2017-18 Season In Review
From sensational streaks to milestones and highlight-reel plays, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers' 17th season in the American Hockey League was certainly one for the books. And despite falling short of a berth in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Sound Tigers enjoyed many successes throughout the season, from both a development and performance standpoint.
Bridgeport completed the 2017-18 season with a record of 36-32-5-3 (80 points) and finished fifth in its respective division for the fifth consecutive year.
“It's definitely disappointing,” Ben Holmstrom said. “We were close, but when you're not playing in the playoffs, it's not fun. Nobody likes to be here. We had a good group, but over 76 games you have to stay consistent and bring it every night. It's disappointing because I think we could have done some damage in the playoffs.”
Steve Bernier added, “We didn't do what we wanted to do, but I think there were a lot of positives. All of our young guys improved a lot on the ice. They got better as the season went on and we were in a battle until the end as a team.”
Here are some of the highlights, trends and statistics from the 2017-18 season.
By the numbers:
3 – Players who appeared in all 76 games for the Sound Tigers. Those included captain Ben Holmstrom, Casey Bailey and Seth Helgeson. For Holmstrom, it was the third straight season he appeared in every contest. The last time Bridgeport had three players appear in every regular-season game was the team's inaugural season (2001-02), when Trent Hunter, Justin Mapletoft and Chris Armstrong played in all 80.
6 – Players who made their professional debuts with the Sound Tigers this season: Scott Eansor, Matt Gaudreau, Ryan Hitchcock, Tyler Mueller, David Quenneville and Mitch Vande Sompel.
10 – Amount of players who appeared in games for both the Sound Tigers and New York Islanders this season: Sebastian Aho, Anthony Beauvillier, Steve Bernier, Michael Dal Colle, Tanner Fritz, Christopher Gibson, Josh Ho-Sang, Ross Johnston, Shane Prince and Alan Quine.
16 – Kyle Burroughs' plus-minus rating, which not-so-quietly led the team this season and was a career high for the third-year defenseman.
36 – One-goal games the Sound Tigers played this season, tied for sixth-most in the AHL. Bridgeport went 17-11-5-3 in one-goal outcomes.
39 – Players who made at least one appearance for the Sound Tigers in 2017-18.
44 – Points that Travis St. Denis recorded this season, which led the Sound Tigers in scoring. St. Denis also led Bridgeport in goals (23) and power-play goals (11) during his second professional campaign.
86 – Appearances for goaltender Christopher Gibson in his Sound Tigers career (2015-18), ranked fourth on the team's all-time list behind Rick DiPietro's 117. Wade Dubielewicz holds the club record with 164 games played from 2003-08.
207 – Amount of shots on goal for Casey Bailey this season, tied for sixth-most in the AHL. Bailey ranked second on the Sound Tigers in scoring with 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists), second in helpers, and tied for first in power-play assists (12).
Leading the Way: With the departure of veteran Bracken Kearns last summer, who led the Sound Tigers in scoring each of the last two seasons, Bridgeport was looking for someone else to step up in 2017-18. Second-year forward Travis St. Denis fit the bill and proved to be up for the challenge, leading the Sound Tigers in goals (23), points (44) and power-play goals (11) – all career highs. St. Denis' most notable performance occurred on March 15 when he became just the fifth Sound Tiger to record five points in one game (three goals, two assists), including his first pro hat trick in a four-goal come-from-behind win against the Rochester Americans. St. Denis has 64 points (35 goals, 29 assists) in 124 AHL games since turning pro out of Quinnipiac University prior to the 2016-17 campaign.
Fritz Fires On All Cylinders: Even with the emergence of St. Denis, it's hard to look past Tanner Fritz when deciding on Bridgeport's MVP. The third-year forward produced 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists) in just 35 AHL games and was the team's only point-per-game player. He also led the Sound Tigers in assists and multi-point games (12), and earned his first NHL recall on Jan. 1 when the Islanders brought him up for what turned out to be a 34-game stretch. Fritz made his NHL debut on Jan. 7 against the Boston Bruins and scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 19 against the Minnesota Wild.
