Playoff Fate To Be Decided This Weekend
DATE TIME OPPONENT FOLLOW
THE STORY COMING IN
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (44-26-3-1) enter their final weekend of the regular season on the outside of the playoff picture by the slimmest of margins. Entering their two-game slate against the Springfield Thunderbirds (30-33-9-2) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (50-19- 3-2), the Sound Tigers do not control their own destiny, but are still very much alive in the Atlantic Division’s heated playoff race. Bridgeport is one point behind the fourth-place Hershey Bears with two games remaining, although Hershey holds almost every tiebreaker. However, Bridgeport closed ground in its last outing on Sunday with a 3-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack at Webster Bank Arena. Travis St. Denis (in his first game back from injury since Mar. 5), Ben Holmstrom (on his 30th birthday) and Ryan Pulock all scored, while Eamon McAdam made 19 saves in his seventh straight start. The Sound Tigers are 8-6-1 all-time in season finales.
TIGERS VS. T-BIRDS
Tonight’s game marks the 12th and final meeting between the Sound Tigers and Thunderbirds this season, and the sixth matchup at the MassMutual Center. Bridgeport leads the series 7-3-0-1 and has won three straight meetings, including a 2-1 victory at Webster Bank Arena on Apr. 4. Josh Winquist and Jake Bischoff each scored that morning and Eamon McAdam made 19 saves for his fourth straight win. Overall, Bracken Kearns leads Bridgeport against Springfield with 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 11 games. The Sound Tigers are 4-0-0-1 at the MassMutual Center this season.
VIEW FROM SPRINGFIELD
The T-Birds snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 4-3 win over the Providence Bruins in Massachusetts. Paul Thompson notched his team-best 18th goal of the season and Jayce Hawryluk, Zac Lynch and Matt Buckles also found the back of the net for Springfield. Thompson has now scored in back-to-back games and ranks second on the club with 37 points (18 goals, 19 assists), despite playing fewer than 50 games. Between the pipes, Adam Wilcox made 29 saves for his 23rd win of the season. He is likely the starter again tonight for the Thunderbirds.
TIGERS VS. PENGUINS
Saturday’s game will mark the sixth and final meeting between the Sound Tigers and Penguins this season, and the third matchup at Mohegan Sun Arena. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has earned points in each of the five previous contests (4-0-1-0) and is 1-0-1-0 against Bridgeport at home. However, the teams haven’t met since Dec. 11 when the Penguins scored four unanswered goals for a 4-1 victory at Webster Bank Arena. Kane Lafranchise recorded the Sound Tigers’ only goal that evening, assisted by Jesse Graham and Kyle Schempp.
VIEW FROM WILKES-BARRE
The Penguins have held the top spot in the American Hockey League for the majority of the season and currently boast a league-leading 50 wins and 105 points. The club enters its two-game season finale on a six-game point streak (4-0-0-2) and 7-1-0-2 over its last 10 games, but is coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday. Dominik Simon tallied the lone goal in regulation that night, while AHL All-Rookie goaltender Casey DeSmith made 33 saves on 34 shots through 65 minutes of regulation and overtime. The Penguins are led by their captain, Tom Kostopoulos, in goals (24) and points (54), and have been helped tremendously by names like David Warsofsky (47 points), Simon (46 points), Jake Guentzel (42 points) and others. In addition, Northeastern University product and the NCAA’s leading scorer from this past year, Zach Aston-Reese, joined the club in March after signing a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has eight points (three goals, five assists) in nine pro games.
THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
The Sound Tigers welcomed back three crucial skaters on Monday when the New York Islanders reassigned Josh Ho-Sang, Connor Jones and Adam Pelech to Bridgeport. Ho-Sang, who has 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 48 AHL games, made his NHL debut on Mar. 2 at Dallas and went on to record 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 21 games with the Isles. Jones also made his NHL debut this season, Apr. 2 at Buffalo, and registered a plus-1 rating in four games. Defensively, Adam Pelech skated in 44 games with the Islanders and posted 10 points (three goals, seven assists). All three are expected to be in the lineup this weekend.
The American Hockey League announced last week that Devon Toews has been named to the 2016-17 AHL All-Rookie Team, as voted by coaches, players and media in each of the league’s 30 markets. The Quinnipiac University product has skated in all 74 games for the Sound Tigers this season and leads all rookies with 38 assists, while tying for the league lead among rookie defensemen with 42 points. Toews represented Bridgeport at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic in January.
The Sound Tigers magic number to clinch a playoff spot is “six,” but the club does not control its own destiny, as Hershey’s magic number is “four”… Bracken Kearns leads Bridgeport in goals (23) and points (50), is tied for the team lead in power play goals (9), and ranks second in plus-minus (+18)… Kane Lafranchise leads Bridgeport with a plus-19 rating… Ryan Pulock is eighth among AHL defensemen with 44 points (14 points, 30 assists).
Standings (Atlantic Division)
1. Wilkes-Bare/Scranton Penguins (50-19-3-2) = 105 points – Clinched
2. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (46-23-5-0) = 97 points – Clinched
3. Providence Bruins (43-22-5-4) = 95 points – Magic #: 2
4. Hershey Bears (41-22-8-3) = 93 points – Magic #: 4
5. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (44-26-3-1) = 92 points – Magic #: 6
6. Springfield Thunderbirds (30-33-9-2) = 71 points – Eliminated
7. Hartford Wolf Pack (24-43-4-2) = 54 points - Eliminated
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.