The Bridgeport Report - Week 18
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (23-17-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, returned from their All-Star break last week and collected two points in two games against the Springfield Thunderbirds and Belleville Senators, recapturing a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division race. The Sound Tigers are fourth in the division standings based on their win percentage (.565), one point behind the Charlotte Checkers but with one game in hand.
Last week's schedule opened on a sour note as Bridgeport saw its five-game win streak and 10-game points streak at Webster Bank Arena come to an end in a 1-0 loss to the Thunderbirds on Friday, despite allowing just 13 shots - a new franchise record. Springfield's Evan Cowley made 25 saves for his first AHL shutout and Ludwig Bystrom scored the game's only tally in the first period. The Sound Tigers outshot the T-Birds 18-8 in the final 40 minutes, but couldn't break through and fell to 3-5-0-0 against Springfield this season.
On Saturday, Ben Holmstrom scored twice and Connor Jones netted his fifth goal of the season as Bridgeport bounced back against a North Division opponent and took their inaugural matchup against the Belleville Senators, 3-1, at Webster Bank Arena. Christopher Gibson (17-8-2) made 24 saves and was steady all night long, earning his 17th win of the season - tied for fourth among AHL netminders.
Up next is a sequence of three games in five days this week, featuring matchups against the Hartford Wolf Pack (21-20-4-3), Providence Bruins (26-16-3-1) and Syracuse Crunch (26-17-2-2). Fans can follow all of the upcoming action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHL Live, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes prior to each listed start time.
The week ahead:
Wednesday, Feb. 7 at Hartford Wolf Pack (11 a.m.) - The Sound Tigers partake in their second of three morning games this season with an 11 a.m. start at the XL Center. It will mark the eighth of 10 meetings between the in-state rivals and Bridgeport is 5-1-0-1 against Hartford in 2017-18.
Saturday, Feb. 10 vs. Providence Bruins (7 p.m.) - The overall theme of Saturday's contest is much bigger than the game itself. The Sound Tigers will celebrate Pink in the Rink, benefiting breast cancer awareness and research, with a pre-game wine tasting party beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Webster Bank Arena. A special ticket package is available now through Friday at 3 p.m. that includes a seat at the game, access to the tasting party and a wine glass for $30. Click here for more information.
Sunday, Feb. 11 vs. Syracuse Crunch (5 p.m.) - The first 2,500 kids, ages 14 and younger, will take home a Sound Tigers' lunchbox when doors open at 4 p.m., courtesy of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The weekend finale will feature the first of two meetings between the Sound Tigers and Tampa Bay's affiliate, and the only matchup at Webster Bank Arena this season. Great seats are on sale now.
News and notes:
King of the Crease: Christopher Gibson allowed just one goal in each of his two starts last week and the fifth-year netminder now ranks eighth in the AHL in goals-against-average (2.34) and tied for fourth in wins (17). In addition, Gibson's 24-save victory on Saturday put him in sole possession of fifth place on the Sound Tigers' all-time wins list with his 42nd career victory, which passed Dieter Kochan (2003-05). Gibson is 5-2-0 over his last seven starts, allowing two goals or fewer in those games.
Balancing Act: Secondary scoring was crucial in Saturday's win against Belleville and a balanced offense has been a theme for the Sound Tigers this season. The third and fourth lines accounted for all three goals against the Senators, as Ben Holmstrom scored two goals for the first time with Bridgeport (first time overall since Mar. 26, 2011) and Connor Jones chipped in his fifth tally of the year. As a team, the Sound Tigers have just one player in the AHL's top 80 in goal scoring (Scott Eansor - 16) and no active players in the top 140 in points. Bridgeport is 21st in the League with 2.80 goals per game on average.
