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Christopher Gibson (17-9-4) made 25 saves and was less than a minute away from his second shutout of the season on Sunday, helping the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (33-18-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, win their fifth straight game and defeat the Hershey Bears (31-21-0-3) by a 5-1 final at Webster Bank Arena.
It matches Bridgeport's longest winning streak of the season and extended its point streak to eight games (7-0-1-0). The Sound Tigers also snapped Hershey's 11-game win streak and its franchise-record 17-game point streak, dating back to Jan. 11.
Steve Bernier, Travis St. Denis, Matt Lorito and Michael Dal Colle all scored once and added at least one assist, while Hershey's lone goal came from Juuso Ikonen at 19:14 of the third period.
With the victory, the Sound Tigers closed to within six points of the first-place Charlotte Checkers (73 points in 58 games).
The Sound Tigers enjoyed a power play just 3:22 into the game after Ben Holmstrom took a hit from Nathan Walker, which drew an interference call. Midway through the man-advantage, St. Denis set up at the blue line and fed the puck to Bernier cutting down the right wing, which set up the scoring opportunity. Bernier took a stride towards the net and found Dal Colle streaking to the net, who tapped home a one-timer at the doorstep for his 17th goal of the season. The tally was Dal Colle's first since being loaned from the Islanders last Tuesday, and his first AHL goal since Dec. 21 at Charlotte.
The Sound Tigers doubled their lead at 16:41 of the first period when Chris Bourque scored his 13th of the season on a delayed penalty. With six attackers on the ice, Tanner Fritz created space at the right point and dished a cross-ice feed to Bourque, who cranked a slap shot over Vitek Vanecek's left shoulder. Bourque's marker was his second against his former team this season and extended his goal-scoring streak to three straight games.
Early in the second period, Seth Helgeson dropped the gloves for the second time in as many games when he and Liam O'Brien took center stage in the neutral zone to square off in an old-school-style bout. While neither definitely won the fight, it proved to be a catalyst for the Sound Tigers, as they extended their lead to 3-0 in the following minutes.
At 7:15, Bernier directed a shot on net that evaded Vanecek and hit the post. On the rebound, Lorito was in prime position in front to shovel the puck into a near-empty net for his second goal of the season. Since returning from injury on Feb. 10, Lorito has points in all five games this season (two goals, five assists).
St. Denis added Bridgeport's fourth goal on the power play at 10:42 into the middle frame. Following puck movement on the man advantage, Mitch Vande Sompel and Dal Colle connected on a one-timer, before St. Denis pounced on the rebound and found twine between Vanecek's five-hole for his 13th of the season.
Hershey controlled offensive-zone pressure in the final minute of the second period, but Gibson stood tall and made perhaps his best save of the night on O'Brien's point-blank one-timer in the slot, to keep the game 4-0 heading into the third.
The Sound Tigers scored their fifth goal of the contest on a strange play in front of Hershey's net at the 14:18 mark. Parker Wotherspoon's point shot generated a rebound in the crease, where Bernier backhanded the puck just past the goal line. It was initially ruled no goal, but after video review, Bernier was awarded his team-leading 18th of the season and fifth point on the 3-in-3 weekend (two goals, three assists).
Gibson continued his stellar play in the final frame of regulation, where he stopped 11 of 12 shots directed his way - most notably when he moved laterally and denied Jayson Megna's one-timer off his mask.
Hershey spoiled Gibson's shutout bid when Ikonen banged home his fourth goal of the season following a scramble in the crease to end the game at 5-1.
The Sound Tigers finished the contest 2-for-4 on the power play and 5-for-6 on the penalty kill. Both teams registered 26 shots apiece.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to action next Saturday with a 7 p.m. rematch against the Bears at Giant Center in Hershey, Penn. The game will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network and may be viewed live via AHLTV. Pre-game coverage will begin at 6:45 p.m.
For additional details or to reserve a group outing for any giveaway or theme night, please call the Sound Tigers' front office at (203) 345-2300 ext 7.
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 [email protected]