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Josh Ho-Sang tied a franchise record with five points and scored his first professional hat trick on Sunday, helping the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (30-18-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, defeat the league-leading Charlotte Checkers (34-14-6-1) in a 7-3 victory at Webster Bank Arena.
The Sound Tigers (67 points) scored six unanswered goals to recover from an early deficit and now sit eight points behind the Checkers (75 points) in the Atlantic Division. Bridgeport's seven-goal performance was its most tallies in a game since Nov. 3 when the team beat Binghamton 7-3. Six Sound Tigers – Ho-Sang, Andrew Ladd, Thomas Hickey, Sebastian Aho, Matt Lorito and Steve Bernier – registered a multi-point game on Sunday.
Between the pipes, Christopher Gibson (16-9-4) made 25 saves on 28 shots en route to his fifth consecutive win, while Callum Booth (4-2-1) stopped 26 of 32 shots for Charlotte.
Bridgeport surrendered the game's first goal for the third consecutive contest when Nick Schilkey scored his 11th of the season at 9:22 of the opening period. After Julien Gauthier chipped a puck out of his team's own end and into the Sound Tigers' zone, Schilkey beat out Mitch Vande Sompel for possession and slid a backhander past Gibson's blocker side.
The Checkers extended their lead to 2-0 early in the middle frame courtesy of Dan Renouf's second goal of the season. Renouf found Zach Nastasiuk's rebound in the slot and tucked it under Gibson's pad at 1:45.
Both teams traded tallies in the following seven minutes of play. First, John Stevens put Bridgeport on the board and cut its deficit in half at 3:49 of the second. After Booth struggled to clear the puck out of his own zone, Bernier directed a shot on net for a rebound, which Stevens pounced on and made no mistake, potting his second goal of the season on the backhand.
Charlotte quickly regained its two-goal lead when Aleksi Saarela wristed a shot from the top of the right circle off Gibson's glove and into the net at 7:12.
The Sound Tigers answered with three consecutive goals in the next 10 minutes of play to take the lead for good. Hickey started the onslaught of scoring at 8:42, starting when Ho-Sang maintained puck possession and found Hickey at the blue line. Hickey created space in the slot with a fake a slap shot, then walked in and beat Booth five-hole for his second goal in as many games. It is the first time Hickey has scored in back-to-back games in his AHL career (213 games played).
Hickey continued to carry a hot hand when he set up Bernier's 17th goal of the season to tie the game at 3-3. After Lorito entered the zone, he dished a pass to Hickey on the left side, where he completed the tic-tac-toe passing play by threading a stellar back-door feed to Bernier, who tapped the puck home at 13:46.
Following Hickey's suit, Ladd jumped in on the action and picked up a primary assist on Aho's fifth goal of the season to give the Sound Tigers a 4-3 lead. Less than five minutes after Bernier tied the game, Aho took Ladd's pass at the top of the left circle and wired a shot on goal that hit Booth's glove, popped up in the air, and bounced in over the line.
The Sound Tigers continued their offensive explosion in the third period, via Ho-Sang's unique natural hat trick. The third-year pro was the benefactor of another marvelous passing play between Ladd and Hickey when he slammed home a one-timer from the left hash-mark at 7:38 to make it 5-3. His next goal was an empty netter, after the Checkers pulled Booth at 12:37 of the third period. The Sound Tigers then received a 5-on-3 power play opportunity at 17:08 and Ho-Sang capped off a 7-3 victory with a wrist shot from the left hash mark that found twine.
The Sound Tigers finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play and 0-for-1 on the penalty kill.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers take to the road next Friday, where they will face the Providence Bruins at 7:05 p.m. inside the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The game will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network and may be viewed live via AHLTV. Pre-game coverage is set to begin at 6:45 p.m.
Packed Promotional Lineup: The Sound Tigers boast one of their most extensive and wide-ranging promotional schedules ever for the 2018-19 season. The fan-friendly calendar includes the return of popular themes like Hockey and Hops (Mar. 17) and Princess Night (Mar. 30). Regional hockey fans will also be elated for the addition of Hockey Weekend in Connecticut (Feb. 23-24).
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]