The Bridgeport Report: Week 18
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (26-17-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, collected four points in their first three games following the 2019 All-Star break and now sit two points shy of becoming just the third Eastern Conference team to reach 60 points this season. Chris Bourque led the way with four points (one goal, three assists) during that span as the Sound Tigers continue to rank second in the Atlantic Division.
The Sound Tigers opened the unofficial second half of their season last Friday and scored at least five goals for the ninth time this year, but suffered a 5-4 setback to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Webster Bank Arena. Steve Bernier found the back of the net twice and Otto Koivula earned a game-high three assists, but the Phantoms had the upper hand with six different scorers and six multi-point efforts, led by Mike Vecchione's four-point performance (one goal, three assists). Five different players had multiple points for Bridgeport.
Twenty-four hours later, the Sound Tigers scored twice in the first period and outplayed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in every frame, earning a 2-1 road win at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Saturday. Scott Eansor and Jeff Kubiak each found the back of the net early and Jeremy Smith (14-8-2) made 25 saves for his team-leading 14th win of the year.
The Sound Tigers continued a three-game road trip on Tuesday and bounced back from an early two-goal deficit to win their league-leading 10th game beyond regulation this season - a 3-2 shootout victory against the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center. Kubiak scored for the second straight game (in his 100th pro contest) and Connor Jones also posted a first-period goal against Hartford's Dustin Tokarski, who was yanked after 11:21 of work. Bourque converted the only tally in a three-round shootout and Christopher Gibson (12-9-4) made 25 saves in 65 minutes, and three more in the shootout.
Bridgeport's 13-game month ramps up this weekend with the first of three straight 3-in-3's heading into March. The Sound Tigers will face the Providence Bruins (24-16-6-1) in a home-and-home series this Friday and Saturday before the club hosts the Utica Comets (24-19-3-2) on Sunday afternoon. Fans can follow all of the action online via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV , beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes before each listed start time.
The week ahead:
Friday, Feb. 8 at Providence Bruins (7:05 p.m.): The Sound Tigers travel to Rhode Island for the fourth time this season, and the first time since Dec. 14, to battle the third-place Providence Bruins. It also marks their eighth meeting overall in 2018-19. Bridgeport is 4-2-1-0 against Providence this season, but the Bruins have points in all seven matchups (3-0-3-1). Each of the last four meetings have gone past regulation, including Bridgeport's 4-3 shootout win at Webster Bank Arena on Jan. 19.
Saturday, Feb. 9 vs. Providence Bruins (7 p.m.): Some things are much bigger than hockey. This Saturday, the Sound Tigers open "Stick It to Cancer" Weekend with a rematch against Providence and a fight towards ending adult cancers for good. A pre-game wine tasting party from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. will benefit the Danni Kemp Cancer Support Fund and ticket packages start at just $25. You can also take advantage of a Stick It 2 Cancer t-shirt package (Saturday and Sunday) that benefits Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer, LIVFREE and Ryan's Rebels. In addition, Sound Tigers players and their families have decorated baskets that will be raffled off during Saturday's game with proceeds benefiting the above charities.
Sunday, Feb. 10 vs. Utica Comets (3 p.m.): The Sound Tigers continue "Stick It to Cancer" Weekend this Sunday with a focus on pediatric cancers. The team will sport specialty gold and blue jerseys to raise awareness for childhood cancers and each uniform will be up for bid during a silent auction on the concourse during the game. Bridgeport will face the Utica Comets for the second and final time this season in a matinee matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Doors open at 2 p.m.
News and Notes:
Success Beyond 60: The Sound Tigers have gone past 60 minutes in 16 games this season including Tuesday's 3-2 shootout final, which ranks third-most in the AHL behind Rockford and Milwaukee (17). Ten of those games have resulted in victories - most in the league. Bridgeport has been no stranger to close games this season and the team continues to lead the AHL in one-goal outcomes with 29 (19-4-4-2).
Top of the Charts: Chris Bourque is trying to lead his AHL team in scoring for the fourth time in the last five years, as he paces Bridgeport with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 47 games this season. He has 10 points in his last six games (three goals, seven assists) and three multi-point performances in his last five outings. The three-time Calder Cup champion and six-time AHL All-Star is the league's all-time active leading scorer with 728 points (23rd all-time) and also inside the top 50 in goals, assists and games played. Bridgeport is 16-8-1-1 when he has at least one point in a game and 7-1-0-1 when Bourque scores at least one goal in a contest.
Otto-Zone: Finnish power forward Otto Koivula has consistently impressed during his first pro season in North America. The 20-year-old collected a career-high three assists last Saturday against Lehigh Valley and now leads the Sound Tigers with 10 multi-point games this season. He also earned a plus-three rating for the second time in his last three games, improving to plus-17 this year - fifth among all AHL rookies. Koivula is second on the club and tied for sixth among AHL rookies in scoring (33 points), and has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his last six games.
Quick Hits: Two-time All-Star Sebastian Aho is fifth among AHL defensemen in assists (26) and 11th in points (29) over 40 games... Steve Bernier scored twice against Lehigh Valley on Saturday and now has 51 goals as a Sound Tiger (2016-19), tying him with Alan Quine for ninth place on the team's all-time list... Bridgeport is sixth in the AHL with 51 first-period goals... Kubiak played his 100th pro game on Tuesday against Hartford.
Goals: Michael Dal Colle (16)*
Assists: Sebastian Aho, Chris Bourque (26)
Points: Chris Bourque (36)
Plus/Minus: Otto Koivula (+17)
Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (87)
Power-play goals: Steve Bernier (8)
Shots: Chris Bourque (108)
Wins: Jeremy Smith (14)
*Currently on recall with the New York Islanders
The first-place New York Islanders (30-16-6) built up an eight-game point streak (6-0-2) and hadn't lost in regulation since Jan. 12 until the club suffered a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Tuesday. Prior to that setback, the Islanders defeated the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, 4-2, in which former Sound Tiger Michael Dal Colle had the game-winner late in the third period. New York also shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning through 65 minutes on Friday, but suffered a 1-0 shootout loss. Mathew Barzal leads the Isles with 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 52 games, while former Sound Tiger Anders Lee paces the club with 18 goals. The Islanders return to action on Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the New Jersey Devils.
The ECHL's Worcester Railers H.C. (20-19-3-3) have won seven of their last 11 games, including a convincing 5-1 victory against the Newfoundland Growlers last Saturday in Canada. Former Sound Tigers Josh Holmstrom, Matt Gaudreau, Yanick Turcotte and Ryan Hitchcock all scored, and Mitch Gillam made 25 saves. Two of Worcester's goals came shorthanded as the club finished a three-game trip to Canada on a high note. The Railers return to action this Friday with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at the DCU Center.
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