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Josh Ho-Sang scored his second goal of the season 91 seconds into overtime on Sunday, pushing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-7-3-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, to a 5-4 victory against the Springfield Thunderbirds (12-6-1-2) at MassMutual Center.
It was Bridgeport's first win in Springfield since Mar. 29, 2017 – nine visits ago – and its third against the Thunderbirds this season (3-2-0-0). Otto Koivula scored twice in regulation and Jeremy Smith (6-4-1) made a season-high 34 saves, while Michael Dal Colle added two assists for the Sound Tigers.
With the win, Bridgeport snapped a two-game slide and remains second in the Atlantic Division standings, five points behind the first-place Charlotte Checkers.
Three of Bridgeport's five goals on Sunday afternoon occurred in the first period, as the Sound Tigers built an early 3-1 advantage and chased Chris Driedger from Springfield's crease just nine minutes in. Koivula began the scoring 3:34 into the game when he gathered a loose puck in the Thunderbirds' zone, circled to the high slot and sailed a long wrister towards the cage. His shot was deflected in front by Springfield's Riley Stillman and past Driedger's blocker to make it 1-0.
Tanner Fritz doubled the lead at the 9:00 mark when he cleaned up a rebound below the hash marks. Parker Wotherspoon created the opportunity with a slap shot in the neutral zone that Dridger kicked away, but the second chance angled right back in front and Fritz scored on a forehand shot under the goalie's left pad. It was Fritz's third goal of the season and first at even strength, which chased Driedger from the contest. Second-year netminder Samuel Montembeault was called upon in relief.
Springfield got one back at 12:05 of the first period when Jayce Hawryluk scored his fifth goal of the season, and third on the power play. With Travis St. Denis in the box for roughing, Joel Lowry threw the puck in front and created a scramble ahead of Smith. Bridgeport's goaltender battled for space but was nudged outside of his crease, and Hawryluk forced a shot into a half-open net from below the right hash mark. Despite an aggressive argument from Smith pleading for goaltender inference on the play, the tally stood and made it 2-1.
Yannick Rathgeb regained Bridgeport's two-goal advantage at the 14:41 mark with his second goal of the season, and first since Oct. 19. Mike Sislo directed a pass to the top of the right circle, where Rathgeb wound up and wired a slap shot over Montembeault's glove and in.
Koivula's second goal of the afternoon came just 49 seconds into the middle frame, expanding the Sound Tigers' lead to 4-1. Dal Colle found Ho-Sang near the left circle and the third-year forward guided a quick pass across the low slot to Koivula, where he tapped it home on the back side. It was Koivula's fifth goal of the season, while Ho-Sang now paces all AHL players with 20 assists.
Down by three, the Thunderbirds realized they needed a spark, and they got one shortly after from Hawryluk, who set up two of the next three goals to draw the contest back even. Hawryluk found Thomas Schemitsch above the right circle at the 2:01 mark, where Springfield's defenseman zipped a wrist shot inside the right post as Smith's stick was knocked out of his hands.
Less than eight minutes later, Blaine Byron closed the gap to 4-3 with another power-play goal following Sebastian Aho's tripping penalty. Byron settled Sebastian Repo's feed at the right post and he narrowly tucked home a forehand shot from close range. It was Byron's sixth goal of the season at the 9:50 mark.
The Thunderbirds completed their three-goal response at 19:23 of the second when Stillman scored his first professional goal. The defenseman stepped into a slap shot at the blue line and drove an opportunity through Repo's screen and past Smith's blocker.
The Sound Tigers outshot the T-Birds 12-9 in the third period and killed off four separate Springfield power plays, but neither team converted late, which sent the game to overtime. That's where Ho-Sang took charge and became the hero of the night, scoring the game-winning goal on a breakaway. Dal Colle angled the puck through center and ahead of a charging Ho-Sang, who got in behind Springfield' defense and skated straight at Montembeault. He came to an abrupt stop at the doorstep, cut left-to-right, and swept the puck in for the 5-4 final.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play and 5-for-7 on the penalty kill. Springfield outshot Bridgeport 38-29 - which tied the most shots the Sound Tigers have allowed in a game this season - while the contest also included one tilt when Scott Eansor fought Stillman at 7:13 of the second period.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers face the Hartford Wolf Pack at 7 p.m. this Wednesday when they return to Webster Bank Arena. Take advantage of a “3-2-1” concession special throughout the evening, featuring $1 hot dogs, $2 boxes of popcorn, and $3 bottled Pepsi products. Fans can also follow all of the live action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pre-game show at 2:45 p.m.
Packed Promotional Lineup: The Sound Tigers will 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 ComiCONN Night (Dec. 1), Hockey and Hops (Mar. 17), Military Appreciation (Jan. 12), Star Wars Night (Jan. 19) and Princess Night (Mar. 30). Regional hockey fans will be elated for the addition of Hockey Weekend in Connecticut (Feb. 23-24), while another new headliner includes Holiday Gift Weekend (Dec. 15-16).
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]