Fritz Caps Career Night in Wild Overtime Win
Tanner Fritz collected a career-high five points, including the overtime winner on Friday, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (12-7-1-0), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, came away victorious in a wild 7-6 outcome against the Utica Comets (9-9-1-1) at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Steve Bernier (two goals, one assist) and Sebastian Aho (three assists) were also among four players who recorded at least three points as the Sound Tigers earned a point for the seventh straight game (6-0-1-0). Utica's Reid Boucher had two goals and two assists to lead the Comets, but the home team fell short in their quest for a fourth straight win.
It's the second time Bridgeport has scored seven goals in a game this season (both in the last four contests) and four of those came on the power play. The Sound Tigers went 4-for-5 on the man advantage and netted at least three power-play goals on the road for the first time since Jan. 30, 2015 against Hartford.
The Comets opened the scoring just 44 seconds into the first period when Boucher capitalized on a rebound. Jordan Subban fired a shot from the right point that goaltender Christopher Gibson kicked away, but Boucher was camped out at the doorstep and forced home the second chance.
Bernier responded and got Bridgeport on the board at 11:37 of the opening frame following a tremendous centering feed from Fritz. Former Comet Kane Lafranchise began the play by sailing a shot towards the net that was redirected behind the goal line, allowing Fritz an opportunity to skate onto it. The third-year forward corralled the puck and guided a forehand pass to the slot where Bernier hammered it past netminder Thatcher Demko.
Just over two minutes later, Scott Eansor put the Sound Tigers on top with his team-leading ninth goal of the season. With Cam Darcy in the box for interference, Aho placed a slap shot into the chest protector of Demko, and the rebound fell to Bernier in front who swept a pass to Eansor at the left post. It was Eansor's third power-play goal of the season and one of six power-play tallies on the night overall, which came at the 13:46 mark. Aho also recorded a point with an assist and extended his point streak to five games.
A back-and-forth contest, which never saw either team lead by more than a goal, was tied for a second time when Boucher made it 2-2 at 1:29 of the second period. With Connor Jones in the box for holding, Jayson Megna settled a loose puck in the Sound Tigers zone, pushed a cross-ice pass to Boucher at the top of the right circle and the latter drilled it home with a one-time slap shot.
Joesph LaBate pulled the Comets ahead by one with his third tally of the season at 3:23 of the middle frame. Following a takeaway in the neutral zone after Kyle Burroughs lost his footing, LaBate started a 2-on-1 rush by skating down the left wing and bounced a wrist shot off Gibson's pads and in.
Fritz made it 3-3 at 5:01 of the second period when he translated a faceoff win into his fifth goal of the season. The Ohio State product created the opportunity himself with a faceoff win to Lafranchise that the defenseman returned back to Fritz for a rush down the left wing. Fritz carried the puck to the circle, reached back and rifled a snap shot past Demko at even strength.
The pendulum continued to swing at 9:13 of the second period, courtesy of Michael Chaput on the power play, who put Utica on top 4-3. Bernier was called for interference just eight seconds prior, and Chaput started a scoring opportunity with a faceoff win in the left circle. He pushed the draw back to Patrick Wiercioch and immediately charged to the front of the net where he was gifted with a cross-ice pass from Boucher, and beat Gibson blocker side.
The Sound Tigers took advantage of yet another power play at 16:09 of the second period to pull the game even at 4-4 thanks to Casey Bailey. Mitch Vande Sompel found Michael Dal Colle on the right wing and the second-year forward wasted little time in filtering a diagonal pass to Bailey in the left circle, where Bailey fired home his fourth goal of the season.
Chaput broke the deadlock at 6:58 of the third period and recorded his second goal of the night to make it 5-4 Comets. Zach MacEwen set it up from behind the goal line as he settled Boucher's pass and funneled a centering feed to the low slot, where Chaput forced it off Lafranchise's stick and past Gibson's glove.
Bernier and the Sound Tigers answered less than 30 seconds later to make it 5-5. Seth Helgeson made a fancy move to hold the puck in and create space at the left point before floating a shot towards the net that Bernier finished for this second of the night. The veteran forward then nearly had a hat trick at the 12:30 mark when he provided a screen in front of Demko allowing the Sound Tigers to score their third power-play goal. With Chaput in the box for hooking, Bernier camped out at the doorstep and a shot from Devon Toews sailed through it all to put Bridgeport up 6-5. Toews now has five goals in 20 games, matching his total from 2016-17.
Wiercioch drew the Comets back even and tied the game for a sixth time at 16:52 of the third period. Wiercioch received a pass from MacEwen in front and finished off a mad scramble for his third goal of the year. That forced overtime for Bridgeport's third straight outing and the Sound Tigers sealed it with just 7.1 seconds remaining in the extra frame.
Darcy was nabbed for tripping at the 3:25 mark and Bridgeport took advantage to log its sixth win in seven games. Aho and Toews teamed up to place the puck below the goal line, and Fritz angled a shot off of the back of Demko's leg pad and in to end it.
Gibson (8-4-0) made 25 saves and earned his seventh win in his last eight starts, while Demko (7-5-2) turned back 33 shots. The Sound Tigers outshot the Comets 40-31.
The contest also included one fight during a chippy first period when Stephen Gionta and Subban dropped the gloves at the 11:46 mark.
Star Wars Night: The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena for Star Wars Night tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. against Utica. The first 3,000 fans will take home a limited edition Sound Tigers light saber when doors open at 6 p.m. and the team will wear Star Wars jerseys during the game, which will be up for bid at a silent auction on the Webster Bank Arena concourse. Plus, you just might bump into popular members of the Star Wars trilogy. Limited ticket packages are available now that feature access to the game, a character bobblehead and more starting at $25. The package also includes a pass to see "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" in theaters, courtesy of Bow Tie Cinemas. For more info and to order this special package, call 203.345.2300 Option 7 or CLICK HERE.
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