Sound Tigers Can't Sustain Early Lead in 5-2 Loss
Steve Bernier scored on the power play less than three minutes into the first period on Friday, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (36-30-5-3), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, couldn't sustain the early advantage in a 5-2 loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (46-19-5-5) at PPL Center.
Casey Bailey added his 17th goal of the season late in the final frame, while Danick Martel scored twice to pace the Phantoms' high-octane offense. It was Bridgeport's third straight setback and dropped the team to 1-5-2-0 against Lehigh Valley in 2017-18.
The Sound Tigers got off to a terrific start, converting on their first power-play opportunity at 2:22 of the opening period. After Issac Ratcliffe was called for tripping less than two minutes into his pro debut, Sebastian Aho wound up at the blue line and fired a shot on target that Dustin Tokarski (20-8-7) kicked back, but Bernier swept home the rebound for his career-best 21st goal of the season. Tanner Fritz also assisted on Bernier's sixth power-play tally of the year.
Lehigh Valley answered at 13:02 of the first period when Reece Willcox collected his third goal of the season. UConn product David Drake and Radel Fazleev teamed up to find Willcox at the top of the right circle, where the defenseman snapped a pin-point shot through a screen, off the post, and past goaltender Christopher Gibson (19-13-3).
Ratcliffe handed the Phantoms their first lead at 12:27 of the second period with his first pro goal, which came at even strength. Lehigh Valley again went through Willcox as Mike Vecchione fed a pass to the high slot, where Willcox drove a slap shot towards the crease. The 6'5 Ratcliffe screened Gibson's vision and redirected the shot to make it 2-1.
Martel made it 3-1 at the 15:03 mark with a power-play goal and one that was scored from below the goal. With Bernier in the box for boarding, Nic Aube-Kubel wired a shot north of the crossbar that bounced off the glass and redirected below the goal line. Martel gathered the puck and tucked home a shot inside the right post, just before Gibson could snag it with his left toe pad.
Martel's second of the night and 25th of the season came at 10:00 of the third period, assisted by Mark Friedman and Cole Bardreau. Martel sped through center and directed a pass to Bardreau on the right side, where he skated over the line and dropped the puck to Friedman in the high slot. The rookie defenseman quickly forced a pass straight down the gut and found Martel at the doorstep, where he beat Gibson low for his team-leading ninth goal against Bridgeport this season.
Bailey cut the deficit to a pair at 17:55 of the third period, but that's as close as the Sound Tigers would get. Aho waltzed his way through the left circle and opened up space in front where Bailey put one past Tokarski's glove to make it 4-2.
Head coach Brent Thompson pulled Gibson shortly after and despite several clean chances against Tokarski, the Phantoms sealed their victory with an empty-netter from Vecchione, his 17th tally of the season, at 19:05 of the third period.
Bridgeport finished the game 1-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Gibson made 28 saves in the setback, while Tokarski answered 29 shots in Lehigh Valley's win, extending the club's point streak to three games (2-0-1-0).
First Responders Night: Sunday's season finale at Webster Bank Arena is also First Responders Night, with tributes to local police, fire and rescue squads throughout the 5 p.m. matchup against the Charlotte Checkers. Help honor and support these organizations through a discounted ticket offer, which gives back a portion of proceeds to these and other first responders groups.
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About the Bridgeport Sound Tigers
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