond regulation (15)... Bridgeport leads the AHL in win percentage at home (.768), where the club will play 10 of its final 14 games... The Sound Tigers are 30-15-4-1 against Atlantic Division opponents this season... Bridgeport is 36-4-4-2 when leading at any point in a contest.
NHL: New York Islanders (41-22-7): Next: Today at Detroit Red Wings (1 p.m. ET)
ECHL: Worcester Railers (29-23-5-4): Next: Tonight vs. Maine Mariners (7:05 p.m. ET)
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