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The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (14-7-3-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, edged the Hartford Wolf Pack (11-10-1-2) for the second time this season in a close, 2-1 victory on Wednesday night at the Webster Bank Arena.
Chris Bourque, who scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period, and Otto Koivula each found the back of the net for Bridgeport, while Sebastian Aho dished out two assists. In net, Jeremy Smith (7-4-1) was stellar and backstopped the hard-fought effort with 25 saves on 26 shots.
With the victory, the Sound Tigers snapped Hartford's four-game win streak and climbed to within three points of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Charlotte Checkers (35 points). It also extended Bridgeport's unbeaten in regulation streak at Webster Bank Arena to 12 games (9-0-2-1) – one shy of the franchise record.
Despite a scoreless first period, the Connecticut rivalry contained high-paced action from the get-go. The opening frame featured 19 total shots on target, but each one was stopped. Smith's best save came midway through the period when he moved laterally, from left to right, and stayed with Bobby Butler's breakaway opportunity, while Georgiev flashed the leather on Aho after Josh Ho-Sang made an impressive cross-ice pass.
The Sound Tigers inched closer to breaking the stalemate in the early parts of the second period, beginning with Yannick Rathgeb's near highlight-reel tally. The defenseman entered the zone and danced past Hartford's defense, but hit the post with a backhander less than five minutes in.
After a fight between Ryan Bourque and Peter Holland at the 12:05 mark, Bridgeport gained some momentum and finally found the scoresheet at 15:49.
Kyle Burroughs ripped a long shot from the point that generated a rebound out front. Koivula tracked it, then knocked the puck out of mid-air and into the back of the net to give the Sound Tigers a 1-0 lead. Since switching to center on Nov. 25 against Springfield, Koivula now has five points (three goals, two assists) in five games.
Less than two minutes later, the Wolf Pack responded and evened the score at the 17:26 mark when Boo Nieves netted his third goal of the season. John Gilmour set it up with a crisp cross-ice feed from the right corner to the slot, where Nieves guided home the game-tying goal.
The Sound Tigers almost earned a 2-1 lead early in the third period when Dal Colle picked up Koivula's rebound and sent it past Georgiev, however, the goal was overturned due to a kicking motion. Shortly after, Rob O'Gara (interference) and Chris Bigras (slashing) each took a penalty for Hartford, while Rathgeb was called for embellishment to put Bridgeport on a 4-on-3 power play.
On the man advantage, Bourque initially hit the post with a one-timer before he converted seconds later to make it 2-1. Bourque wired a textbook one-timer right past Georgiev's ear from the top of the right circle, which gave Bridgeport the lead at 9:59. Bourque's goal is his sixth of the season and first since Nov. 23 - the last meeting between these two teams.
The Sound Tigers outshot the Wolf Pack 12-3 in the third period and Smith stood tall in the final minute of play, denying Hartford's comeback effort at 6-on-4 strength. Georgiev was pulled for an extra attacker and Kyle Burroughs was called for slashing at 18:08.
The Sound Tigers went 1-for-3 on the power play, were a perfect 4-on-4 on the penalty kill, and outshot Hartford 31-26.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday and face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with a 3:05 p.m. matchup at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Fans can 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 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]