Kieffer Bellows remained one of the hottest players during the month of December with four goals last weekend, guiding the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-16-4-1), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, to a three-game point streak (2-0-1-0) in their return from the holiday break. Bellows has 10 goals in 10 December games, including his first professional hat trick over the weekend, while Andrew Ladd was also strong with two goals.
Bridgeport has climbed to seventh in the Atlantic Division standings, leap-frogging the Lehigh Valley Phantoms with 31 points in 34 games.
The Sound Tigers came to play on Friday and earned their biggest win of the season, 5-1 against the Hartford Wolf Pack, in front of 6,271 fans for their annual Teddy Bear Toss and First Responder's Night. Ladd scored twice just hours after he was returned on loan by the New York Islanders, while Bellows collected a goal for the fifth consecutive game at Webster Bank Arena. Otto Koivula added a team-high three points (three assists) and Jared Coreau (5-8-1) made 30 saves to backstop his fifth win in his last seven decisions.
Bridgeport welcomed the Springfield Thunderbirds one day later, and Bellows continued to light the lamp in dramatic fashion. His first career hat trick kept the Sound Tigers close and ultimately earned them a point, but it wasn't enough in a 4-3 overtime setback. Bellows' third goal of the game tied it up in the final 28 seconds before Ethan Prow notched the game-winner just 25 seconds into OT. Jakub Skarek (3-5-1) made 28 saves between the pipes.
Bridgeport begins a season-long, five-game road trip on New Year's Eve with a 5 p.m. matchup in Hartford. The weekend features a three-in-three series against the Binghamton Devils and Hershey Bears (Friday through Sunday) before the trip comes to an end on Friday, Jan. 10 against the Providence Bruins. Fans can follow all of the live action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes before each listed start time.
News and Notes:
Man on a Mission: Kieffer Bellows has 12 goals in his last 13 games and nine in his last eight, including his first pro hat trick on Saturday. In addition, Bellows is the first Sound Tiger to ever score in six straight home games, dating back to Nov. 29 (the longest active and overall streak in the AHL). The Islanders' 19th overall pick in 2016 leads Bridgeport in goals (13), shots (86), is tied for first in power-play goals (2) and ranks third in points (16).
Right Where He Left Off: Fourth-year forward Josh Ho-Sang has earned a point in three straight games (three assists) since joining the Sound Tigers earlier this month. He reported to the club on Dec. 17 and has helped Bridgeport to a 2-0-1-0 record since his season debut on Dec. 21. Ho-Sang ended the 2018-19 regular season with six points in the final six games (1g, 5a) and had one goal and one assist in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. He agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Islanders on Aug. 19, 2019.
Wahlstrom in World Juniors: Quincy, Massachusetts native Oliver Wahlstrom was reassigned to USA Hockey by the New York Islanders on Dec. 17 in advance of the 2020 World Junior Championships. Wahlstrom, 19, recorded nine points (3g, 6a) in 20 games with the Sound Tigers this season and also played nine games with the Islanders, including his NHL debut on Oct. 14 against St. Louis. He has four points (1g, 3a) in three WJC games so far, helping Team USA advance to the quarterfinals. Wahlstrom had one assist in Monday's 4-3 win against Czech.
Quick Hits: Andrew Ladd has five goals in his last four AHL games, including tallies in three straight from Dec. 14 - Dec. 27... He is three games away from his 1,000th professional contest... Bridgeport's penalty kill is 13-for-13 over its last five outings... The Sound Tigers have scored three times in a period during each of their last two games, and five times overall this season... Sebastian Aho leads the team in points (19) and is tied for 12th among AHL defensemen in scoring... Kyle Burroughs will likely tie Steven Regier (2004-08) for third place on the Sound Tigers all-time games played list on New Year's Eve (290).
The week ahead:
Friday, Jan. 3 at Binghamton (7 p.m.): Bridgeport and Binghamton will clash for the first time this season with a 7 p.m. matchup at Floyd L. Maines Veteran's Memorial Arena on Friday. Although Binghamton currently has the fewest points in Eastern Conference, the head-to-head series between the two clubs has been nearly dead even over the last five seasons. They will meet at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday, Mar. 1.
Saturday, Jan. 4 at Hershey (7 p.m.): The Sound Tigers travel to Chocolate Town for the second time this season looking to get back at the Bears following a 5-2 loss on Dec. 14. However, the series is tied 1-1-0-0 following Bridgeport's 3-2 win at home on Nov. 23. Hershey recently used an impressive nine-game win streak to vault into third place in the Atlantic Division.
Sunday, Jan. 5 at Hershey (3 p.m.): The Sound Tigers rematch the Bears on Sunday to conclude their three-in-three weekend, which also marks Bridgeport's final trip to Hershey during the regular season. The Bears are led by forward Mike Sgarbossa's 32 points (11g, 21a) in 31 games and former Islander Matt Moulson has a team-best 12 goals this season.
Goals: Kieffer Bellows (13)
Assists: Sebastian Aho (17)
Points: Sebastian Aho (19)
Plus/Minus: Colin McDonald (+6)
Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (43)
Power Play Goals: Travis St. Denis, Kieffer Bellows, Andrew Ladd (2)
Shots: Kieffer Bellows (86)
Wins: Christopher Gibson, Jared Coreau (5)
The ECHL's Worcester Railers (10-18-1-0) split a pair of games within the North Division last weekend, including a dramatic come-from-behind victory against the Adirondack Thunder on Friday. The Railers were down late after a power-play goal, but with their net empty, Dante Salituro emerged as the hero to tie the game and send it to overtime. If that weren't enough, Salituro scored the game-winner just under two minutes into the extra frame for a win. Nic Pierog also had multiple assists in the contest. Twenty-four hours later against the Maine Mariners, the miracle juice wore off as Worcester was shut out by Connor Lacouvee. The Railers will play each of their next four games on the road, with two series against the Newfoundland Growlers and the Reading Royals.