The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (14-22-4-1), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, honored United States military heroes both past and present last weekend and did away with a long winless skid that plagued the team to begin 2020.
The Sound Tigers faced three different opponents during a three-in-three series for just the second time this season and collected two points on Military Appreciation Weekend, presented by the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut.
Two of the three contests were played at Webster Bank Arena, but the busy stretch started in Massachusetts on Friday, where the Sound Tigers suffered a 4-0 loss to the Springfield Thunderbirds inside MassMutual Center. The T-Birds scored once on the power play, once at even strength, once shorthanded, and recorded one empty-net tally. Florida Panthers prospect Sam Montembeault saved all 31 shots in the crease, leaving Bridgeport scoreless for just the fourth time this season.
Twenty-four hours later, the Sound Tigers hosted the Charlotte Checkers in their first home game of 2020 and stayed close for two periods before falling 5-2 on Saturday. Matt Lorito and Ryan Bourque scored 1:43 apart in the first period, but the Checkers rattled off four unanswered goals to seal the result. Max McCormick had a hat trick for Charlotte.
The Sound Tigers concluded the weekend with fireworks on Sunday, scoring a season-high six goals in a 6-4 victory against the Laval Rocket. Otto Koivula was spectacular and registered his first North American hat trick, while Kieffer Bellows and Nick Schilkey each recorded one goal and two assists. Bourque added a shorthanded tally just 2:03 into the first and Jared Coreau (6-11-1) made 26 saves as the Sound Tigers sported special-edition camouflage jerseys.
Bridgeport returns to action this weekend with a two-game series against the third-place Providence Bruins (22-15-1-2) on Friday and Saturday. Fans can follow all of the live action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m. each night.
The week ahead:
Friday, Jan. 17 at Providence (7:05 p.m.): The Sound Tigers open a home-and-home series against Boston's top affiliate on Friday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. It will mark the fifth of 12 meetings between the division rivals this season, and the third straight matchup in Rhode Island. Bridgeport is 1-3-0-0 against Providence this season and three of the previous four games have resulted in a shutout. Bruins' goalie Max Lagace has two clean sheets against the Sound Tigers this season, while Christopher Gibson earned a 32-save shutout on Nov. 11.
Saturday, Jan. 18 vs. Providence (7 p.m.): Saturday's rematch will be the third of six meetings between the Sound Tigers and Bruins at Webster Bank Arena. It's also Star Wars Night, featuring a $25 ticket package that includes a ticket to the Sound Tigers' game, a movie voucher to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker or another movie of your choice at any local Bow Tie Cinemas location. In addition, the first 2,500 fans will receive a lightsaber and your favorite Star Wars characters will be roaming the concourse throughout the night. Tickets are on sale now!
News and Notes:
Chief Kief: Kieffer Bellows has 14 points (11g, 3a) in his last 15 games dating back to Dec. 9. During that span, he was named CCM/AHL Player of the Month for December and has vaulted into first place on Bridgeport's scoring list - tied with Sebastian Aho (21 points). Bellows leads the Sound Tigers in total goals (15), power-play goals (3) and shots (104) during his second professional season. He has scored in seven of his last eight home games, including six straight from Nov. 29 - Dec. 28 (a franchise record).
Otto-Matic: Otto Koivula has nine points (4g, 5a) in his last eight games, including his first North American hat trick on Sunday against Laval. Koivula had just two goals in his first 19 games of the season, but has four in his last five games dating back to New Year's Eve. Koivula ended last season tied for second on the Sound Tigers in scoring (46 points) and ranked fourth among AHL rookies in goals (21). He was recalled by the Islanders for the first time in his career on Oct. 30 and made his NHL debut on Nov. 16 at Philadelphia.
Road Less Traveled: The Sound Tigers are earned points in five of their last six home games (4-0-1-0), but the team's record on the road has been hurting all season. Bridgeport has lost seven straight away from Webster Bank Arena and has been outscored 79-41 on the road overall. Bridgeport is 5-15-2-0 on the road, where the club will play three of its next four games.
Quick Hits: Ryan Bourque is on a team-best three-game point streak (2g, 1a)... Bridgeport is 3-0-0-0 when scoring at least five goals in a contest and 7-1-0-0 when scoring at least four... The Sound Tigers are 6-1-0-0 when leading after the first period... Bridgeport's power play continues to rank at the bottom of the AHL, but has scored in three of its last four games... Brent Thompson is three games shy of his 500th as an AHL head coach (all with Bridgeport)... Sunday's game was the second time this season the Sound Tigers have built a 3-0 lead to begin a contest… Defensemen Parker Wotherspoon and Seth Helgeson are the only Sound Tigers to appear in all 41 games this season.
Goals: Kieffer Bellows (15)
Assists: Sebastian Aho (19)
Points: Kieffer Bellows (21)
Plus/Minus: Colin McDonald (+4)
Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (45)
Power-Play Goals: Kieffer Bellows (3)
Shots: Kieffer Bellows (104)
Wins: Jared Coreau (6)
The ECHL's Worcester Railers (15-20-2-0) won two of their three games last weekend with victories against the Reading Royals and Adirondack Thunder. Continuing on a four-game homestand, the Railers found their rhythm and got plenty of help from the red-hot Nic Pierog, who is now on a six-game point streak. He assisted on the game-winner in Worcester's 3-2 victory over Adirondack on Friday and scored twice in a 5-3 victory against Reading on Sunday. Pierog leads Worcester in goals (17). In addition, former Sound Tigers Arnaud Durandeau and Ben Thomson scored in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday. The seventh-place Railers return to action tonight and open a five-game road trip with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Maine Mariners.