Trailing the Hershey Bears and by just two points in the East Division heading into play this past week, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers—the Islanders' AHL affiliate—looked to leapfrog into first place by week’s end. They accomplished their goal––and more––moving into first place in the Eastern Conference. The Sound Tigers have used timely scoring and strong goaltending to reach their current mark of 10-3-0-1.
With Yann Danis being called up by the Islanders in October, Denver University product and AHL rookie Peter Mannino has taken over the reins in goal. He has gone a stellar 5-1-0-1 with a 2.50 goals-against and .915 save percentage. Mannino leads all rookie goaltenders––with at least five games played––in wins, goals-against average and save percentage.
After 14 games, Mike Iggulden leads the team with seven goals, while also contributing seven assists. Jesse Joensuu
is a close second with six goals. Forward Kurtis McLean is tied for seventh in the league with his team-leading 15 points. Also contributing offensively are Jeremy Colliton
––with his eight assists––and Trevor Smith, who is third on the team in points with 10. On defense, Jamie Fraser leads the team with a +10 rating.
"Around here we're preaching for guys to play at a high speed," said Bridgeport Head Coach Jack Capuano. "Being in first place gives your team a sense of confidence and a belief in themselves that they could play with the best teams. The team played hard this week and they deserve it, but it's a long season."
Last week, the Sound Tigers didn't have an easy road to reach the top spot in the East Division. They faced the first-place Bears, plus strong Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Lowell Devils teams.
On Wednesday, Bridgeport hosted the Penguins in the sixth annual “Cool Fun 101” game. The yearly 11 am game welcomes students from all around the local school districts to watch the Sound Tigers. Coming into the game, Bridgeport had gone 0-5 in “Cool Fun 101” games, but the streak came to a satisfying end. Behind goals from Tim Jackman, Fraser and Blake Comeau, Bridgeport knocked off the Penguins 3-2. Mannino turned in another stellar performance, making 22 saves. Comeau also added an assist as the Sound Tigers earned two points to earn a share of first place with Hershey.
Bridgeport captain Mark Wotton made sure the team didn’t fall back into second place against the Devils on Saturday. Wotton scored the game-winner in overtime as Bridgeport came from behind to win 5-4. Trailing 2-0 in the first, The Tigers roared back, scoring four unanswered goals, including tallies from Joensuu, Tyler Haskins, Iggulden, and Joe Callahan. Nathan Lawson earned his first victory of the season for Bridgeport after replacing Mannino in the second period.
Looking to take over sole possession of first place in the East Division, Bridgeport squared off against Hershey on Sunday as the two teams faced off for the first time this season. The Sound Tigers showed the hunger from the get-go as Joensuu scored the first Bridgeport goal just two minutes into the game. After the Bears tied the game at one, the Sound Tigers took over from there, going on to win the game 4-1. Joensuu would score his second of the game to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead, and McLean would add two of his own to propel Bridgeport into sole possession of first place. Lawson earned the victory in his first professional start, making 19 saves against the Bears.
"We had a lot of emotion on the bench," said Capuano, after the win. "I thought Nate Lawson made some key saves to keep us in the game, as well."
The team will look to build on their division lead with games against Binghamton tomorrow and Wednesday, as well as, a road game against Houston on Sunday. Watch highlights
on Sound TigersTV of Bridgeport's 4-1 win over Hershey.