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The Bridgeport Report: Week 14

Otto Koivula stays hot for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers

by Alan Fuehring AlanFuehring / Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Otto Koivula extended his goal-scoring streak to five games and moved into the top seven among all rookie scorers in the American Hockey League, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (21-11-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, completed the first half of their season last week. Koivula's active streak is tied for the longest in the league and the Finnish forward now ranks second on the Sound Tigers in goals (12) and points (25).

Bridgeport collected just one point in three games (0-2-0-1) last week, continuing a six-game road trip through the North Division. That lone tally came in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Rochester Americans (22-12-2-0) on Wednesday, in which the Sound Tigers battled back from a first-period deficit at Blue Cross Arena to score points in nine of their last 10 games at the time. Matt Gaudreau (one goal, one assist) and Tanner Fritz (one goal, one assist) led the way offensively, including Gaudreau's first AHL goal early in the second period, while Jeremy Smith (11-6-2) made 25 saves just hours after he was named CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December.

Following a practice day on Thursday, the Sound Tigers faced the Syracuse Crunch (21-10-2-0) for the first time this season on Friday night and suffered a 3-1 loss at the War Memorial Arena. Koivula posted Bridgeport's only goal and Christopher Gibson (11-5-4) stopped 29 of 32 shots, while Syracuse capitalized once in each period to earn its fourth straight win at home.

Twenty-four hours later, Koivula set a new career high with his fifth goal in five games, but the Sound Tigers fell to the Binghamton Devils (16-20-3-0) in a 3-2 decision at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday. Travis St. Denis also scored on the power play and Smith made 31 saves as the Sound Tigers saw their winless streak hit three games for the first time this year (0-2-1).

The Sound Tigers remain second in the Atlantic Division with 48 points in 38 games, nine markers behind the league-leading Charlotte Checkers. Bridgeport will look for its first win of 2019 this Friday when the club concludes its season-long road trip at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y. The Sound Tigers will face the Utica Comets (20-16-2-1) for the first time this season before returning home on Saturday for a 7 p.m. puck drop against the Hartford Wolf Pack (17-16-2-2) at Webster Bank Arena.

Fans can follow all of the action online via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes before each listed start time.


Tweet from @TheSoundTigers: ICYMI: Koivula���s been pretty Otto-matic lately 😏. Five goals in five games. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/5nx9Nk1QCE
 
News and Notes:

Otto-matic: Rookie power forward Otto Koivula had a remarkable first half of his first pro season in North America. In addition to scoring in each of his last five games, including a spectacular, highlight-reel goal on Saturday, the Islanders' fourth-round pick in 2016 is tied for fifth among rookie goal-scorers and point-getters in the AHL. Koivula is also third among league rookies in plus-minus (+15) and fourth in shooting percentage (25-percent). All 25 of his points this season have come since Nov. 4 (last 27 games).

Taking Home the Hardware: Jeremy Smith had a marvelous month of December and he was recognized for it last week. The 10th-year netminder was named CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month after going 6-1-0 in seven December starts and recording a 2.12 goals-against-average and .931 save percentage during that span. In his first season with the Sound Tigers, Smith signed an AHL deal on July 9, 2018 and is currently 11-6-2 with a 2.70 goals-against-average (17th in the league) and .907 save percentage in 20 appearances. He carried a five-game unbeaten in regulation streak (4-0-1) into last weekend's action. 

Tweet from @TheAHL: Brandon Pirri, Jordan Kyrou and Jeremy Smith are the @CCMHockey / AHL award-winners for the month of December.Details: https://t.co/Ru20s2s2lV pic.twitter.com/byOIGe1Gbc

Hey Now, You're An All-Star: The AHL announced its playing rosters for the 2019 Lexus All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield last week, which included two Sound Tigers selections. Michael Dal Colle (currently on recall with the Islanders) received his first All-Star bid and Sebastian Aho was selected for the second time in as many seasons. Dal Colle leads the Sound Tigers in goals (16) and points (28) in 28 games this season and was named CCM/AHL Player of the Week on Dec. 17. Meanwhile, Aho becomes just the fourth Sound Tiger to earn back-to-back All-Star selections and the first since Ryan Pulock (2015, 2016). Aho leads Bridgeport with 21 assists and is fifth among all AHL defensemen in scoring (24 points). The 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic will be held Jan. 27-28 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

Quick Hits: Sebastian Aho is tied for fifth among AHL defensemen with 24 points (three goals, 21 assists)… Aho is also tied for fourth among blue-liners in assists… Steve Bernier is tied for fifth in the AHL with eight power-play goals… Bridgeport is 14-0-0-1 when scoring at least four goals in a game… The Sound Tigers' 43 first-period goals are third-most in the league… Bridgeport has been involved in 24 one-goal outcomes, most in the AHL.

Tweet from @TheSoundTigers: Stick taps to @NYIslanders draft picks Michael Dal Colle and Sebastian Aho on being named to the 2019 Lexus #AHLAllStar Classic presented by MGM Springfield! Full story: https://t.co/B6rVedtp1E pic.twitter.com/jvuw5dVWTd


The week ahead:

Friday, Jan. 11 at Utica Comets (7 p.m.): Bridgeport and Utica line up head-to-head for the first of two matchups this season, and their only tilt at the Adirondack Bank Center. Last year, each team gathered one win beyond regulation and picked up three points in the season series. The Sound Tigers earned a 7-6 overtime victory on Dec. 1, 2017, led by Tanner Fritz's four-point night (two goals, two assists), while the Comets bounced back with a 2-1 shootout win the next night in Bridgeport.

Saturday, Jan. 12 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (7 p.m.): The Sound Tigers will host Hartford for the fourth time this season as they showcase Military Appreciate Night, presented by the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut! The first 2,000 fans will receive a camouflage hat when doors open at 6 p.m. and fans are encouraged to look into a $25 ticket package (seats at the box office are regularly $31 in this seating area) that includes a ticket to the game and a military themed Sound Tigers t-shirt! A portion of this ticket package will also be donated to the BBB Foundation to support scholarships for children of military members from Connecticut.


Team Leaders

Goals: Michael Dal Colle* (16)
Assists: Sebastian Aho (21)
Points: Michael Dal Colle* (28)
Plus/Minus: Otto Koivula (+15)
Penalty Minutes: Kyle Burroughs (63)
Power-play goals: Steve Bernier (8)
Shots: Kieffer Bellows (88)
Wins: Jeremy Smith (11)

*Currently playing with the New York Islanders (NHL)


ECHL Report

The ECHL's Worcester Railers H.C. (14-16-3-2) endured a three-game road trip to South Carolina last weekend and earned their first win of 2019 with a 3-2 victory against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Sunday. Tyler Barnes, Bo Brauer, and Barry Almeida all scored, while former Sound Tiger Mike Cornell had one assist and continues to lead the club in that department (16 helpers). Between the pipes, Mitch Gillam made 28 saves for his ninth win of the season one day before he was named to the CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic for the second straight year. Gillam, who signed an AHL deal with the Sound Tigers on July 12, 2018, is fourth in the ECHL with a .924 save percentage. The Railers return to action this Saturday with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop against the Reading Royals at the DCU Center. 

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