SOUND TIGERS 3, PENGUINS 2
Justin Florek was the hero on Sunday night, netting his first career hat trick, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers swept the home-and-home weekend series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with a second straight 3-2 win.
Sound Tigers’ Captain Ben Holmstrom also came up big with three assists of his own, setting a new career-high.
The best scoring chance early on for the Sound Tigers came 6:45 into the opening period on a Florek wrister. Justin Vaive chased the puck into the zone and was able to find Florek wide open in the slot, but he just missed high over Tristan Jarry’s shoulder. Less than two minutes later, Mike Halmo intercepted the puck and had a clear look at goal, but Jarry barely got a glove on the booming slap shot to tip it away.
The Sound Tigers broke through with 44.4 seconds left in the first on Florek’s fourth goal of the season. Matt Finn fired a slap shot towards Jarry from the blue line but had it blocked in front to send the puck trickling towards the left corner. Chaos ensued in front of the net and Florek just got his stick on it to tip it past Jarry’s blocker and into the net. Ben Holmstrom tallied his 15th assist of the season, while Finn earned his fifth helper on the play.
The Penguins came within inches of tying the game with 2:10 gone in the second period on an Adam Krause slapshot. After the Sound Tigers failed to clear it, Krause took the puck at the blue line and fired at Stephon Williams who was saved by the post.
Williams wouldn’t be so lucky when the Penguins scored less than three minutes later. Will O’Neill flew into the zone and passed the puck back to Carter Rowney who buried it inside the left post for his 20th goal of the year.
Bridgeport came close to ending the second like they did the first when Sebastian Collberg just missed his fourth goal of the season. With 1:38 left, Jesse Graham ripped a slap shot at Jarry which was blocked, but Collberg redirected it from the slot to try and sneak it past the left blocker. Williams stood tall in the final seconds of the period with a sprawling save on a wrister from former Sound Tiger Dustin Jeffrey, then followed it up with a strong stop amid a scrum with 1.7 on the clock.
With 2:30 gone in the final frame, the Penguins took the lead 2-1 thanks to Tim Erixon’s third goal of the season. Krause found Erixon at the blue line and the defenseman snuck a slapshot through traffic and above the glove of Williams. Krause and Patrick McGrath both tallied their first point of the season for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with an assist for each on the play.
Halfway through the third, the Sound Tigers pulled even with the Penguins 2-2 on Florek’s second goal of the night. His fifth goal of the season, came on a wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Jarry and clanged off the inside of the right post and into the net. Alan Quine picked up his 23rd assist of the season, while Holmstrom got his second point of the night on his second assist of the game.
The Sound Tigers took the 3-2 lead after yet another Florek goal with 4:23 left in the third. Florek completed the hat-trick when he sent home a one-timer from right in front of the net after Holmstrom found him in the slot with a nifty backhand pass. Florek doubled his season total, coming into tonight with three goals and leaving with six. Holmstrom ended the game with three assists, to push his total to 17 on the season.
The Sound Tigers outshot the Penguins 34-25 and Williams earned his second win in a row over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton thanks to his 23 saves.
In the midst of a tight playoff race, Bridgeport is now 33-23-3-3 with 72 points and will try to keep the winning streak alive on Wednesday against the Springfield Falcons. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. in Massachusetts.
Verhaeghe – Kearns – Halmo
Wright – Quine – Collberg
Vaive – Holmstrom – Florek
Gomes – Jones – Markison
Czuczman – Carkner
Finn – Lafranchise
Cullity – Graham