The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (28-18-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, won three of their four games last week, led by Tanner Fritz's two game-winners and a team-high five points from both Chris Bourque and Otto Koivula. The Sound Tigers remain second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference (62 points) heading into their final 24 games of the regular season.
The club opened its four-game stretch on Tuesday and bounced back from an early two-goal deficit to defeat the Hartford Wolf Pack in a shootout, 3-2, at the XL Center. Jeff Kubiak scored for the second straight game (in his 100th professional contest) and Connor Jones also potted a first-period goal against Hartford's Dustin Tokarski, who was yanked after 11:21 of work. Bourque converted the only tally in a three-round shootout and Christopher Gibson (14-9-4) made 25 saves in 65 minutes, and three more in the shootout.
Friday's game in Providence was Bridgeport's only setback last week, as the Sound Tigers fell short of their third straight road win. Steve Bernier scored his 15th goal late in the third period to pull the Sound Tigers to within one after Providence potted a couple of second-period tallies. Those goals ultimately pushed the Bruins to their sixth straight victory and extended their point streak to 12. Jeremy Smith (14-9-2) made 19 saves in the 2-1 loss at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Bridgeport responded on Saturday with a convincing, come-from-behind victory against the Bruins in their rematch at Webster Bank Arena. After going down 2-0 early in the second period, the Sound Tigers scored four unanswered goals from Islanders prospects Fritz, Koivula, Sebastian Aho and John Stevens to secure a 4-2 win, and a split in the home-and-home series. Gibson made 20 saves in the crease for his second straight win and helped the Sound Tigers reach 60 points on the season.
On Sunday, Fritz gathered his second game-winner in as many days to push the Sound Tigers to a 5-4 overtime victory against the Utica Comets at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport received goals from five different scorers en route to its league-leading 11th win beyond regulation. The Sound Tigers also finished their two-game season series against Utica 2-0-0-0.
Bridgeport's 13-game month continues this weekend with the second of three straight 3-in-3's heading into March. The Sound Tigers will face the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (26-19-3-2), Hartford Wolf Pack (20-25-3-3) and first-place Charlotte Checkers (32-13-6-1), with the latter two coming at Webster Bank Arena on Saturday and Sunday respectively. 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.
News and Notes:
Healthy and Hungry: Islanders prospects Matt Lorito and John Stevens both missed more than 45 games due to injury this season, but returned to the ice this month and have already made a difference. Lorito, a two-time AHL All-Star who signed a two-year deal with the Isles in July, made his Sound Tigers debut on Sunday and assisted on the overtime-winner. Meanwhile, Stevens has three points (one goal, two assists) in six games during his second pro season, including the game-tying goal in Saturday's win.
When 60 Isn't Enough: The Sound Tigers have gone past 60 minutes in two of their last four games and 17 times overall this season - tied for second-most in the AHL. Eleven of those games have resulted in victories, which leads the league. Bridgeport has been no stranger to close games this season and the team continues to lead the AHL in one-goal outcomes with 31 (20-5-4-2).
Top of the Charts: Chris Bourque is trying to lead his AHL team in scoring for the fourth time in the last five years, as he paces Bridgeport with 40 points (10 goals, 30 assists) in 50 games this season. He has 14 points in his last nine games (three goals, 11 assists) and at least one point in eight of his last nine. The three-time Calder Cup champion and six-time AHL All-Star is the league's all-time active leading scorer with 732 points (23rd all-time) and also inside the top 50 in goals, assists and games played. Bridgeport is 18-9-1-1 when he has at least one point in a game and 7-1-0-1 when Bourque scores at least one goal in a contest.
Otto-Zone: Finnish power forward Otto Koivula has consistently impressed during his first pro season in North America. The 20-year-old leads the Sound Tigers with 11 multi-point games this season, a plus-17 rating, and is currently on a team-best four-game point streak - tied with line mate Chris Bourque. He has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in his last nine games and ranks sixth among all AHL rookies with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists), while also placing fifth among league rookies in shooting percentage (15-for-68, 22.1%).
Quick Hits: Two-time All-Star Sebastian Aho is tied for fourth among AHL defensemen in assists (27) and 10th in points (30) over 43 games... Steve Bernier scored his 53rd career goal with the Sound Tigers on Sunday, tied for eighth on the team's all-time list… Christopher Gibson is tied for the league lead with three shootout wins… Bridgeport is sixth in the AHL with 53 first-period goals… The Sound Tigers improved to 8-1-1-0 in Sunday games and have now outscored opponents by 11 at 5-on-5 (100-89).
Goals: Steve Bernier, Michael Dal Colle (16)*
Assists: Chris Bourque (30)
Points: Chris Bourque (40)
Plus/Minus: Otto Koivula (+17)
Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (93)
Power-play goals: Steve Bernier (9)
Shots: Chris Bourque (116)
Wins: Jeremy Smith, Christopher Gibson (14)
*Currently on recall with the New York Islanders
The week ahead:
Friday, Feb. 15 at Lehigh Valley Phantoms (7:05 p.m.): The Sound Tigers travel to Allentown, Penn. for the first time since their season opened on Oct. 6, facing the fourth-place Lehigh Valley Phantoms at PPL Center. Bridgeport is 2-2-0-0 against Lehigh Valley this season with each of the last three meetings taking place at Webster Bank Arena. The Phantoms have just barely outscored the Sound Tigers 17-16 this season.
Saturday, Feb. 16 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (7 p.m.): The Sound Tigers battle their in-state rival for the final time this season on Girl Power Night at Webster Bank Arena. Meet costumed and real-life female superheroes alike and a $30 ticket package is available that includes access to the game, a food voucher for one (1) hot dog, one (1) bag of chips and one (1) soft drink, and one (1) movie voucher valid at any Bow Tie Cinemas location. Packages are only available online hereor by calling the Sound Tigers sales department in advance at 203-345-2300 x7. Packages are limited!
Sunday, Feb. 17 vs. Charlotte Checkers (3 p.m.): The Sound Tigers face the Charlotte Checkers for the sixth time this season and their second matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport is 2-3-0-0 against Charlotte in the previous five meetings, but defeated Carolina's affiliate at home on Nov. 11, led by Connor Jones' third-period game-winner and Ryan Bourque's two assists.
The ECHL's Worcester Railers H.C. (21-20-4-3) battled back from a three-goal deficit to earn one point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Cincinnati Cyclones on Sunday. Former Sound Tigers Ryan Hitchcock and Josh Holmstrom both scored and Evan Buitenhuis made 30 saves in the setback. Meanwhile, ECHL forward Tyler Barnes set a Worcester pro hockey record with a goal for the seventh straight game. The Railers open a season-long nine-game road trip (that runs into early March) this Wednesday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the New York Rangers affiliate, the Maine Mariners.