The Bridgeport Report: Week 26
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (34-27-5-3), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, won two of their three games last week as the regular season whittled its way down to single digits.
Casey Bailey (four assists), Sebastian Aho (four assists), Ryan Hitchcock (one goal, two assists) and John Stevens (two goals, one assists) all recorded three or more points to help Bridgeport stay alive in its quest for a spot in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Sound Tigers are eight points behind the cut-off, currently held by the fourth-place Charlotte Checkers, with seven games left in the regular season.
The week got off to a terrific start when Stevens scored twice and added on assist on Wednesday in a 6-4 victory against the Hershey Bears at Webster Bank Arena. It was the first three-point effort of Stevens' young career, while Hitchcock, Andre Benoit, Steve Bernier and Josh Ho-Sang also found the back of the net to guide Bridgeport to its second straight six-goal performance. Between the pipes, Kristers Gudlevskis made 36 saves on 40 shots.
The offense scaled back on Friday in a 5-0 loss to the Springfield Thunderbirds at MassMutual Center, despite 39 shots against goaltender Harri Sateri. It was eight shy of a season best, but the Finnish netminder stopped every one of them and Bridgeport was blanked for the fifth time in 2017-18. Thunderbirds forward and former Sound Tiger Anthony Greco scored twice and Bobby Farnham had three points (one goal, two assists) as Springfield took the 10-game series 6-4-0-0. Bridgeport also fell to 0-6-0-0 at MassMutual Center dating back to late last season.
In need of a big response on Saturday, the Sound Tigers got just what they hoped for in a 5-1 victory against the Hartford Wolf Pack at XL Center. Bridgeport's offense came back to life, scoring once shorthanded, twice on the power play and twice at even strength to beat Hartford for the seventh time in 10 meetings (7-1-1-1). Kyle Schempp, Mitch Vande Sompel, Connor Jones, Ben Holmstrom and Bernier all found the back of the cage, while Aho led all scorers with three points (three assists). Eamon McAdam (4-1-0) made an AHL season-high 32 saves on 33 shots.
The Islanders' top affiliate returns to action this week with four games in six days, beginning tomorrow morning with a 10:30 a.m. puck drop against the Providence Bruins (41-23-3-2) at Webster Bank Arena. It's the annual Spring Fun 102 school-day contest, and the third of three morning starts for the Sound Tigers this season, before Bridgeport opens another 3-in-3 this weekend. The Sound Tigers will face Providence again on Saturday, sandwiched by two games against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (40-21-6-2) on Friday and Sunday. Fans can 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:
Tuesday, Apr. 3 vs. Providence Bruins (10:30 a.m.) – The Sound Tigers hit the ice before noon for just the third time this season to celebrate Spring Fun 102, presented by IBEW Local Union 488. Many local schools will attend the contest and all AAA members are encouraged to visit the Webster Bank Arena Click It or Ticket Box Office with their membership card to receive $2 off admission. Tuesday's game is the 11th of 12 meetings between the Sound Tigers and Bruins this season. Click here for tickets.
Friday, Apr. 6 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (7:05 p.m.) – The Sound Tigers visit Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for the final time this season, looking for their second straight win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Bridgeport doubled up the Penguins just over a week ago when Ryan Bourque and Travis St. Denis each scored twice in a 6-3 victory on Mar. 25. Steve Bernier and Ryan Hitchcock also added two points each (one goal, one assist) in the Sound Tigers' first victory in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. since Apr. 2, 2016.
Saturday, Apr. 7 vs. Providence Bruins (7 p.m.) – The Sound Tigers host Providence for the final time this year, completing their 12-game season series in 2017-18. Bridgeport is 5-4-0-1 against the Bruins thus far. Great seats are on sale now!
Sunday, Apr. 8 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (3 p.m.) – Arrive early as the first 2,500 fans will take home a bobblehead of Sound Tigers forward and New York Islanders prospect Connor Jones, presented by AFC Urgent Care of Bridgeport, Fairfield and Shelton. Doors open at 2 p.m. and the puck drops at 3 p.m. for the sixth and final meeting between the Sound Tigers and Penguins this season. Reserve your seats now!
News and notes:
Aho'ly Moly: Sebastian Aho has six points (six assists) in five games since returning to the Sound Tigers last month. He was loaned by the New York Islanders on Mar. 22 after playing 22 games with the big club and recording four points (one goal, three assists), including his first NHL goal on Jan. 7 against the New Jersey Devils. The Islanders' fifth-round pick in last summer's NHL Draft is currently sixth on the Sound Tigers in scoring (first among defensemen) with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 35 games.
