The Bridgeport Report: Week 20
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (24-20-5-3), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, collected three points in a trio of games against Atlantic Division opponents last week and continue to rank fifth in the division standings. Despite a rough start to February, the Sound Tigers have bounced back with points in each of their last two contests, including a 4-0 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday afternoon.
Strong performances from Christopher Gibson, Travis St. Denis and others paved the way on Sunday as the Sound Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak in front of 5,001 fans at Webster Bank Arena. Gibson (18-11-3) earned his second shutout in as many games and his career-best fourth of the season (22 saves), while St. Denis scored twice in his 100th pro game. Parker Wotherspoon and Steve Bernier also found the back of the net as the Sound Tigers improved to 6-1-1-1 against the Wolf Pack this season.
Gibson's other shutout came on Friday in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Providence Bruins at Dunkin' Donuts Center. It was the second time in less than a month that the Sound Tigers found themselves in the midst of a double shutout after 65 minutes, as Gibson made 30 saves and Providence's Zane McIntyre turned back 29 shots for his league-leading fifth shutout of the year. Casey Bailey netted Bridgeport's lone tally in a three-round shootout, while Kenny Agostino and Austin Czarnik both scored for the Bruins. The Sound Tigers previously engaged in a double shutout on January 21 when Kristers Gudlevskis and Toronto Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks took a scoreless deadlock into a shootout, in which Bridgeport won at Webster Bank Arena.
Bridgeport began the week on Tuesday with a 5-0 loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at home, despite 41 shots on goal. It was the fifth time the Sound Tigers have recorded at least 40 shots in a game this season, but Dustin Tokarski emerged without a blemish and Nicolas Aube-Kubel led the way offensively with assists on three of the Phantoms' five goals. Lehigh Valley improved to 5-0-0-0 against Bridgeport this season.
The Sound Tigers' schedule shifts back to the dreaded “3-in-3” this weekend as Bridgeport gears up for a three-game series against the Providence Bruins (30-17-3-2) and Charlotte Checkers (30-21-0-3), beginning Friday night in Rhode Island. 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:
Friday, Feb. 23 at Providence Bruins (7:05 p.m.) – The Sound Tigers head north on I-95 for the second straight weekend to face the Providence Bruins at Dunkin' Donuts Center. Bridgeport is 3-0-0-1 in Rhode Island this year following a 1-0 shootout setback last Friday.
Saturday, Feb. 24 vs. Charlotte Checkers (7 p.m.) – The Sound Tigers go head-to-head against the team they're directly chasing in the division standings on Saturday. It's the second of four matchups between Bridgeport and Charlotte at Webster Bank Arena and great seats are on sale now!
Sunday, Feb. 25 vs. Charlotte Checkers (3 p.m.) - Former Sound Tigers star and current New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson will return to Webster Bank Arena this Sunday when the Sound Tigers rematch the Checkers. Nelson will meet fans and sign autographs before the game and the first 2,500 fans will receive his bobblehead when doors open at 2 p.m., courtesy of Nutmeg Bowl. In addition, the first 2,000 fans will also receive one (1) free game of bowling at Nutmeg Bowl in Fairfield. Great seats are on sale now!
News and notes:
Brick Wall: Fifth-year goaltender Christopher Gibson earned back-to-back shutouts last week for the first time in his professional career, stopping 52 combined shots on Friday and Sunday. The 2018 AHL All-Star was then emergency recalled by the New York Islanders for the first time this season on Monday, as Thomas Greiss was placed on IR. Gibson has been one of the AHL's top goaltenders this season and currently ranks sixth in wins (18), sixth in goals-against-average (2.31), and seventh in minutes played (1,893) in 33 appearances. The Sound Tigers have not allowed a goal since Lehigh Valley scored at 2:43 of the third period on Tuesday, pushing their shutout streak to a season-long 142:17.
