BOX SCORE - WHALE 7, SOUND TIGERS 5
By Travis Betts
Despite overcoming an early two-goal deficit and establishing a two-goal lead, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers fell 7-5 to the Connecticut Whale Friday at Webster Bank Arena. The loss drops the Sound Tigers to 10-6-0-0 (20 points), while Connecticut improves to 7-7-1-0 (15 points).
Head Coach Scott Pellerin was pleased with his team’s compete level, but conceded that the group needs to tighten up several areas before their next game Saturday night.
“We’re going to go over the video and see what went wrong and what we could have done differently. I was happy with our compete level and I thought our effort was there. Sometimes you’re going to get the effort but not the execution. And we were just off a little bit and it cost us.”
The Whale took an early lead courtesy of Chris Kreider. Logan Pyett won a puck battle at center ice and chipped it into the Bridgeport zone. Kreider skated down the left wing and fired a wrist shot over Sound Tigers goalie Anders Nilsson at 1:39 to make it 1-0.
The visitors doubled their advantage midway through the first period on a scramble in front of Nilsson. Chad Kolarik batted a loose puck from in front, and although Nilsson made the original save, Tommy Grant was on the doorstep to make it 2-0 at 12:23.
Three minutes later, David Ullstrom drew the Sound Tigers back to within one with his third goal of the season at 14:27. Twelve seconds after drawing a boarding penalty to give the Sound Tigers a man advantage, Aaron Ness took a feed at the right point and found Ullstrom at the bottom of the circle to Connecticut goalie Cameron Talbot’s left. Ullstrom’s wrist shot from a hard angle found space over Talbot’s glove, making the score 2-1. Johan Sundstrom earned the secondary assist on the play.
After exchanging words off the second period’s opening draw, Brett Gallant and Micheal Haley went toe-to-toe 24 seconds in. Both players landed several punches, until Gallant struck with his right fist and wrestled Haley to the ice, sending the former Sound Tiger to the Whale dressing room for repairs.
The Sound Tigers evened the score a minute later following a failed clearing attempt in the Connecticut zone. Ullstrom picked off a pass just inside the blue line, deked around a fallen Whale defender and slid the puck across the crease to John Persson. The rookie tapped the puck in from Talbot’s right for his fifth goal of the season, making it 2-2.
Minutes later, Bridgeport established its first lead of the evening directly off another turnover. Jason Clark made a quick one-touch pass off a Whale turnover to Sean Backman, who stickhandled through a pair of defensemen, deked to Talbot’s glove side and beat him top-shelf for his first tally of the season. Clark recorded his first professional point on the play.
The Whale knotted the score at 3-3 four minutes later in the middle period, immediately following a power play opportunity. Kris Newbury passed the puck from the right point to Chad Kolarik in the faceoff circle, who fed the puck right back. Newbury’s shot beat Nilsson at 8:19.
The Sound Tigers re-rook the lead four minutes into the third period thanks to Sundstrom. The rookie intercepted a pass at center ice, skated down the right wing and put the puck on goal. Talbot stopped the original shot, but Sundstrom gloved the high rebound, wrapped around the goal and buried it after a scramble, making it 4-3 at the 4:02 mark.
“I tried going around the net, and I had a bad angle,” Sundstrom said. “I just tried to shoot at the goalie, and obviously it worked. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough tonight.”
The Swedish line scored again at 7:36 after Ullstrom brought the puck in and deked around a defenseman in the right circle. Talbot made a pad save on the first shot, as well as on Persson’s follow-up, but Sundstrom batted the puck over Talbot to make it 5-3.
“I was very happy with the way that line played,” Pellerin said of the trio of Sundstrom, Ullstrom and Persson. “They got some quality chances early in the game. They attacked on the rush and they were also able to work the puck low and in the dirty areas to get some goals around the net. That’s a strong characteristic of their game and that’s the way they need to play.”
But the Whale would not go away, and were able to cut the Sound Tigers lead to one less than a minute later. Matt Gilroy took a low shot from the top of the zone through traffic that missed Nilsson’s left pad to make it 5-4 at the 8:33 mark.
Five minutes later, Kolarik tied the game at 5-5 after the puck took an unpredictable bounce off the boards and made its way in front of the Bridgeport goal. Nilsson, expecting it to continue around the boards, shifted to the other post and was out of position when Kolarik tapped it in from point-blank range.
The game stayed tied for two minutes, until Kreider gave the Whale the lead for good. With the teams skating 4-on-4, the Whale worked the puck around the Sound Tigers zone. Sean Collins passed the puck from the left point down low to Pyett, who found Kreider in the slot. Nilsson, who lost his stick during a scrum seconds earlier, was unable to block Kreider’s shot at 15:27.
A minute later, the Sound Tigers were forced to kill a penalty to keep the game in reach. But after an extended Connecticut attack, Marek Hrivik made a cross-ice pass to Gilroy, who ripped home his second goal of the contest to give the Whale a two-goal cushion.
The Sound Tigers have a quick turnaround before their next game, a road contest on Saturday, Nov. 24 against the Binghamton Senators. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m.
Notes: Islanders Assistant Coach and former Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson was behind the bench for Bridgeport … The Sound Tigers extended their power play goal streak to eight consecutive games on David Ullstrom’s first period tally, and have the top-ranked power play in the Eastern Conference at 25.3% … Matt Donovan led the Sound Tigers with a plus-3 rating…Nino Niederreiter had his nine-game point scoring streak snapped.
1. CTW: Chris Kreider
2. BRI: David Ullstrom
3. CTW: Matt Gilroy
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
22 Nino Niederreiter – 29 Brock Nelson – 13 Colin McDonald
23 John Persson – 28 Johan Sundstrom – 24 David Ullstrom
42 Brandon DeFazio – 14 Matt Watkins – 16 Sean Backman
44 Brett Gallant – 72 Jason Clark – 20 Blair Riley
46 Matt Donovan – 6 Ty Wishart
27 Aaron Ness – 7 Jon Landry
8 Nathan McIver – 3 Travis Hamonic
45 Anders Nilsson (starter)
38 Kevin Poulin
15 Marek Hrivik – 11 Kris Newbury – 42 Chad Kolarik
20 Chris Kreider – 7 Kyle Jean – 26 Brandon Segal
18 Micheal Haley – 10 JT Miller – 92 Christian Thomas
16 Tommy Grant – 90 Kelsey Tessier – 9 Ryan Bourque
97 Matt Gilroy – 39 Logan Pyett
3 Sam Klassen – 25 Sean Collins
48 Mike Vernace – 5 Blake Parlett
33 Cameron Talbot (starter)
31 Jason Missiaen