The Bridgeport Report: Week 27
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (36-29-5-3), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, collected four points in as many games last week, but fell victim to a tough Atlantic Division for the second straight year and were mathematically eliminated from Calder Cup Playoff contention. Steve Bernier (two goals, two assists) and Josh Ho-Sang (four assists) led the way with four points each, while rookie defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel also scored twice.
The Sound Tigers opened the week with their annual Spring Fun 102 school-day game on Tuesday morning, and captured a 3-2 win against the Providence Bruins in front of 7,451 electric fans at Webster Bank Arena. Travis St. Denis netted the game-winner midway through the third period, while Casey Bailey and Kellen Jones also beat goaltender Dan Vladar. Ho-Sang added two assists and Eamon McAdam (5-2-0) made 23 saves between the pipes.
On Friday, Vande Sompel scored twice for the first time in his pro career and veterans Bernier and Ben Holmstrom also found the back of the cage as the Sound Tigers hit the 80-point plateau with a 4-3 win against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Ho-Sang and Ryan Bourque added two assists each in Bridgeport's third straight win, and Christopher Gibson (19-11-3) made 25 saves in his return to the Sound Tigers' crease – his first AHL action since a 22-save shutout on Feb. 18.
Despite the late-season success, Bridgeport saw its playoff hopes come to an end on Saturday in a 4-2 loss to the Bruins in front of 4,658 fans at Webster Bank Arena. Ryan Hitchcock and Jeff Kubiak each scored for the Sound Tigers, while Providence received four goals from four different skaters. It marked the conclusion of their 12-game season series, with each team winning six of the dozen meetings. The Sound Tigers went 6-5-1-0 against Providence in 2017-18.
Bridgeport capped its weekend on Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, despite firing 43 shots at goaltender Anthony Peters at Webster Bank Arena. Only Bernier and John Stevens found the back of the cage as Bridgeport fell to 2-6-0-1 when guiding at least 40 shots on target this season. Peters (11-7-3) made 41 saves in his first appearance since March 18 for the Penguins.
The Islanders' top affiliate will complete its regular season with a trio of games this weekend, beginning Friday in Allentown, Penn. The Sound Tigers will face the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (45-19-5-5) at PPL Center before traveling down I-78 to meet the Hershey Bears (29-36-4-5) at Giant Center on Saturday. Bridgeport's season finale will take place at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday evening against the Charlotte Checkers (44-26-1-3). 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, Apr. 13 at Lehigh Valley Phantoms (7:05 p.m.) – The Sound Tigers make their final trip to PPL Center on Friday to meet the Atlantic Division's top team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Bridgeport is 1-4-2-0 against Lehigh Valley this season, but earned a 3-2 win in its last visit to Allentown, Penn. on Mar. 9. Travis St. Denis, Steve Bernier and Parker Wotherspoon all scored that night, while Kristers Gudlevskis made an impressive 38 saves on 40 shots.
Saturday, Apr. 14 at Hershey Bears (7 p.m.) – Bridgeport and Hershey complete their six-game series on Saturday at Giant Center. The Sound Tigers are 4-1-0-0 against the Bears thus far, including a 6-4 win on Mar. 28, in which John Stevens recorded a career-high two goals and three points at Webster Bank Arena. However, Hershey took the last matchup in Chocolate Town on Mar. 16 when Anthony Peluso deposited the game-winner in the final 4:42. Peluso has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last two games against Bridgeport.
Sunday, Apr. 15 vs. Charlotte Checkers (5 p.m.) – The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena on Sunday for their season finale against Charlotte at 5 p.m. It's also First Responders Night, with tributes to local police, fire and rescue squads throughout the game. Help honor and support these organizations through a discounted ticket offer, which gives back a portion of proceeds to these and other first responders groups. This ticket offer must be purchased through the link prior to 5 p.m. on Friday.
News and notes:
Captain's Climb: Third-year captain Ben Holmstrom has played 225 consecutive games with Bridgeport dating back to the start of 2015-16 – the longest active streak in the AHL. In fact, Holmstrom is expected to pass Sean Bentivoglio (2007-10) for eighth place on the Sound Tigers' all-time games played list over the weekend (226). The 31-year-old recently passed Scott Mayfield for ninth place with his 223rd appearance last Friday. Holmstrom has 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) and 85 penalty minutes in 73 games this year, and is quietly having his best goal-scoring season since 2013-14. He is also one of just three skaters to play in every game for Bridgeport this season (Casey Bailey and Seth Helgeson).