Playoff Picture: As the Sound Tigers enter the final two months of the regular season, the club finds itself on the outside looking in. Bridgeport currently sits fifth in the Atlantic Division standings, seven points behind the cut-off spot, but with two games in hand on the fourth-place Charlotte Checkers. The Sound Tigers are also neck-and-neck with the Hartford Wolf Pack (one point back, but with two games in hand) as the team enters its final 24-game stretch. The top four teams in each of the AHL's four divisions will qualify for the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Milestone Man: Veteran forward Stephen Gionta played his 400th AHL game last Friday and currently sits three contests shy of his 700th pro appearance. The 34-year-old has earned 152 points (65g, 87a) in his AHL career with the Sound Tigers, Albany River Rats, Lowell Devils and Albany Devils since his debut on April 13, 2006. Prior to signing with the New York Islanders, he spent 10 seasons in the New Jersey Devils organization and helped the club to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2012. Gionta has 296 games of NHL experience under his belt with the Islanders and Devils. His older brother, Brian Gionta, currently serves as captain with Team USA at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Century Mark: Second-year forward Travis St. Denis played his 100th professional game on Sunday and notched his second two-goal performance of the season. The Quinnipiac University product has 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists) in 100 pro outings and currently leads all active scorers on the Sound Tigers with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 50 games this season. He is also tied for second on the club in goals and enters this weekend's action with six points (three goals, three assists) in his last seven games.
Quick Hits: Two-time Calder Cup champion and former NHL defenseman Andre Benoit joined the Sound Tigers on Tuesday (loaned by the Columbus Blue Jackets) and made his Bridgeport debut on Friday night, recording five shots on goal… The Sound Tigers have outshot their opponents 265-178 during the month of February (eight games), but are 2-4-1-1 over that stretch... The Sound Tigers' penalty kill is fifth in the AHL overall (85.6%) and third on the road (88.2%).
Goals: Scott Eansor (16)
Assists: Tanner Fritz (27)*
Points: Tanner Fritz (37)*
Plus/minus: Kyle Burroughs (+13)
Penalty minutes: Ross Johnston* (113)
Power-play goals: Scott Eansor, Casey Bailey (6)
Shots: Casey Bailey (151)
* = Currently playing with the New York Islanders
The New York Islanders (29-26-6) won back-to-back games last week, including a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday, led by former Sound Tiger Jaroslav Halak with a career-best 50-save shutout. The Islanders also defeated the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, but suffered a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild in their last outing on Monday afternoon, dropping the club outside of a playoff spot. Former Sound Tigers accounted for all three tallies in the setback, highlighted by Tanner Fritz's first NHL goal against Minnesota's Devon Dubnyk. Ross Johnston and Anders Lee also scored, and Lee is now tied for the team lead with 30 goals (tied with captain John Tavares). The Islanders are a tiebreaker shy of the second wild card spot behind the Hurricanes. New York returns to action on Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
The ECHL's Worcester Railers H.C. (22-21-4-3) recorded three points in three straight games against the Orlando Solar Bears last week and continue to rank sixth in the North Division standings. Goaltender Mitch Gillam (9-10-1), who was in training camp with Bridgeport, participated in all three contests and now sits eighth among League netminders with a 2.46 goals-against-average. Offensively, the Railers are led by ECHL forward Barry Almeida in goals (16), assists (26) and points (42), while former Sound Tiger Chris Langkow is second in points (35) and third in goal-scoring (13). Worcester continues a seven-game road trip on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Adirondack Thunder in Glens Falls, N.Y.
Guarantee Your Seats: Flex plans are on sale now for the 2017-18 campaign, offering the greatest savings and ultimate flexibility of all ticket packages. Pick between a full-season, 20-game, 15-game or 10-game plan and you'll also be entitled to exclusive benefits, including the ticket holder exchange policy, which means any unused tickets can be traded for future games. Please contact Brad Dworin at 203-345-4813 or via email@example.com with questions or to guarantee your seats.
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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.