Tanner Fritz scored three times and added a trio of assists last weekend to lead the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (12-8-1-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, to a 1-1-1 record through their first three games of December.
The Sound Tigers split a home-and-home series against the Utica Comets on Friday and Saturday, before falling to the Providence Bruins on Sunday afternoon at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport currently ranks fifth in the extremely tight Atlantic Division, which sees its top six teams all separated by just four points.
Fritz celebrated a career night on Friday, recording five points (two goals, three assists) and helping the Sound Tigers to victory with the overtime-winning tally in a wild 7-6 outcome against the Comets at the Adirondack Bank Center. Steve Bernier (two goals, one assist) and Islanders draft pick Sebastian Aho (three assists) were also among four players who recorded at least three points in the contest. It was the second time Bridgeport has scored seven goals in a game this season, and four of those tallies came on the power play. The Sound Tigers went 4-for-5 on the man advantage and netted at least three power-play goals on the road for the first time since Jan. 30, 2015 against Hartford.
Twenty-four hours later, the Comets responded at Webster Bank Arena and handed the Sound Tigers their first shootout loss of the season. Fritz continued his stellar play with Bridgeport's lone tally in regulation (and the club's only goal in a five-round shootout), but it wasn't enough in a 2-1 setback. Aho also contributed an assist and extended his point streak to a career-high six games (one goal, seven assists), while Kristers Gudlevskis made 21 saves on 22 shots and was less than 19 seconds from his second shutout of the year before allowing a goal by Joseph LaBate at the 19:41 mark.
Even with the loss on Saturday, the Sound Tigers earned a point for the eighth consecutive game for the first time since Jan. 15 through Feb. 3 of last season. Unfortunately, that streak came to an end on Sunday afternoon in a 4-1 setback to Providence. First-year forward Scott Eansor scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season for Bridgeport and Gudlevskis turned back 23 of the 26 shots he faced.
Following a six-day break, the Sound Tigers return to action this Saturday and travel to Springfield, Mass. for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop against the Thunderbirds. A two-game weekend slate concludes on Sunday with a 3 p.m. matinee against the Rochester Americans at Webster Bank Arena. Sunday 4-Packs are available now and fans can also follow all of the upcoming action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHL Live, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes prior to each listed start time.
The week ahead:
Saturday, Dec. 9 at Springfield Thunderbirds (7:05 p.m.) - The Sound Tigers head north and visit the MassMutual Center for the first time this season. Bridgeport is already 2-0-0-0 against Springfield following a pair of wins at home on Nov. 4 and Nov. 19. The Sound Tigers went 7-4-0-1 against the T-Birds in 2016-17 and 4-1-0-1 in those games in Massachusetts.
Sunday, Dec. 10 vs. Rochester Americans (3 p.m.): "Sunday 4-Packs" are available for the weekend finale at Webster Bank Arena, which features the first matchup of the year between the Sound tigers and Americans. Take advantage four (4) tickets, four (4) hot dogs, four (4) bags of chips, four (4) soft drinks, and four (4) fidget spinners for as low as $99. Visit www.soundtigers.com or call the team's front office at 203-345-4813 to purchase.
News and notes:
Fritz on Fire: New York Islanders prospect Tanner Fritz has been white-hot through the first two months of his third professional campaign. The 26-year-old leads the Sound Tigers in points (25), assists (18) and multi-point games (eight), and has climbed to fourth in the AHL's scoring race. Fritz also ranks third on the team in plus-minus (+10) and is on a five-game point streak (three goals, nine assists) on the road, dating back to Nov. 5. There have only been six games overall this season that Fritz has not recorded a point.
Milestone Alert: Sound Tigers captain Ben Holmstrom is expected to play his 500th professional game this Saturday against Springfield. The eighth-year forward has skated in every game for the Sound Tigers since Oct. 10, 2015 - the only player to do so. Holmstrom has played 492 AHL games with the Sound Tigers, Charlotte Checkers and Adirondack Phantoms (187 points), as well as seven NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2011-12. He was named Bridgeport's 12th captain in team history on Oct. 7, 2015. As far as other milestones, Michael Dal Colle is expected to play his 100th pro game on Saturday and defenseman Devon Toews is slated to play his 100th pro game this Sunday.
Free Hockey: After not going to overtime in any of their first 13 games, the Sound Tigers have gone past regulation in five of their last nine contests, including four in a row from Nov. 25 through Dec. 2. Bridgeport is 3-2 when going to overtime this season with game-deciding goals from Tanner Fritz, Travis St. Denis and Casey Bailey (in shootout).
Quick hits: Christopher Gibson is on a five-game win streak and has backstopped a victory in eight of his last nine starts… Gibson is 13th in the AHL with a 2.47 goals-against-average… Sebastian Aho's seven goals are second among AHL defensemen and his 17 points are fourth among blue-liners… Devon Toews is seventh among League defenseman with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and second in shots from the blue line (67)… The Sound Tigers lead the Eastern Conference with 32.73 shots per game and rank second in shots against (27.00).
Goals: Scott Eansor (10)
Assists: Tanner Fritz (18)
Points: Tanner Fritz (25)
Plus/minus: Seth Helgeson (+12)
Penalty minutes: Ross Johnston (58)
Power-play goals: Scott Eansor (3)
Shots: Casey Bailey (75)