Bailey's Best Year: Casey Bailey has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in his last 13 games and with two helpers in Saturday's 5-1 victory at Hartford, the Penn State University product set a new career high with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) this season. A team-best 20 of those points have come on the man advantage (eight goals, 12 assists) and the Sound Tigers have now scored at least one power-play goal in nine of their last 13 games. In addition, Bailey leads Bridgeport with 190 shots (seventh in the league) and is tied for first on the club with four game-winning goals. He is expected to play his 200th AHL game on Tuesday morning.
Hitched: Long Island native Ryan Hitchcock signed an amateur tryout (ATO) with Bridgeport on March 8 and he's been on fire ever since. The rookie forward, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Friday, has eight points (two goals, six assists) in nine games and scored his first pro goal just over a week ago in Wilkes-Barre, Penn (Mar. 25). Three of his nine pro games have featured multi-point performances. Prior to turning pro, Hitchcock recorded a career-best 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 31 games as Yale University's captain earlier this season.
Quick Hits: Travis St. Denis has 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in his last 14 games... Josh Ho-Sang has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last 12 outings… Ben Holmstrom moved into sole possession of 10th place on the Sound Tigers' all-time games played list (221) when he took the ice on Saturday in Hartford... All 221 of those have come in consecutive contests, which is the AHL's longest active streak... The Sound Tigers have outscored opponents 9-1 at 4-on-4 play this season (excluding empty-netters).
Atlantic Division Standings:
1. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 70 GP, (44-17-4-5) = 97 PTS – Clinched playoff berth
2. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins: 69 GP, (40-21-6-2) = 88 PTS – Magic # 3
3. Providence Bruins: 69 GP, (41-23-3-2) = 87 PTS – Magic # 4
4. Charlotte Checkers: 70 GP, (40-26-1-3) = 84 PTS – Magic # 6
5. Bridgeport Sound Tigers: 69 GP, (34-27-5-3) = 76 PTS – Magic # 21
6. Hartford Wolf Pack: 71 GP, (31-31-6-3) = 71 PTS – Eliminated
7. Hershey Bears: 71 GP, (29-33-4-5) = 67 PTS – Eliminated
8. Springfield Thunderbirds: 70 GP, (29-34-5-2) = 65 PTS – Eliminated
Games played: Ben Holmstrom, Casey Bailey, Seth Helgeson (69)
Goals: Travis St. Denis (22)
Assists: Tanner Fritz* (27)
Points: Travis St. Denis (43)
Plus/minus: Kyle Burroughs (+15)
Penalty minutes: Seth Helgeson (119)
Power-play goals: Travis St. Denis (10)
Shots: Casey Bailey (190)
* = Currently playing with the New York Islanders
The New York Islanders (32-37-10) completed March with two points in a four-game stretch last week, including a 4-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, in which former Sound Tigers Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier and Anders Lee all scored. Beauvillier also found the back of the net in setbacks on Friday to Toronto and Saturday against New Jersey, and now has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last six games in addition to a three-game goal streak. Meanwhile, former Sound Tiger Tanner Fritz scored his third NHL goal against the Devils on Saturday, while John Tavares added a helper that night for his team-leading 81st point this season (34 goals, 47 assists). The Islanders wrap up their season with a trio of games this week, beginning tomorrow night with a 7 p.m. puck drop against the Philadelphia Flyers at Barclays Center. Their season comes to a close this Saturday in Detroit.
The Worcester Railers H.C. (35-26-4-4) used a four-game win streak last week to vault themselves into a playoff spot with three games left in the regular season. In fact, Jamie Russell's club is 8-1-0-1 over its last 10 games, including a 4-1 win against the Adirondack Thunder on Easter Sunday. Former Sound Tiger Mike Cornell scored once and added an assist, while Josh Holmstrom and Matt Gaudreau each chipped in a helper. Cornell is now tied for the team lead among defensemen with 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 41 games and Gaudreau has four points (one goal, three assists) in his last four games. Worcester has a one-point margin (with one game in hand) over the Wheeling Nailers for the North Division's final playoff spot. The Railers conclude the regular season with three games this week, beginning Wednesday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Reading Royals at Santander Arena.
Don't Go It Alone: Whether it's a corporate outing, a fundraiser, or just friends getting together, a group outing with the Sound Tigers will guarantee an unforgettable experience filled with fast-paced action on the ice, great music, promotions and contests at an affordable price. The Sound Tigers have a variety of packages and promotional events to offer. Please call the team's front office at 203-345-2300 ext. 7 for more information on the benefits of bringing your group to a future game!
About the Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Founded in 2001, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Hockey Club is the top minor league affiliate of the New York Islanders. Don't miss your chance to take part in the family fun entertainment happening every home game at Webster Bank Arena. For further information on ticket or sponsorship opportunities, call our office at (203) 345-2300 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep up with the latest Sound Tigers news on Facebook and on Twitter. For more team information, log on to soundtigers.com.