The Bridgeport Report
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (20-15-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, crossed the midway mark of the 2017-18 season last week and won two of their four games against the Charlotte Checkers, Providence Bruins and first-place Toronto Marlies. The Sound Tigers continue to sit fifth in Atlantic Division standings, three points out of a playoff spot with one game in hand, as the second half gets underway.
Last week's schedule featured two shutout efforts, one in Bridgeport's favor and the other not so much. On Tuesday, the Sound Tigers could not break through against Charlotte goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and suffered their first shutout loss in a 3-0 setback to the Checkers at Bojangles Coliseum. Bridgeport was unable to convert on 25 shots and went 0-for-5 on the power play as the club was blanked for the first time since Apr. 14, 2017. Warren Foegele led the way for Charlotte with one goal and two assists.
Possibly the most unique game of the season took place on Wednesday as the Sound Tigers wrapped up their final trip to North Carolina with a 4-3 loss against the Checkers. The contest was moved up two hours and played inside of an empty building as the game was closed to the public due to inclement weather in the Charlotte area. Scott Eansor scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season and Kyle Burroughs and Ross Johnston also found the back of the cage, but the Checkers responded from a 3-1 deficit in the third period with three straight tallies to steal the victory.
The Sound Tigers returned to Webster Bank Arena on Saturday and received goals from Casey Bailey (10), Josh Ho-Sang (5) and Kyle Schempp (2) en route to a 3-2 win against Providence. Christopher Gibson (15-8-2) also contributed with 25 saves on 27 shots and moved to 4-0-0-0 against the Bruins this season, while the Sound Tigers as a team improved to 5-1-0-0 against Providence. Gibson is 7-2-2 over his last 11 starts and is now tied for sixth in the AHL with 15 wins.
Bridgeport capped its busy week on Sunday with perhaps its biggest win of the season. Top-notch goaltending and terrific defense were on display as the Sound Tigers defeated Toronto (the best team in the AHL standings) with a 1-0 shootout victory at Webster Bank Arena. Kristers Gudlevskis (5-7-4) stopped 25 shots en route to his second shutout of the season and the 12th of his pro career, while Marlies netminder Garret Sparks was just as impressive. Sparks turned back 31 shots in 65 minutes for the double shutout, but Toronto-area native Mitch Vande Sompel came away with the winner at the end of a three-round shootout. With the victory, Bridgeport extended its unbeaten streak at home to eight games (6-0-1-1) and eclipsed the 20-win mark.
Up next, the Sound Tigers battle the Springfield Thunderbirds (19-23-1-1) and Hershey Bears (17-18-3-4) this week before the AHL's All-Star Break arrives on Sunday.
Wednesday, Jan. 24 vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (7 p.m.) Friday, Jan. 26 at Springfield Thunderbirds (7:05 p.m.) Saturday, Jan. 27 vs. Hershey Bears (7 p.m.)
News and notes: Kristers Gudlevskis stood on his head against the Toronto Marlies on Sunday and became just the 19th AHL goaltender to play through 65 minutes, plus a shootout, with an entirely blank sheet. It was the 12th shutout of Gudlevskis' five-year professional career and the victory snapped his eight-game winless streak dating back to November (0-4-4). Bridgeport's other netminder, Christopher Gibson, stopped 25 shots in Saturday's win against Providence and now ranks ninth among League netminders in minutes played (1,461) and 12th in goals-against-average (2.51).
2015 third-round draft pick Mitch Vande Sompel is having a terrific rookie season and is currently the Sound Tigers' active leading scorer with 20 points (three goals, 17 assists). The Islanders prospect has also shown his poise in key situations, going 2-for-2 in professional shootout attempts with the game-deciding tally each time, including Sunday's winner against Toronto. Vande Sompel is tied for 20th among AHL defensemen in points and ranks just outside the top 20 in scoring among first-year players.
Down-to-the-wire finishes are becoming a theme for the Sound Tigers. Each of their last three games, and six of the last seven, have been decided by just one tally and Bridgeport is now tied for second in the AHL with 23 one-goal outcomes this season (trailing Utica with 24). The Sound Tigers are 11-6-4-2 when games are decided by just one goal.
The Sound Tigers have gone past regulation in five of their last 10 games and are tied for eighth in the AHL with 12 overtime contests this season. Bridgeport is 3-4 when games end in overtime and 3-2 when a shootout is needed.
The Sound Tigers have outshot their opponent 31 times in 41 games this season, including three straight contests... Bridgeport is 14-11-4-2 when recording more shots than the opponent... The Sound Tigers' penalty kill is second in the AHL overall (87.6%) and fourth on the road (88.9%)... Ross Johnston became the fifth Sound Tiger to play in the NHL this season when helped the Islanders to a 7-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday... Johnston notched his first NHL point with an assist and also dropped the gloves with Chicago's Ryan Hartman... Tanner Fritz and Sebastian Aho are slated to represent Bridgeport at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Casino Resort next Monday in Utica, N.Y... If they remain with the Islanders this weekend, the AHL will select another player from the Sound Tigers' roster.
Team leaders: Goals: Scott Eansor (14) Assists: Tanner Fritz (27)* Points: Tanner Fritz (37)* Plus/minus: Kyle Burroughs (+14) Penalty minutes: Ross Johnston* (113) Power-play goals: Scott Eansor, Casey Bailey (5) Shots: Casey Bailey (124)
About the Bridgeport Sound Tigers: Founded in 2001, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Hockey Club is the top minor league affiliate of the New York Islanders. Don't miss your chance to take part in the family fun entertainment happening every home game at Webster Bank Arena.
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