Sound Tigers Battle Checkers Tonight at 7 p.m.Mar 27, 2019
THE STORY COMING IN
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (39-20-6-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, look to push their points streak at home to 11 straight games when they battle the Charlotte Checkers (44-15-7-1) in the first of two straight matchups this week. Tonight's 7 p.m. game continues a season-long, eight-game homestand for the Sound Tigers and is the first of six in a row against Atlantic Division opponents.
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LAST TIME OUT
Last time out, Bridgeport earned a 4-1 win against the AHL's second-best team, the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday night, led by Chris Bourque's fourth three-point effort this season (one goal, two assists). Travis St. Denis, Parker Wotherspoon and Otto Koivula also scored, while former Checker Jeremy Smith made 30 saves en route to his 20th victory of the year. The Sound Tigers are 9-0-1-0 in their last 10 home games and have lowered their magic number to seven - points needed to secure a berth in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. That number could become three with a win and a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton regulation loss tonight.
TIGERS VS. CHECKERS
Tonight's tilt marks the seventh of eight meetings between the Sound Tigers and Checkers this season, and the third of four matchups at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport is 3-3-0-0 against Charlotte so far, but 2-0-0-0 at home including a 7-3 win in their last contest on Feb. 17. Josh Ho-Sang scored his first professional hat trick and recorded a career-high five points (two goal, three assists) - tying a franchise record - that afternoon. Tonight's game features another head-to-head installment of the top two teams in the Atlantic Division.
VIEW FROM CHARLOTTE
Charlotte leads the AHL with 96 points in 67 games (.716) and became the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season. In addition, the Checkers are on a three-game win streak and seven-game point streak (6-0-1-0) following a 6-2 victory against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday. Aleksi Saarela scored twice and four others had multiple points, while Dustin Tokarski made 24 saves in his third game with Charlotte (3-0-0) after he was traded from the Philadelphia Flyers organization in February. Andrew Poturalski leads Charlotte and is fourth in the AHL with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists) in 67 games, while Alex Nedeljkovic leads all goaltenders in wins (31), minutes (2,622) and is fourth in goals-against-average (2.29). The Checkers open a three-game road trip tonight.
SMITH STANDING TALL
Jeremy Smith has stopped 124 of the 129 shots he’s faced over his last four games, including 30 saves on Sunday against the league’s third-best offense. He also made a season-high 40 saves against Toronto on Mar. 10 and earned a 29-save shutout against Springfield on Mar. 17. The 10th-year netminder has won six of his last eight decisions since Feb. 22, with a 1.21 goals-against-average and .961 save percentage in his last four starts. Smith, who signed a two-way (NHL/AHL) contract for the remainder of the season on Feb. 24, leads Bridgeport with 20 victories in 38 appearances this season, which is tied for fifth on the team’s all-time single-season wins list.
WINNING AT WEBSTER
Six of the team’s final nine games will take place at Webster Bank Arena, where the Sound Tigers have won nine of their last 10 since early February. In addition, Bridgeport leads all AHL teams in winning percentage at home (78.1%) as it continues an eight-game homestand against Charlotte tonight. The Sound Tigers have not lost at home since a 7-5 setback to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Feb. 1.
LEADING THE WAY
Chris Bourque recorded his ninth multi-point effort of the season on Sunday and improved his scoring total to a team-best 51 points in 2018-19. He also leads the Sound Tigers in assists (36), shots (155), power-play points (19), game-winning goals (5) and shootout goals (4). Bourque is attempting to lead his AHL club in scoring for the fourth time in the last five years and remains the AHL’s all-time active leading scorer (21st all-time) with 743 career points – one behind Fred Thurier (1937-52) for 20th place.
Steve Bernier is second in the AHL in shooting percentage (25.3%)… Otto Koivula is tied for fourth among AHL rookies with 18 goals and tied for sixth in scoring (43 points)… Sebastian Aho is tied for 10th among league defensemen with 40 points (seven goals, 34 assists)… Miami University (Ohio) product Grant Hutton signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the New York Islanders last Thursday and also agreed to terms on an ATO with the Sound Tigers... He joined Bridgeport late last week and is expected to make his professional debut tonight.
NHL: New York Islanders (44-26-7) - Next: Tomorrow at Winnipeg Jets (8 p.m. ET)
ECHL: Worcester Railers (30-26-6-4) - Next: Saturday vs. Brampton Beast (7:05 p.m. ET)
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