The Bridgeport Sound Tigers scored three power play goals and outshot the Hershey Bears 42-21 to skate to a 3-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Webster Bank Arena Saturday night. With the win, the Sound Tigers improved to 5-2-0-0 (10 points), while the Bears fell to 4-4-1-0 (nine points).
Sound Tigers Head Coach Scott Pellerin said the reception from the fans in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy made the team feel at home, especially after having to evacuate Bridgeport earlier in the week. Sound Tigers fans were invited to enjoy a night at Webster Bank Arena free of charge.
“It felt good to be home,” Pellerin said. “That was the most important thing I’ll take out of here tonight. The fans were great. Everyone here was dealing with Hurricane Sandy in their own way and tonight was an opportunity for us to give back. Hopefully they enjoyed the game. We enjoyed playing in front of them.”
Hershey drew first blood midway through the first period when Kevin Marshall’s shot from the left point was blocked by traffic in the slot. Matt Clackson picked up the loose puck, wheeled around and wristed a shot past goaltender Kevin Poulin.
The Sound Tigers had an 18-7 shots advantage through the first period. Eight seconds into a 5-on-3 advantage, Casey Cizikas tied the game at 1-1 with his third goal of the season. Matt Donovan fed the puck from the left point down low to Colin McDonald. With Bears goaltender Braden Holtby hugging the right post, McDonald passed the puck through the slot to Cizikas, who one-timed it in at 18:24.
Still on the power play with time winding down in the opening period, the Sound Tigers took a 2-1 lead when Brock Nelson was chased behind the net by a Hershey player. Nelson threw the puck in front of the goal to Brandon DeFazio, who chipped the puck from his backhand past Holtby with just 15 seconds remaining in the frame.
Once the second period began, it didn’t take long for the Bears to even the score. During the first shift, Steve Oleksy passed the puck from the neutral zone to Boyd Kane. Kane won a puck battle at the Bridgeport blue line before skating in and beating Poulin blocker-side just 19 seconds in.
The rest of the second period was characterized by a series of fights, starting when Matt Donovan drew a high-sticking minor on Oleksy midway through the frame. Following the whistle, Oleksy and Cizikas squared off in a lengthy bout, with each player throwing several punches. Cizikas also took a minor for roughing on the play.
A minute and a half later, following a high-stick by Johan Sundstrom, Brett Gallant and Ryan Stoa dropped the gloves. Gallant landed a series of rights before taking Stoa down. In addition to the fighting major, Stoa received a roughing minor.
A minute and a half later, McDonald got into it with Garrett Mitchell after McDonald’s hard open-ice hit on Tomas Kundratek. During the fight, both players fell to the ice, but got back up and continued the battle. McDonald landed a right as Mitchell struck with a left, with both players going down as a result. On the ensuing faceoff, Blair Riley and Clackson had a short bout in the neutral zone.
Pellerin said the atmosphere during the second period was a result of the high energy in the building, and that he was impressed by his players’ call to action when the temperature rose.
“Both teams were playing very hard,” Pellerin said. “Emotions were high. The building was electric and it just progressed that way. The fighting was not part of the game plan by any means, but the guys stuck together and I think it was a good step in the right direction for our team.”
Bridgeport re-claimed the lead during a power play later in the middle period. Holtby turned aside Travis Hamonic’s shot from the top of the zone, but three Sound Tigers swatted at the loose puck just outside the crease before Nelson buried it in the back of the net at 16:22. Nino Niederreiter and Matt Watkins were credited with the assists.
“We had some lucky bounces there,” Nelson said. "Nino and Watty were battling and the puck came loose. I was able to find it. The big thing is everyone was going tonight, and it made it easy for everyone on the ice. We made smart plays to get the puck on net. It’s simple hockey when you get on the power play. You can’t force anything. The power play was the difference tonight.”
The teams played a scoreless third period, although Nelson almost netted another power play goal in the final minute. Kundratek hooked Nelson, who had an empty net in front of him. Although the play kept Bridgeport from scoring an insurance goal, it put the Bears down two skaters with just 38 seconds remaining, effectively ending any chance of a comeback.
The Sound Tigers have a quick turnaround before their next game, Sunday, Nov. 4 at 3:00 p.m. when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visit Webster Bank Arena. The Sound Tigers won the lone matchup between the two teams on Oct. 20 by a score of 3-2.
1. BRI: Brock Nelson
2. BRI: Nino Niederreiter
3. BRI: Brandon DeFazio
Tickets to Saturday’s game were free to the general public courtesy of Webster Bank… Sound Tigers Head Coach Scott Pellerin addressed the crowd prior to the game, thanking them for coming to the game in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which has devastated much of coastal Connecticut…All proceeds from the game’s jersey raffle went to the Red Cross Relief Fund…David Ullstrom left the game in the first period with an injury.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
22 Nino Niederreiter - 11 Casey Cizikas - 13 Colin McDonald
42 Brandon DeFazio - 29 Brock Nelson - 14 Matt Watkins
24 David Ullstrom - 28 Johan Sundstrom - 23 John Persson
44 Brett Gallant - 16 Sean Backman - 20 Blair Riley
6 Ty Wishart - 3 Travis Hamonic
27 Aaron Ness - 7 Jon Landry
46 Matt Donovan - 25 Jordan Hill
38 Kevin Poulin (starter)
30 Kenny Reiter
17 T.J Syner - 20 Jeff Taffe - 14 Jon DiSalvatore
12 Boyd Kane - 26 Mike Carman - 36 Garrett Mitchell
21 Ryan Stoa - 19 Zach Hamill - 27 Matt Pope
23 Barry Almeida - 37 Jonathon Kalinski - 15 Matt Clackson
6 Cameron Schilling - 5 Garrett Stafford
29 Julien Brouillette - 34 Tomas Kundratek
4 Kevin Marshall - 7 Steve Oleksy
1 Braden Holtby (starter)
35 Dany Sabourin