A Historic Streak: Third-year captain Ben Holmstrom has never missed a game since joining the Sound Tigers in 2015-16 and after playing all 76 contests again this season, the veteran forward pushed his ironman streak to a franchise-record 228 consecutive appearances. It's also the longest active streak in the AHL. On the offensive side, Holmstrom quietly had his best goal-scoring season (11) since 2013-14 with the Adirondack Phantoms. He played his 500th professional game on Dec. 9, 2017 at Springfield.
Burroughs Breaks Through: It's nearly impossible to find anything wrong with Kyle Burroughs' play in 2017-18. The stay-home defenseman led the Sound Tigers with a plus-16 rating, but also contributed on the offensive side with a career-high six goals and 25 points. Burroughs added grit and toughness on nearly every shift, and his six fights were second on the team only to Seth Helgeson's seven.
Golden Goalie: Christopher Gibson bounced back in a big way this season after his 2016-17 campaign was cut short by injury. Gibson went 19-14-3 in 37 appearances and ranked 11th among AHL netminders with a 2.42 goals-against-average (tied for a career high). Gibson also recorded a career-best four shutouts, including back-to-back blank sheets on Feb. 16 - Feb. 18, and was selected to the AHL's All-Star Classic for the first time in his career. In addition, the fifth-year goaltender moved up to fourth on the Sound Tigers' all-time games played list among netminders (86) and fifth on the team's all-time wins list (44).
Remarkable Rookie: Brent Thompson had a tough time with his answer when asked the question: “Who is your rookie of the year?” Ultimately, Bridgeport's head coach decided on 22-year-old defenseman Sebastian Aho, who was selected by the Islanders in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Aho recorded 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in just 40 AHL games, including his first North American goal in just his second game on Oct. 13 at Charlotte. Aho also became the first Sound Tigers defensemen to ever record a hat trick when he scored three times at Providence on Nov. 5. He was selected to represent Bridgeport in the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic, but was unable to attend due to his first NHL recall on Dec. 28. Aho went on to play 22 games with the Islanders and scored his first NHL goal on Jan. 7 against the New Jersey Devils. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 31 at Colorado.
Additional First-Year Phenoms: Aside from Aho, forward Scott Eansor and defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel also enjoyed outstanding rookie seasons in 2017-18. Eansor scored seven times in his first six pro games and finished the season with 22 points (16 goals, six assists) in 59 contests, earning a two-year, two-way (NHL/AHL) contract with the Islanders that runs through 2019-20. Meanwhile, Vande Sompel led Sound Tigers' defensemen in scoring (tied with Aho) with 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 58 games and earned an All-Star bid as well. The Islanders' third-round pick in 2015 netted three goals in the 2018 All-Star Challenge, tied for the most among any skater.
Sound Tigers Record vs. Opponents in 2017-18 (NHL affiliate):
Belleville (Ottawa): 2-0-0-0
Binghamton (New Jersey): 1-1-0-0
Charlotte (Carolina): 3-5-0-0
Hartford (NY Rangers): 7-1-1-1
Hershey (Washington): 4-2-0-0
Laval (Montreal): 1-1-0-0
Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia): 1-5-2-0
Providence (Boston): 6-5-0-1
Rochester (Buffalo): 2-1-1-0
Springfield (Florida): 4-6-0-0
Syracuse (Tampa Bay): 0-2-0-0
Toronto (Toronto): 1-1-0-0
Utica (Vancouver): 1-0-0-1
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh): 3-2-1-0
The following players are unrestricted free agents: Goaltenders: Christopher Gibson, Kristers Gudlevskis. Defensemen: Andre Benoit, Mike Cornell, Patrick Cullity, Seth Helgeson, Kane Lafranchise, Tyler Mueller. Forwards: Casey Bailey, Ryan Bourque, Matt Gaudreau, Stephen Gionta, Ryan Hitchcock, Ben Holmstrom, Josh Holmstrom, Connor Jones, Kellen Jones, Jeff Kubiak, Matt Lane, Travis St. Denis.
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 email@example.com. Keep up with the latest Sound Tigers news on Facebook and on Twitter. For more team information, log on to soundtigers.com.