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THE STORY COMING IN
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, open their 19th season this weekend with a pair of road games against the Springfield Thunderbirds (7:05 p.m. tonight) and Hartford Wolf Pack (Sunday, 3 p.m.). Bridgeport is looking to kick things off on a positive note after earning 95 points in 2018-19 - their best finish in a decade - and earning a spot in the 2019 Calder Cup playoffs. The Sound Tigers finished fifth overall in the AHL last season but dropped their first-round playoff series to the Hershey Bears in five games.
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TIGERS VS. T-BIRDS
Saturday's game is the first of 12 meetings between the Sound Tigers and Thunderbirds this season, and the first of six matchups in Massachusetts. Bridgeport dominated the series a year ago, going 7-3-0 against the T-Birds, but all three of its losses came at MassMutual Center, which has been a house of horrors over the last few years. The Sound Tigers are 2-9-0-0 in their last 11 trips to Springfield dating back to 2016-17.
VIEW FROM SPRINGFIELD
Geordie Kinnear's club begins its 2019-20 campaign tonight against Bridgeport and will look to rebound after missing the playoffs a year ago. The Thunderbirds return their top two goal-scorers and point-getters from last season, as AHL All-Star Anthony Greco (59 points) and captain Paul Thompson (53 points) headline the roster entering opening night. Greco led all AHL players in shots (267) last season and was a key part of the Thunderbirds power play, which led the league in 2018-19 (88 goals, 24.4%). Between the pipes, Chris Driedger returns for his second season in Springfield, while Philippe Desrosiers joins the club after signing a one-year, two-way deal with the Florida Panthers (parent club) in July. Former 10th-overall pick (2017) Owen Tippett is also a name to watch, entering his first full professional season.
TIGERS VS. WOLF PACK
Sunday’s game is the first of 12 meetings between the Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack this season, and the first of six matchups at the XL Center. Bridgeport went 6-2-1-1 against its in-state rival last season, which mostly featured nail-biters are eight of the 10 contests resulted in a one-goal outcome. Five of those matchups went to overtime.
VIEW FROM HARTFORD
The Wolf Pack brought up the rear of the Atlantic Division last season, but the team will look to turn things around in 2019-20 with a new head coach and revamped lineup. The parent club New York Rangers hired Kris Knoblauch as Hartford’s seventh coach in team history over the offseason, and also added key forwards Phil Di Giuseppe, Danny O’Regan and 19-year-old Vitali Kravtsv, the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Steven Fogarty is Hartford’s top returning point-scorer (54 points), while Vinni Lettieri is back after leading the club with 23 goals last season. The Wolf Pack open their 2019-20 campaign against the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday before facing Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon.
Despite some familiar faces returning to the team, the Sound Tigers' roster went through quite the overhaul during the offseason. Some of the new names on Bridgeport's opening-roster roster include: Nick Schilkey (defending Calder Cup champion with Charlotte), Simon Holmstrom (NY Islanders' 23rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft) and Jared Coreau (seventh-year goaltender previously with San Antonio, San Diego and Grand Rapids). In addition, NHL veteran defenseman Thomas Hickey cleared waivers and was assigned by the Islanders on Tuesday, while veteran forward Colin McDonald returns for his second tour in Bridgeport. McDonald was formerly the team's captain in 2012-13 prior to a four-year stint in Lehigh Valley.
Twenty-three players on the Sound Tigers' season-opening roster have previously worn the team's jersey in at least one regular-season game. That includes highly-touted center Otto Koivula, who is Bridgeport's top returning goal scorer. Koivula's 21 goals last season were not only second on the team overall, but it placed him fourth among all AHL rookies. On the blue line, Sebastian Aho returns for his third season in Bridgeport after another strong performance in 2018-19. The Islanders' fifth-round pick in 2017 had a team-leading 37 assists last year, which were also fifth-most among all AHL defensemen.
Travis St. Denis’ next game will be his 200th professional/AHL appearance - all with Bridgeport. The 27-year-old Quinnipiac University product has 107 points (52g, 55a) in 199 AHL games. He finished fourth on the club in goals (17), assists (26) and points (43) in 75 games last season.
Jared Coreau is expected to make his Sound Tigers debut tonight... Chris Gibson is third on the team's all-time wins list (66), three behind Kevin Poulin (2010-15)... Steve Bernier is tied for fifth on the club's all-time goals list (61), 10 behind Jeff Tambellini (2005-09)...Tanner Fritz is 10th on the all-time points list (129), one behind Justin Mapletoft (2001-05)... The Sound Tigers season-opening roster consists of six former first-round picks, 10 AHL rookies, five veterans, 4,814 games of combined AHL experience and 1,442 games of NHL experience... Brent Thompson returns for his seventh season as Sound Tigers head coach in 2019-20... Saturday is the 18th anniversary of the Sound Tigers' first game in team history (October 5, 2001).
NHL: New York Islanders (0-1-0) - Next: Sunday vs. WPG, 7 p.m. ET
ECHL: Worcester Railers (0-0-0-0) - Next: Season opener vs. ADK, October 12, 7:05 p.m. ET
Sound Tigers season tickets and flex plans are on sale now for the 2019-20 campaign, offering the greatest savings and ultimate flexibility of all ticket packages. Pick between a full-season, 20-game, or 10-game plan and you'll also be entitled to exclusive benefits, including the ticket holder exchange policy. Lock in your seats today by contacting Brad Dworin at 203-345-4813 or via [email protected].
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]. Follow the action all season long via www.soundtigers.com or by “liking” the Sound Tigers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.