The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (39-20-6-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, earned five of six possible points last week and moved even closer to securing a berth in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. The second-place Sound Tigers faced a trio of North Division foes for the final time this season and extended their point streak at home to 10 games (9-0-1-0).
Bridgeport's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is "seven" - a combination of points the Sound Tigers must collect or the fifth-place team (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) fails to earn through the remainder of the regular season.
The Sound Tigers opened last week's schedule with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Marlies at Webster Bank Arena on Wednesday. Adam Brooks potted the overtime winner - his first game-winning goal of the season - while the Sound Tigers' lone tally came from Sebastian Aho early in the second period. Between the pipes, Jeremy Smith (20-10-4) made 25 saves on 27 shots, helping Bridgeport register at least one point in both matchups against Toronto this season (1-0-1-0).
On Saturday, the Sound Tigers hosted Ottawa's top affiliate and grinded out a 2-1 win in their series finale against the Belleville Senators. Christopher Gibson (19-10-4) made 30 saves and Steve Bernier set a new career high with his 22nd goal of the season, guiding Bridgeport to a season sweep of Belleville (2-0-0-0). Scott Eansor also scored his seventh goal of the year on a first-period deflection, while Belleville's lone tally came from Cody Goloubef late in the third period to end Gibson's shutout bid.
Less than 24 hours later, the Sound Tigers scored three times in the second period en route to a 4-1 win against the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday night. Chris Bourque (one goal, two assists), Otto Koivula (one goal, one assist), Matt Lorito (two assists) and Chris Casto (two assists) all recorded a multi-point effort, while Smith made 30 saves and backstopped his 20th win of the season. Over his last four games, Smith has stopped of 124 of the 129 shots he has faced (.961). Travis St. Denis and Parker Wotherspoon also scored for the Sound Tigers, boosting the club to its 12th straight Sunday win.
The Sound Tigers continue their lengthy homestand with three more games this week, all against Atlantic Division opponents. Bridgeport will host the league's top team, the Charlotte Checkers (44-15-7-1), on Wednesday and Saturday, followed by a Sunday matinee against the Hershey Bears (36-24-3-4) 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.
The week ahead:
Wednesday, Mar. 27 vs. Charlotte Checkers (7 p.m.): The Sound Tigers face Charlotte for the first time in more than a month in a battle of the Atlantic Division's top two teams. Bridgeport is 3-3-0-0 against Charlotte this season, but 2-0-0-0 at Webster Bank Arena including a 7-3 win in their last tilt on Feb. 24. Josh Ho-Sang had a hat trick and five points (three goals, two assists) that afternoon. Wednesday's game also showcases a "1-2-3" food and beverage special, featuring $1 hot dogs, $2 popcorn boxes and $3 bottled Pepsi products. Great seats are on sale now!
Saturday, Mar. 30 vs. Charlotte Checkers (7 p.m.): The Sound Tigers and Checkers meet for the final time during the regular season on "Princess Night" at Webster Bank Arena. Meet popular fairy-tale princesses for pictures and autographs throughout the game and take advantage of special ticket packages for the greatest value. A $25 package includes a center-ice ticket and a princess wand, while a $45 package features a center-ice ticket, a princess wand, and an exclusive pre-game party with a sundae bar and light refreshments beginning at 4:30 p.m. These offers are only available online by CLICKING HERE!
Sunday, Mar. 31 vs. Hershey Bears (3 p.m.): The Sound Tigers host Hershey for the sixth and final time during the regular season on "Pucks & Paws" this Sunday. Bring your dog to the game for FREE, while also enjoying 50-cent chicken wings and $5 16oz. draft and canned beer for those 21 and older at the Mason's Bar, located on the upper concourse. In addition, kids will be thrilled to meet Chase and Marshall from popular Nickelodeon show, Paw Patrol! Doors open at 2 p.m. and fans can purchase a special $25 ticket package by CLICKING HERE, which includes a ticket to the game, a food voucher good for one (1) hot dog, one (1) bag of chips and one (1) soda or water.
News and Notes:
Smith Standing Tall: Jeremy Smith has stopped 124 of the 129 shots he's faced over his last four games, including a 30-save effort on Sunday against the league's third-best offense. He also made a season-high 40 saves against Toronto on Mar. 10 and earned a 29-save shutout against Springfield on Mar. 17. The 10th-year netminder has won six of his last eight decisions since Feb. 22, with a 1.21 goals-against-average and .961 save percentage in his last four starts. Smith, who signed a two-way (NHL/AHL) contract for the remainder of the season on Feb. 24, leads Bridgeport with 20 victories in 38 appearances this season, which is tied for fifth on the team's all-time single-season wins list.
Sunday Funday: The Sound Tigers finish a stretch of eight straight Sundays with a game this weekend - a tough stint that's been met with confidence. Bridgeport is an impressive 14-1-1-0 in Sunday games this season and has won 12 straight dating back to Nov. 4. The club has also outscored opponents 62-39 on Sunday afternoons as they gear up for Hershey this weekend. Steve Bernier leads the way with 10 of his team-leading 22 goals coming on a Sunday.
Home Sweet Home: Six of the team's final nine games will take place at Webster Bank Arena, where the Sound Tigers have won nine of their last 10 since early February. In addition, Bridgeport leads all AHL teams in winning percentage at home (78.1%) as it continues an eight-game homestand against Charlotte on Wednesday. The Sound Tigers haven't lost at home since a 7-5 setback to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Feb. 1.
Leading the Way: Chris Bourque recorded his fourth three-point night of the season on Sunday (one goal, two assists) and improved his scoring total to a team-best 51 points in 2018-19. He also leads the Sound Tigers in assists (36), shots (155), power-play points (18), game-winning goals (5) and shootout goals (4). Bourque is attempting to lead his AHL club in scoring for the fourth time in the last five years and remains the AHL's all-time active leading scorer (21st all-time) with 743 career points - one behind Fred Thurier (1937-52) for 20th place. He is also inside the AHL's top 50 in goals, assists and games played.
Quick Hits: Steve Bernier is second in the AHL in shooting percentage (25.3%)… Otto Koivula is tied for fourth among AHL rookies with 18 goals and tied for sixth in scoring (43 points)… Sebastian Aho is tied for 10th among league defensemen with 40 points (seven goals, 33 assists)… Miami University (Ohio) product Grant Hutton signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the New York Islanders last Thursday and also agreed to terms on an amateur tryout (ATO) with the Sound Tigers... He joined Bridgeport late last week but has yet to make his professional debut… Hutton served as Miami University (Ohio) captain as a senior this season and recorded 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 37 games.
Goals: Steve Bernier (22)
Assists: Chris Bourque (36)
Points: Chris Bourque (51)
Plus/Minus: Otto Koivula (+17)
Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (113)
Power-play goals: Steve Bernier (9)
Shots: Chris Bourque (155)
Wins: Jeremy Smith (20)
The ECHL's Worcester Railers H.C. (30-26-6-4) are three points outside of a playoff spot with six games left in the regular season. Their postseason hopes took a hit last weekend when the club collected just one point in a three-game series, which included regulation losses on both Saturday and Sunday. Worcester pocketed its point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Maine Mariners on Friday, but is coming off of a 4-1 setback to the Reading Royals on Sunday, in which Tyler Barnes scored his team-leading 27th goal of the season. Former Sound Tiger Ryan Hitchcock assisted on the tally and ranks third on the team in scoring with 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) in 40 ECHL games. The Railers return to action this Saturday with a 7:05 p.m. matchup against the Brampton Beast at the DCU Center.