Four different first-round draft picks stood out last weekend as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (16-26-4-1), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, split a two-game series against Atlantic Division rivals.
Kieffer Bellows, Josh Ho-Sang and Oliver Wahlstrom each scored in regulation, while 18-year-old Simon Holmstrom cashed in on his first professional shootout attempt to lift Bridgeport to a 3-2 win on the road Saturday night.
It was the Sound Tigers' longest shootout of the season, going seven rounds before Holmstrom put the game to bed. Matt Lorito and Travis St. Denis also scored on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Emil Larmi, while Wahlstrom and Ho-Sang helped Bridgeport bounce back from a pair of one-goal deficits at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Ho-Sang's first of the season came in the final three minutes of the third period to force overtime and the eventual win against the Penguins (23-16-3-5).
The victory snapped Bridgeport's four-game slide and ended Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's five-game win streak.
One night earlier, the Sound Tigers returned from their All-Star break with a 4-1 loss to the Hershey Bears (28-14-2-3) at Webster Bank Arena on Friday. Bellows collected his team-leading 16th goal of the season early in the second period after Shane Gersich put Hershey on top just 37 seconds prior, but Gersich added two more for his first career hat trick.
The Sound Tigers are seven points behind the seventh-place Lehigh Valley Phantoms and 17 points outside of a playoff spot with 29 games left in the regular season. The club returns to action this week with a trio of contests, including a Wednesday morning tilt with the Syracuse Crunch (20-21-3-3) at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport also faces the third-place Providence Bruins in a home-and-home series this Saturday and Sunday. 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.
Video: Practice 2/3: Kieffer Bellows
News and Notes:
Bellows Earns His Shot: Kieffer Bellows was recalled by the New York Islanders on Monday for the first time in his career. The 19th-overall pick in 2016 had been on a tear in the AHL, scoring 15 goals in his last 26 games and leading the team in goals (16) and points (24) this season. Bellows had 10 goals in 11 December games and earned league-wide recognition as CCM/AHL Player of the Month. Eight of those 10 either tied the game or gave Bridgeport a lead. Bellows has 43 points (28g, 15a) in 118 AHL regular-season games and three points (2g, 1a) in five Calder Cup playoff contests, including the winner in double overtime during Game 1 of last year's first-round series.
Holmstrom's Heroics: Simon Holmstrom showcased a remarkable forehand-backhand-forehand move to clear the benches in Saturday night's 3-2 victory in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. He converted on his first pro shootout attempt following shootout tallies from Islanders prospects Travis St. Denis and Matt Lorito. Holmstrom has six points (3g, 3a) in 31 games with the Sound Tigers this season after he was selected 23rd overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Pucks and Pancakes: The Sound Tigers will drop the puck at 10:30 a.m. this Wednesday for their annual Winter Fun 101 educational matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport defeated Springfield 1-0 in its only other early game this season, highlighted by Nic Pierog's first AHL goal and a 21-save shutout for Christopher Gibson (one of two blank sheets this season). The Sound Tigers will also face Providence at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Apr. 1 to conclude their three-game slate of school-day games.
Quick Hits: Saturday's win was Bridgeport's first this season when trailing after two periods… Josh Ho-Sang returned to the Sound Tigers lineup on Friday after missing seven straight games due to a lower-body injury... Seth Helgeson is the only player to appear in all 47 games this season… The Sound Tigers have scored two goals or fewer in five of their last six… Bridgeport acquired winger Dylan Sadowy from Utica on Thursday to complete the Jan. 10 trade for John Stevens... He was immediately loaned to Worcester (ECHL).
The week ahead:
Wednesday, Feb. 5 vs. Syracuse (10:15 a.m.): The Sound Tigers face Tampa Bay's affiliate for the fourth and final time this season on Wednesday morning. It's the second of three school-day games at Webster Bank Arena, in which thousands of local youth are expected to pack the stands. Bridgeport is 1-2-0-0 against Syracuse this season, including a 3-2 win at home on Dec. 18. The home team has won each of the first three meetings. Tickets are still available!
Saturday, Feb. 8 vs. Providence (7 p.m.): Bridgeport and Providence square off for the seventh time this season to open a home-and-home series. The Sound Tigers are 2-4-0-0 against Boston's affiliate in 2019-20, but 0-3-0-0 in those games at Webster Bank Arena as the home team has won five of the first six matchups. Off the ice, Saturday's game features 90's Night as a result of the first-ever Fans' Choice promotion! The first 1,500 fans will receive a 90's themed Sound Tigers t-shirt presented by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Great seats are on sale now!
Sunday, Feb. 9 at Providence (3:05 p.m.): The Sound Tigers return to the road on Sunday afternoon for a matinee rematch against the Bruins at Dunkin' Donuts Center. Bridgeport has won two of its last three games in Rhode Island including a 2-1 victory on Jan. 17, in which Otto Koivula scored the game-winning goal and Jared Coreau made a season-high 43 saves.
Goals: Kieffer Bellows (16)
Assists: Sebastian Aho (20)
Points: Kieffer Bellows (24)
Plus/Minus: Many Tied (+1)
Penalty Minutes: Parker Wotherspoon (69)
Power Play Goals: Kieffer Bellows, Otto Koivula (3)
Shots: Kieffer Bellows (118)
Wins: Jared Coreau (8)
The ECHL's Worcester Railers (17-27-2-0) dropped a pair of games to the Reading Royals at home last weekend and continue to rank sixth in the North Division, 11 points behind the Adirondack Thunder. Worcester's last outing was a 6-2 loss to Reading on Saturday, in which Islanders prospect Arnaud Durandeau secured his fourth goal of the season and Ben Thomson had one assist. Worcester also fell to Reading 5-1 on Friday. The Railers return to action tonight with a 7:05 p.m. road game against the Maine Mariners.