All Hail the All-Stars: Christopher Gibson and rookie defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel represented the Sound Tigers at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino in Utica, N.Y. last weekend. Gibson split time between the pipes with Providence's Jordan Binnington during all three Atlantic Division games, while Vande Sompel tied all scorers with three goals during the All-Star Challenge. Vande Sompel also participated in the Hardest Shot contest during the Skills Competition, coming up short despite letting one rip north of 94 miles per hour. An All-Star nod wasn't something Vande Sompel was expecting in his first professional season, but the 20-year-old certainly deserved it.
"Coming in, it's something you don't really think about at all," Vande Sompel said. "You just go out and play hockey and try to improve everyday, especially as a rookie. Obviously getting noticed is huge for me and I was really excited for that opportunity. It was a lot of fun meeting new guys and playing with some of this league's best talent."
For Gibson, another first-time All-Star, he sees several players on the Sound Tigers' squad worthy of the same honor.
"It's a huge honor to be here with Vandy," Gibson said just before taking the ice for the All-Star Challenge. "There are so many guys in Bridgeport who could be here with us because we have such a great young team this year. Every guy works hard to be the best and it's encouraging to come to the rink every day."
Quick Hits: The Sound Tigers have outshot their opponent 35 times in 46 games this season (76.1%)... Friday's loss to Springfield was Bridgeport's first 1-0 setback at home since Nov. 20, 2010 against Manchester... The Sound Tigers have outscored opponents 41-32 in first periods this season... Bridgeport has allowed a power-play goal in three straight games, but its penalty kill remains second in the AHL (86.7%)... Leading goal-scorer Scott Eansor missed Saturday's game due to injury - the first time he was scratched in his pro career.
Goals: Scott Eansor (16)
Assists: Tanner Fritz (27)*
Points: Tanner Fritz (37)*
Plus/minus: Kyle Burroughs (+16)
Penalty minutes: Ross Johnston* (113)
Power-play goals: Scott Eansor (6)
Shots: Casey Bailey (136)
* = Currently playing with the New York Islanders
The New York Islanders (25-22-6) settled for one point in last night's 5-4 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators at Barclays Center. Former Sound Tigers Ryan Pulock and Casey Cizikas, along with John Tavares and Nick Leddy, each found the back of the net and helped build a 4-2 lead with less than a minute remaining, but Nashville stormed back to grab two points on the road. Despite the loss, the Islanders moved back into a playoff spot - the second wild card - for the first time since Jan. 15. Tavares and former Sound Tigers forward Anders Lee are currently tied for the team lead with 27 goals, while Josh Bailey has a team high 44 assists. The Islanders return to the road on Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Buffalo Sabres.
Former Sound Tigers Jeff Kubiak and Matt Gaudreau both scored for the ECHL's Worcester Railers H.C. (19-19-4-2) last Saturday, helping the club earn a 5-2 win against the Brampton Beast at the DCU Center. Kubiak also recorded an assist, while Eamon McAdam turned back 23 shots and improved to 11-9-4-2 this season. McAdam also jumped to 16th in the ECHL with a 2.76 goals-against-average. The Railers conclude their season-long, 11-game homestand this week with a trio of contests, beginning Wednesday with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop against the Reading Royals. Worcester is fifth in the North Division standings, 12 points behind the fourth-place Adirondack Thunder.
Guarantee Your Seats: Flex plans are on sale now for the 2017-18 campaign, offering the greatest savings and ultimate flexibility of all ticket packages. Pick between a full-season, 20-game, 15-game or 10-game plan and you'll also be entitled to exclusive benefits, including the ticket holder exchange policy, which means any unused tickets can be traded for future games. Please contact Brad Dworin at 203-345-4813 or via firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to guarantee your seats.
Don't Go It Alone: Whether it's a corporate outing, a fundraiser, or just friends getting together, a group outing with the Sound Tigers will guarantee an unforgettable experience filled with fast-paced action on the ice, great music, promotions and contests at an affordable price. The Sound Tigers have a variety of packages and promotional events to offer. Please call the team's front office at 203-345-2300 ext. 7 for more information on the benefits of bringing your group to a future game!
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