Sound Tigers Face Hartford in Final Game of 2019Dec 31, 2019
THE STORY COMING IN
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-16-4-1) face the Hartford Wolf Pack (18-8-2-5) tonight in their final game of the decade, dropping the puck at 5 p.m. inside the XL Center. The Sound Tigers enter the contest on a three-game unbeaten in regulation streak (2-0-1-0) following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Springfield Thunderbirds at home. Kieffer Bellows scored all three goals for his first professional hat trick to help the Sound Tigers bounce back from a pair of third-period deficits. Between the pipes, Jakub Skarek (3-5-1) made 29 saves on 33 shots in his 10th AHL outing. Bridgeport begins a season-long five-game road trip tonight, which runs through Jan. 10.
TIGERS VS. WOLF PACK
Tonight's matchup is the fifth of 12 meetings between the Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack this season, and the third of six in Hartford. The New York Rangers' affiliate took each of the first three games, but Bridgeport responded with its biggest win of the year last Friday in a 5-1 victory at Webster Bank Arena. Andrew Ladd scored twice just hours after being returned on loan by the Islanders, while Kieffer Bellows added one of his team-leading 13 goals this season. Otto Koivula also had a team-high three points (three assists) and Jared Coreau (5-8-1) made 30 saves. The Sound Tigers last trip to Hartford ended in a 4-1 loss on Oct. 26.
VIEW FROM HARTFORD
The Wolf Pack have been strong since the beginning the season and are currently tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with the Providence Bruins (43 points). However, Hartford's win percentage is best in the division (.652) following a 4-1 victory against the Providence Bruins on Saturday. Phil Di Giuseppe, Vitali Kravtsov, Matt Beleskey and Tim Gettinger each found the back of the net, Yegor Rykov and Boo Nieves had two assists, and goalie Igor Shesterkin made 30 saves. A fourth-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2014, Shesterkin leads the AHL in GAA (1.98), is tied for second in wins (13), ranks third in shutouts (3) and fourth in save percentage (.932). Offensively, Vinni Lettieri leads the club with 24 points (11g, 13a) and is fourth in the AHL in power-play goals (seven).
MAN ON A MISSION
Kieffer Bellows has 12 goals in his last 13 games and nine in his last eight, including his first pro hat trick on Saturday. In addition, Bellows has scored in six straight home games dating back to Nov. 29 (the longest active and overall streak in the AHL). The Islanders' 19th overall pick in 2016 leads Bridgeport in goals (13), shots (86), is tied for first in power-play goals (2) and ranks third in points (16). He is still looking to make his NHL debut.
RIGHT WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Fourth-year forward Josh Ho-Sang has earned a point in three straight games (three assists) since joining the Sound Tigers earlier this month. He reported to the club on Dec. 17 and has helped Bridgeport to a 2-0-1-0 record since his season debut on Dec. 21. Ho-Sang ended the 2018-19 regular season with six points in the final six games (1g, 5a) and had one goal and one assist in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. He agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Islanders on Aug. 19, 2019.
WAHLSTROM IN WJC
Quincy, Massachusetts native Oliver Wahlstrom was reassigned to USA Hockey by the New York Islanders on Dec. 17 in advance of the 2020 World Junior Championships. Wahlstrom, 19, recorded nine points (3g, 6a) in 20 games with the Sound Tigers this season and also played nine games with the Islanders, including his NHL debut on Oct. 14 against St. Louis. He has four points (1g, 3a) in three WJC games so far, helping Team USA advance to the quarterfinals. Wahlstrom had one assist in Monday's 4-3 win against Czech.
Andrew Ladd has five goals in his last four AHL games, including tallies in three straight from Dec. 14 - Dec. 27... He is three games away from his 1,000th professional contest... Bridgeport's penalty kill is 13-for-13 over its last five outings... The Sound Tigers have scored three times in a period during each of their last two games, and five times overall this season... Sebastian Aho leads the team in points (19) and is tied for 12th among AHL defensemen in scoring... Kyle Burroughs will tie Steven Regier (2004-08) for third place on the Sound Tigers all-time games played list tonight (290).
NHL: New York Islanders (24-10-3) - Next: Today at Washington Capitals, 1 p.m. ET
ECHL: Worcester Railers (10-19-1-0) - Next: Today at Newfoundland Growlers, 2:30 p.m. ET