John Stevens scored twice on Friday to guide the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (10-14-3-1), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, to a 4-3 victory against the Utica Comets (15-9-1-2) at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Kieffer Bellows also netted his fifth goal in the last seven outings with the eventual game winner, while Travis St. Denis’ power-play marker in the first period snapped Bridgeport’s 0-for-32 stretch on the power play.
The win moved the Sound Tigers to 2-1-0-0 against the Comets this season and ended Bridgeport’s three-game winless in regulation slide overall.
Bridgeport took control early with three goals in the opening period to set the tone. St. Denis capitalized at the 10:21 mark when he skated to the doorstep and finished Nick Schilkey’s centering feed from behind the goal line. His fourth tally of the season came on the power play following Utica’s bench minor for too many men on the ice. With an assist, Schilkey extended his scoring streak to four games (3g, 1a) and set up Bridgeport’s first goal on the man advantage since Nov. 23.
Stevens made it 2-0 nearly four minutes later with his first goal since Nov. 24 and his second of the year. Colin McDonald directed the puck above the right circle, where Kyle Burroughs sent a shot towards the net that Stevens deflected in front at 14:40. McDonald is now on a five-game scoring streak (5a), tied for the team’s longest this year.
Less than two minutes later, Stevens added another one shorthanded – the Sound Tigers’ first shorthanded goal of the season. He stole the puck in the neutral zone and darted straight at Zane McIntyre before sliding a backhand shot under the goalie’s pads at 16:40.
Utica got one back at the 18:24 mark courtesy of Reid Boucher’s league-leading 19th goal, which also extended his scoring streak to nine games. Brogan Rafferty sprung Sven Baertschi down the right wing and the latter sent a backhand pass, cross ice, to Boucher at the left post. The sixth-year forward raced towards the feed and buried a one-timer past Jared Coreau’s blocker to make it 3-1.
The Sound Tigers were outshot 10-7 in the second period, but netted the only goal of the frame when Bellows muscled his way to the crease and finished a miraculous effort. After finishing up a holding minor, Sebastian Aho emerged from the box and bumped a pass to Bellows, who moved down the right wing and cut towards the crease. He lowered his shoulder and forced a lane before pushing a forehand shot in while flying through the air. It was Bellows’ sixth goal of the season, good for second-most on the club.
The Comets made things stressful with two power-play goals in the third period to pull within one. Jonah Gadjovich snapped home a perfectly-placed shot above Coreau’s reaching glove at the 7:39 mark, in the dying seconds of Bellows’ penalty for cross-checking. It’s the 14th straight game that the Comets have scored a power-play goal.
Carter Camper made it 4-3 in the final three minutes with another goal on the man advantage. He skated down the right wing and sniped a shot from a sharp angle for his third of the season. However, the Comets couldn’t pull back even despite bringing McIntyre to the bench for an extra attacker. Stevens nearly completed a hat trick after a takeaway in the neutral zone, but his shot hit the outside of the net.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 1-for-4 on the power play and 3-for-5 on the penalty kill. Coreau (3-7-1) had 31 saves on 34 shots, while McIntyre made 19 stops.
Utica outshot Bridgeport 34-23.