The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-20-4-1), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, rang in the new year away from Webster Bank Arena last week during a busy stretch of four road games. Kieffer Bellows and Sebastian Aho each earned league-wide recognition, and Andrew Ladd achieved a major milestone, despite four losses.
On New Year's Eve, the Sound Tigers went down 3-0 in the first period to the division-leading Hartford Wolf Pack, but nearly came all the way back in a 3-2 final. Otto Koivula and Ladd each scored at even strength to make things close at the end.
On Friday, the Sound Tigers suffered a 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Devils at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in southern New York. Colin McDonald notched his first goal of the season late in the second period, but the Devils answered with three straight in the third. Just hours before the game, Aho was named to the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic in Ontario, California and also received his first NHL recall since 2017-18. Aho became the first Sound Tigers player to ever get selected to three All-Star Classics, which he has done in consecutive years.
The Sound Tigers concluded the weekend in Pennsylvania with back-to-back games against the surging Hershey Bears. Ladd scored Bridgeport's lone goal in his 1,000th professional game on Saturday, but the Sound Tigers suffered a heart-breaking, 2-1 loss as Shane Gersich scored for the Bears with just 49.5 seconds left in regulation.
Bellows, the league's Player of the Month for December, scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season on Sunday and Jeff Kubiak added his third of the year, but the Bridgeport dropped a 4-2 decision at Giant Center. It was the Sound Tigers' sixth straight loss on the road - five of those coming by two goals or less.
The week ahead:
Friday, Jan. 10 at Springfield (7:05 p.m.): The Sound Tigers will visit MassMutual Center to finish a five-game road trip as meet the fourth-place Springfield Thunderbirds for the ninth time this season. The series is currently knotted with Bridgeport winning four straight games from Nov. 6 - Nov. 29, but Springfield has won each of the last two meetings, including a 4-3 overtime decision on Dec. 28. Kieffer Bellows secured his first professional hat trick that night, while Ethan Prow had the game-winner 25 seconds into the extra frame. Springfield has won four in a row entering the weekend.
Saturday, Jan. 11 vs. Charlotte (7 p.m.): Saturday will mark the third of four games between the Sound Tigers and defending Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers, and first of two inside Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport split a two-game series in North Carolina back in October, led by Jeff Kubiak's three points (1g, 2a). Kieffer Bellows also scored once and added an assist in a 4-2 victory on Oct. 11. Bellows will look to extend his goal-scoring streak to seven straight home games (franchise record) this weekend.
Sunday, Jan. 12 vs. Laval (3 p.m.): Bridgeport concludes its second straight three-in-three against the North Division's Laval Rocket. It's the second and final meeting between the two clubs after the Sound Tigers were blanked by rookie goaltender Cayden Primeau on Nov. 16. Montreal's affiliate enters the weekend on a four-game win streak.
News and Notes:
Glorious Goals: Kieffer Bellows netted his team-leading 14th goal of the season on Sunday, just three days after he was named CCM/AHL Player of the Month (December) for the first time in his career. Bellows had 10 goals in 11 December contests and scored in six straight home games dating back to Nov. 29 (the longest active and overall streak in the AHL). The New York Islanders' 19th overall pick in 2016 leads Bridgeport in goals (14), shots (101), and ranks third in points (18).
Silver Stick: Andrew Ladd played in his 1,000th professional game on Saturday and scored his 11th goal of the season to put the Sound Tigers ahead early. A veteran of 947 NHL games, Ladd has played with the Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Winnipeg Jets, winning two Stanley Cups along the way. In those 1,000 contests, he has scored 575 points between the NHL and AHL.
Coming Home: The Sound Tigers' roster could potentially include the return of rookie forward Oliver Wahlstrom this weekend, who skated with Team USA during the 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic. Wahlstrom put up terrific numbers during the tournament with one goal and four assists in five games. He has nine points (3g, 6a) in 20 games with the Sound Tigers this season.
Quick Hits: Sebastian Aho is the fifth Sound Tiger to earn an NHL recall this year… Andrew Ladd has seven goals in his last eight AHL games… Bridgeport has scored two goals or less in four straight games… The Sound Tigers will sport limited-edition, camouflage-themed jerseys this weekend for Military Appreciation Weekend… Saturday's 7 p.m. game also features a hat giveaway to the first 2,500 fans and Sunday's 3 p.m. matinee includes a T-shirt giveaway to the first 1,000 in attendance, presented by the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut.
Goals: Kieffer Bellows (14)
Assists: Sebastian Aho (18)
Points: Sebastian Aho (20)
Plus/Minus: Colin McDonald (+6)
Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (45)
Power-Play Goals: Kieffer Bellows (3)
Shots: Kieffer Bellows (101)
Wins: Christopher Gibson, Jared Coreau (5)
The ECHL's Worcester Railers (13-19-2-0) have won a season-high three straight games, including a two-game sweep of the Reading Royals with great goaltending and contributions from several former Sound Tigers last weekend. Ben Thomson and Ryan Mackinnon both scored on Friday, while AHL-contracted goalie Evan Buitenhuis had 30 saves to pick up a 4-1 win. On Saturday, Nic Pierog netted his first professional hat trick and recently recalled Mike Cornell also had a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in a 5-2 victory. Pierog added his team-leading 14th goal and league-leading fourth shorthanded tally in a 6-3 win against Jacksonville on Sunday. The Railers will spend the next three games at home with matchups against Adirondack, Newfoundland and Reading.