Sound Tigers Look to Continue Winning Ways at Home
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (37-20-6-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, look to extend their eight-game point streak at home this weekend when they host two of the top four teams in the North Division. The Sound Tigers will face the Belleville Senators (33-26-3-5) at 7:30 p.m. tonight and the Syracuse Crunch (41-18-4-2) at 5 p.m. on Sunday, continuing an eight-game homestand that runs into April. Bridgeport is 21-5-3-1 at Webster Bank Arena this season.
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MAKE-A-WISH NIGHT AND MORE
Tonight's game against Belleville is "Make-A-Wish Night" at Webster Bank Arena. A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated directly to Make-A-Wish Connecticut, helping to make future wishes come true for less-fortunate children in the state like Kaden. In addition, the first 2,000 fans will receive a set of 2018-19 Sound Tigers trading cards when doors open at 6:30 p.m.
LAST TIME OUT
Bridgeport suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday night, despite Sebastian Aho's seventh goal of the season and 25 saves from Jeremy Smith (including one on a penalty shot in the second period). It snapped Bridgeport's seven-game win streak at home, but the club earned one point and lowered its magic number to 11 - points needed to clinch a berth in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.
TIGERS VS. SENATORS
Tonight's contest features the second and final meeting between the Sound Tigers and B-Sens this season, and the only matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport will attempt to sweep the series following a 2-1 win north of the border on Nov. 17, in which Mitch Vande Sompel led the way with a game-high two points (one goal, one assist). Scott Eansor recorded the game-winning goal midway through the third period and Christopher Gibson made 28 saves on 29 shots. The Sound Tigers also won their only tilt at Webster Bank Arena last season - a 3-1 victory on Feb. 3, 2018.
VIEW FROM BELLEVILLE
Troy Mann's team has cooled off a bit since its 17-game point streak earlier in the second half, but Belleville still holds a playoff spot with nine games to play in the regular season. The Senators are four points ahead of the Cleveland Monsters for the final playoff position in the North. Last night, Belleville's offense was shut down for just the third time this season in a 2-0 loss to the Providence Bruins at Dunkin' Donuts Center. Drake Batherson, MVP of the 2019 AHL All-Star Challenge, leads the club in points (56), assists (35) and is tied for the team-lead in goals (21) with Jack Rodewald. He's also third among all rookies in the AHL in goals, assists and points and is tied for 13th overall in the league's scoring race.
TIGERS VS. CRUNCH
Sunday's tilt marks the second and final meeting between the Sound Tigers and Crunch this season, and the only matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Syracuse will try to sweep the series following a 3-1 win in Upstate New York on Jan. 4, in which Otto Koivula scored Bridgeport's only goal and former Sound Tiger Carter Verhaeghe had two points (one goal, one assist) for the Crunch. Bridgeport hasn't beaten Tampa Bay's affiliate at home since Apr. 4, 2015.
VIEW FROM SYRACUSE
The first-place team in the North Division has won seven of its last 10 games (7-2-1-0) and is currently five points ahead of the second-place Rochester Americans. Syracuse's 41 wins are second in the AHL only to the Charlotte Checkers (42), who punched their playoff ticket last night. Speaking of Charlotte, that's who the Crunch played in their last outing on Wednesday, suffering a 4-2 loss in North Carolina. Gabriel Dumont and Carter Verhaeghe each scored in the setback. Verhaeghe has been on a tear this season and is currently tied for second in the AHL's scoring race with 70 points (29 goals, 41 assists) - one point behind Chicago's Daniel Carr. Verhaeghe is also fourth in goals (29), while teammate Alex Barre-Boulet is tied for second in goals (30), which leads all rookies. Syracuse hosts the Utica Comets tonight prior to traveling to Bridgeport for Sunday's game.
SMITH STANDS OUT
Jeremy Smith has stopped 94 of the 98 shots he's faced over the last three games (.959), including 29 saves on Sunday en route to his first shutout of the season. He also made a season-high 40 saves against Toronto on Mar. 10. The 10th-year goalie has won five of his last seven decisions, with a 1.65 goals-against-average and .946 save percentage in those wins. Smith, who signed a two-way (NHL/AHL) deal with the Islanders for the rest of the season on Feb. 24, leads Bridgeport with 19 victories in 37 appearances, which is tied for eighth on the team's all-time single-season wins list.
WINNING AT WEBSTER
Eight of Bridgeport's final 10 games will take place at Webster Bank Arena, where the Sound Tigers have won seven of their last eight and continue to lead all AHL teams in winning percentage at home (76.7%). The club hasn't lost in regulation at home since a 7-5 setback to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Feb. 1.
LEADING THE WAY
Veteran winger Chris Bourque continues to lead Bridgeport in scoring through 65 games. His 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists) are tied for 40th in the AHL and he also leads the team in shots (148), 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 739 career points, two behind Rene Drolet for 22nd place. His goal last Sunday was his 250th in the AHL.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Miami University (Ohio) product Grant Hutton agreed to terms on a one-year, entry-level deal with the New York Islanders (beginning in 2019-20) on Thursday and then immediately signed an amateur tryout (ATO) with Bridgeport. The 23-year-old defensemen, who will wear #44 with the Sound Tigers, is the club's first ATO signing this season and could potentially make his pro debut this weekend. He served as team captain during his senior year at Miami University (Ohio) this season and recorded 71 points (29 goals, 42 assists) in 144 total games with the RedHawks. He led all team defensemen with seven goals earlier this year.
NHL: New York Islanders (42-25-7) - Next: Today at Philadelphia Flyers (1 p.m. ET)
ECHL: Worcester Railers (30-24-6-4) - Next: Tonight at Manchester Monarchs (6 p.m. ET)
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