The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (1-2-0-0), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, hit the road to North Carolina last weekend and split a two-game series against the Charlotte Checkers at Bojangles Coliseum. Rookie forward Scott Eansor continued to make headlines with three goals on the trip, including two in Bridgeport's 5-3 victory on Friday, while Tanner Fritz, Steve Bernier and Sebastian Aho also found the back of the net.
Friday's win was the Sound Tigers' first ever against the Checkers, who moved back to the Eastern Conference during the offseason for the first time since 2010-11. Eansor notched Bridgeport's first two goals of the evening before Fritz took the puck 1-on-4 and capitalized on a highlight-reel opportunity in the final minute of the second period to make it 3-2. As the pendulum swung back and forth, Aho made it 4-3 and notched the game-winner midway through the third with a sharp-angle tally, his first North American goal. Kristers Gudlevskis made 18 saves on 21 shots and earned the win in his Sound Tigers debut.
Less than 24 hours later, Bridgeport's power play came to life in a 3-2 setback against the Checkers on Saturday. Eansor opened the scoring with his fourth goal in just three pro games midway through the first period and Bernier pulled Bridgeport to within one late, but it wasn't enough in the loss. Between the pipes, Christopher Gibson made 23 saves on 26 shots.
The Sound Tigers conclude their four-game road trip to open the regular season this Friday with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center. The three-game series then shifts to Webster Bank Arena for opening weekend, featuring a 7 p.m. matchup against the Laval Rocket on Saturday and a 3 p.m. showdown against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday. Tickets are on sale now and fans can follow all of the action online through the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHL Live.
The week ahead:
Friday, Oct. 20 at Lehigh Valley Phantoms (7:05 p.m.): Friday's matchup will be the first of eight meetings this season between the Sound Tigers and Phantoms, and the first of four matchups in Allentown, Penn.
Saturday, Oct. 21 vs. Laval Rocket (7 p.m.): The Sound Tigers celebrate opening night with a backpack giveaway to the first 3,000 kids (14 years and younger) courtesy of All Electric Construction and Communication. In addition, Big Y presents a Kids Zone on the Plaza beginning at 5:30 p.m. It will be the first ever matchup between the Sound Tigers and Laval Rocket. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the puck drops at 7 p.m. Click here for tickets!
Sunday, Oct. 22 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (3 p.m.): Sunday's weekend finale will feature the first of eight rivalry games between the Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack, and the first of four matchups at Webster Bank Arena. The first 2,000 fans will receive a Sound Tigers 2017-18 magnet schedule presented by the CT Department of Transportation and Sunday 4-Packs are available for the first time, which include four tickets (4), four (4) fidget spinners, four (4) hot dogs, four (4) bags of chips and four (4) soft drinks for as low as $99. Get tickets here!
News and Notes:
The Real Deal: First-year forward Scott Eansor has scored in each of his first three professional games (four goals total) and is proving to be the real deal, following up a strong performance during New York Islanders training camp last month. The 21-year-old has half of the Sound Tigers goals this season and leads the club in scoring through three games after collecting a career-high 18 goals in 40 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds (Western Hockey League) last season. He also helped Seattle win the 2017 WHL Championship while serving as co-captain alongside Islanders center Mathew Barzal.
Experience Paying Off Early: Veteran winger Steve Bernier netted two goals last weekend, including one on the power play, and is picking up right where he left off prior to injury in 2016-17. The 32-year pro had 26 points (16 goals, 10 assists) in 33 games last season and led the club with nine power-play tallies. He currently serves as an alternate captain for the second straight year and is tied for second on the team with nine shots through three games.
Quick Hits: This weekend marks the first of nine "3-in-3" series for the Sound Tigers this season… Ryan Bourque played his 400th pro game last Friday and his 400th AHL game last Saturday… The Sound Tigers are fifth in the league with 18.67 penalty minutes per game.
Goals: Scott Eansor (4)
Assists: Mitch Vande Sompel, Kane Lafranchise (2)
Points: Scott Eansor (4)
Plus/Minus: Kyle Burroughs (+3)
Penalty Minutes: Ross Johnston (26)
Power-play goals: Scott Eansor, Steve Bernier (2)
Shots: Casey Bailey (13