Bridgeport Sound Tigers: 42-24-3-1, 88 points, 4th in Atlantic Division, 4th in Eastern Conference
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers used a consistent offense, solid defense and sharp goaltending to win all three games last week, vaulting the club back into a playoff position. The Sound Tigers currently sit fourth in the Atlantic Division standings, one point ahead of the fifth-place Hershey Bears, with one game in hand as well. Bridgeport has six contests left in the regular season.
On Wednesday, the Sound Tigers endured a physical, penalty-filled battle at the MassMutual Center in Springfield and emerged with a 3-2 victory over the sixth-place Thunderbirds. Bracken Kearns, Josh Winquist and Kellen Jones each found the back of net in a game that also contained 73 combined penalty minutes and three fights. Between the pipes, Eamon McAdam secured his first of three straight wins with 19 saves.
Bridgeport's six-game road trip shifted to Pennsylvania on Friday where the club scored once in every period and held the league's best offense to a single tally in a 3-1 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center. Jake Bischoff stole the show with one goal and one assist in his professional debut, while Winquist and Michael Dal Colle also lit the lamp. In addition, McAdam made 20 saves for his first win at the PPL Center, located just 20 miles from his hometown of Perkasie, Penn. The win was especially big for the Sound Tigers' offense, which played most of the night with 10 forwards following a first-period injury to Tanner Fritz and game misconduct to Kellen Jones.
The Sound Tigers capped the week on Saturday with one of their most vital wins of the season, moving back into a playoff position following a 4-2 victory over the Hershey Bears at GIANT Center. Darren Nowick scored twice, and Kane Lafranchise and Carter Verhaeghe also found the back of the net, while McAdam turned back 29 shots, helping Bridgeport finish its season series against Hershey at 5-3-0-0. The Sound Tigers also completed their season-long road trip with a respectable 4-1-1-0 record.
Bridgeport will play three of its next four games at Webster Bank Arena, returning home tomorrow morning for an 11.am. puck drop against the Springfield Thunderbirds. The Sound Tigers then partake in their final "3-in-3" this weekend, beginning with a home-and-home series against the Providence Bruins on Friday and Saturday, before wrapping up the weekend at home against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday. Fans can follow all of the upcoming action via the team's online broadcast at www.ahllive.com, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes before each listed start time.
The week ahead:
Bridgeport vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (29-30-9-2) - Tuesday, Apr. 4 at 11 a.m.
Bridgeport at Providence Bruins (41-20-5-4) - Friday, Apr. 7 at 7:05 p.m.
Bridgeport vs. Providence Bruins (41-20-5-4) - Saturday, Apr. 8 at 7 p.m.
Bridgeport vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (23-41-4-2) - Sunday, April 9 at 3 p.m.
News and Notes:
Making the Jump: Quinnipiac University product Connor Jones became the second former Sound Tiger to make his NHL debut this season when he helped the New York Islanders to a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. The 26-year-old, who recorded three hits, two shots and a plus-one rating, was recalled by the Islanders on Saturday afternoon, joining Josh Ho-Sang as the two players who have graduated to the NHL for the first time this year. Overall, eight players have split time between the Sound Tigers and Islanders in 2016-17. Those include: Jones, Ho-Sang, Jaroslav Halak, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Bracken Kearns, Scott Mayfield and Stephen Gionta.
Just That Easy: Islanders prospects John Stevens and Jake Bischoff both made their professional debuts on Friday, and each found the score sheet over the weekend. Bischoff, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year with the University of Minnesota, notched two points (one goal, one assist) in his debut in Lehigh Valley, while Stevens, a former Northeastern University captain, logged an assist in Hershey on Saturday. Five players have now made their pro debut with the Sound Tigers this season, including Devon Toews, Travis St. Denis and Josh Ho-Sang.
Mr. Consistent: Third-year defenseman Ryan Pulock has been extremely consistent since mid-February. The Islanders' 15th overall pick in 2013 racked up two more assists on Saturday in Hershey and has now recorded 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in his last 26 games, improving to second on the team in scoring (42 points). In addition, Pulock leads Bridgeport defensemen in points and is eighth among AHL blue-liners in scoring (13 goals, 29 assists).
Under the Radar: Speaking of consistent, defenseman Kane Lafranchise has quietly had one of the best seasons of his seven-year career. The 28-year-old has already notched AHL career highs in goals (5), assists (16) and points (21), and is tied for the team lead with a plus-18 rating. In addition, Lafranchise is a plus-six over his last six games.
Quick Hits: The Sound Tigers magic number to clinch a playoff spot is "10," down 12 since last Tuesday… Devon Toews leads all AHL rookies with 37 assists this season... Bracken Kearns leads Bridgeport in goals (23) and points (49), and is tied for the team lead in power play goals (9) and plus-minus (+18)… The Sound Tigers are 2-0-0-0 in morning games this season ahead of tomorrow's 11 a.m. start… Bridgeport has scored first in three straight games and is 30-5-1-0 when striking first this season.
Wotherspoon Joins Sound Tigers: Defenseman Parker Wotherspoon will join the Bridgeport Sound Tigers after his WHL season and junior career ended last week. Wotherspoon, the Islanders' 2014 fourth-rounder, had a career year with the Tri-City Americans, recording a career-high 66 points (10G, 56A) in 69 games this season. In 279 WHL games, Wotherspoon scored 182 points (32G, 150A).
Playoff Picture (Atlantic Division)
1. Wilkes-Bare/Scranton Penguins (47-19-3-1) = 98 points - Clinched
2. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (44-22-4-0) = 92 points - Magic #: 6
3. Providence Bruins (41-20-5-4) = 91 points - Magic #: 7
4. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (42-24-3-1) = 88 points - Magic #: 10
5. Hershey Bears (38-22-8-3) = 87 points - Magic #: 14
6. Springfield Thunderbirds (29-30-9-2) = 69 points - Eliminated
7. Hartford Wolf Pack (23-41-4-2) = 52 points - Eliminated