The Bridgeport Report: Week 17
Michael Dal Colle and Sebastian Aho shined at the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic in Springfield, Mass. on Sunday and Monday, representing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (24-16-4-2) and New York Islanders organization during the league's prestigious showcase event.
The duo of Islanders draft picks both attended their first All-Star Classic, held at the MassMutual Center in the same city as the league's headquarters. On Sunday, Dal Colle and Aho each participated in several events during the skills competition, helping the Eastern Conference All-Stars prevail against the West. Dal Colle was a key part of the rapid-fire contest and breakaway relay, while Aho factored into the puck control and breakaway relays.
Less than 24 hours after the skills competition, Dal Colle and Aho joined the Atlantic Division squad for the 3-on-3 All-Star Challenge, which battled its way to the Finals before falling in a four-round shootout, 1-0, to the North Division. Dal Colle scored the Atlantic's only shootout tally and added one goal and one assist in the round-robin tournament, while Aho had one assist.
“It would have been nice to have won it there, but it's all fun, it's all for the fans, and I had a really good time,” Aho said. “There were a lot of older and younger guys out there; guys I built some connections with and joked around with, but at the end of the day, you play hard against them.”
The Sound Tigers entered their mid-season break with a 4-1 victory against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday, defeating a tough division opponent at Webster Bank Arena. Six-time AHL All-Star Chris Bourque scored twice and added an assist to help the Sound Tigers capture their first regulation win since Dec. 28. Kieffer Bellows and Kyle Burroughs also found the back of the cage as the Sound Tigers regained second place in the division standings, moving one point ahead of Lehigh Valley. Between the pipes, Jeremy Smith (13-8-2) stopped 28 of 29 shots en route to his team-leading 13th win. Steve Bernier and Otto Koivula also contributed with two assists each.
The Sound Tigers return to action this weekend with a pair of matchups against Pennsylvania-based opponents. Bridgeport and Lehigh Valley (24-16-3-2) square off in a 7 p.m. rematch at Webster Bank Arena this Friday before the Sound Tigers hit the road and travel to Wilkes-Barre, Penn. for a 7:05 p.m. tilt against the sixth-place Penguins (22-18-4-1) on Saturday.
The week ahead:
Friday, Feb. 1 vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (7 p.m.): The Sound Tigers and Phantoms will meet for this fourth time this season and the third of three matchups at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport leads the series 2-1-0-0 following back-to-back wins in the Park City on Oct. 21 and Jan. 26. Great seats are still on sale for Friday's game, which features $5 12 oz. Budweiser products for those 21 and older from 6 p.m. through the end of the first intermission. The Sound Tigers are also hosting “Souperbowl of Caring” (donate 10 non-perishable food items and receive two free tickets to a future game) and Bryac Hockey Bingo will offer fun for all ages!
Saturday, Feb. 2 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (7:05 p.m.): The Atlantic Division rivals square off for the second time in 11 days and the third of four matchups at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The Sound Tigers are 2-2-1-0 against the Penguins this season following a 5-2 setback at home last Wednesday, in which Tanner Fritz and Chris Casto each scored for Bridgeport.
News and Notes:
Fritz Feeling Confident: Tanner Fritz scored his ninth goal of the season last Wednesday, and fifth on the power play, and now has nine points (five goals, four assists) in his last 11 games. The 27-year-old forward is tied for fifth on the Sound Tigers in points (26), fourth in helpers (17) and third in multi-point games (eight), despite playing just 39 AHL games due to call-ups with the Islanders. Fritz has one assist in four NHL games this season. With a helper on Jan. 19, Fritz also moved into ninth place on Bridgeport's all-time assists list (78).
Birthday Boy Blasts to the Top: Three-time Calder Cup champion Chris Bourque, who celebrates his 33rd birthday today (Jan. 29), has led his AHL team in scoring three of the last four years and with six more points (two goals, four assists) last week, he became the Sound Tigers' leading scorer this season with 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists). Bourque has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his last nine games, including points in three straight. Bridgeport is 15-7-1-1 when he has at least one point in a game this season and continues to be the AHL's all-time active leading scorer with 724 points (24th).
Free-Hockey Frenzy: The Sound Tigers have only gone past regulation twice in their last 10 games, but the club has gone more than 60 minutes on 15 occasions this year - tied for second-most in the AHL behind Rockford (16). The club also has nine wins past regulation - most in the league. The Sound Tigers have been no strangers to close games this season and the team continues to lead the AHL in one-goal outcomes with 27 (17-4-4-2).
Quick Hits: Jeremy Smith is 12th among AHL goalies in minutes played (1,473) and tied for 13th in wins (13)… Christopher Gibson won his 57th game with the Sound Tigers on Saturday, Jan. 19, passing Rick DiPietro for third place on the team's all-time wins list... Otto Koivula is tied for sixth among AHL rookies in goals (13) and seventh in plus-minus (+13)…Stay-home defenseman Chris Casto has three goals in his last six games… Three of Bridgeport's next four games will be on the road… Michael Dal Colle and Devon Toews were both returned on loan by the Islanders last Wednesday, but only Dal Colle suited up for Saturday's win against Lehigh Valley.
Goals: Michael Dal Colle (16)
Assists: Josh Ho-Sang, Sebastian Aho (24)
Points: Chris Bourque (32)
Plus/Minus: Otto Koivula (+13)
Penalty Minutes: Travis St. Denis, Kyle Burroughs (74)
Power-play goals: Steve Bernier (8)
Shots: Chris Bourque (102)
Wins: Jeremy Smith (13)
The first-place New York Islanders (29-15-5) entered the all-star break and their bye week on a six-game point streak, including regulation wins against the New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. In their last outing on Tuesday, Jan. 22, the Isles got a point but suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. First-time NHL All-Star Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders with 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists) in 49 games this season, while former Sound Tiger and Isles captain Anders Lee paces the team with 18 goals. New York returns from its extended break this Friday with a 7 p.m. matchup against Tampa Bay at NYCB Live.
The ECHL's Worcester Railers H.C. (19-18-3-2) have won six of their last eight games, including a convincing 5-1 victory against the Adirondack Thunder last Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. Ryan Hitchcock, who is under contract with the Sound Tigers, scored twice and added an assist that night, while Yanick Turcotte potted his first goal of the season. The Railers also defeated Adirondack on Friday, 4-2, but fell to the Manchester Monarchs on Sunday, 4-2. Worcester returns to action Wednesday morning with an 11 a.m. puck drop scheduled against the Brampton Beast in Canada.
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.