Bernier's Bold Season: Steve Bernier has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last eight games and has moved up to fourth on the team in scoring. Even better, Bernier's 34 points (20 goals, 14 assists) in 60 games equal his second-best season in either the NHL or AHL, behind his rookie campaign with the Cleveland Barons in 2005-06 (20 goals, 23 assists). The veteran of 637 NHL games and 178 AHL contests is one goal shy of setting a new career high.
Back in Bridgeport: Tanner Fritz returned to the Sound Tigers on Sunday and recorded three shots in his first AHL action since Jan. 27. Fritz played 34 games with the New York Islanders this season, including his NHL debut on Jan. 2 against the Boston Bruins, and scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 19 against the Minnesota Wild. In the AHL, the third-year forward leads Bridgeport in assists (27) and paced the team in scoring for much of the year. He currently ranks third with 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) in 34 games. Fritz was also named to the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic in January, but was unable to attend due to his first call-up with the Islanders.
Quick Hits: Christopher Gibson was returned by the Islanders on Apr. 3 and will pass Dieter Kochan (2003-05) for fourth place on the Sound Tigers' all-time games played list among goalies with his next appearance (85)… The Sound Tigers have outscored opponents 9-1 at 4-on-4 play this season (excluding empty-netters)… Bridgeport is 23-24-0-2 when outshooting opponents, but 13-4-0-1 when outshot… Islanders' seventh-round draft pick in 2016 (#200) David Quenneville is expected to make his professional debut with the Sound Tigers this weekend, becoming the 39th player to dress for Bridgeport in 2017-18… Quenneville led all Western Hockey League (WHL) defensemen in goals (26) and points (80) with the Medicine Hat Tigers this season.
Atlantic Division Standings:
1. Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 74 GP, (45-19-5-5) = 100 PTS – Clinched playoff berth
2. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins: 73 GP, (43-22-6-2) = 94 PTS – Clinched playoff berth
3. Providence Bruins: 73 GP, (43-25-3-2) = 91 PTS – Clinched playoff berth
4. Charlotte Checkers: 74 GP, (44-26-1-3) = 92 PTS – Clinched playoff berth
5. Bridgeport Sound Tigers: 73 GP, (36-29-5-3) = 80 PTS – Eliminated
6. Hartford Wolf Pack: 74 GP, (32-33-6-3) = 73 PTS – Eliminated
7. Springfield Thunderbirds: 73 GP, (32-34-5-2) = 71 PTS – Eliminated
8. Hershey Bears: 74 GP, (29-36-4-5) = 67 PTS – Eliminated
Games played: Ben Holmstrom, Casey Bailey, Seth Helgeson (73)
Goals: Travis St. Denis (23)
Assists: Tanner Fritz (27)
Points: Travis St. Denis (43)
Plus/minus: Kyle Burroughs (+18)
Penalty minutes: Seth Helgeson (121)
Power-play goals: Travis St. Denis (11)
Shots: Casey Bailey (202)
The New York Islanders (35-37-10) won three straight games to end their 2017-18 season, including a 4-3 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. John Tavares scored just over three minutes into the extra session as the Islanders rallied back in their first-ever trip to Little Caesars Arena in the Motor City. Former Sound Tigers Ryan Pulock and Anders Lee also found the score sheet, with the latter completing his first career 40-goal season, which led the team. Rookie sensation Mathew Barzal paced the Islanders in points (85) and assists (63), both of which also led all first-year players in the National Hockey League.
The Worcester Railers H.C. (37-27-4-4) caught fire near the end of the regular season, winning six of their last seven games to clinch a spot in the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Railers will open the postseason on Friday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Adirondack Thunder at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, N.Y. (best-of-seven first round series). Worcester was led in scoring by forward Barry Almeida during the regular season (22 goals, 39 assists, 61 points), while former Sound Tiger Chris Langkow was second (18 goals, 27 assists, 45 points).
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About the Bridgeport Sound Tigers
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