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Michael Dal Colle scored the shootout winner in his return to Webster Bank Arena on Saturday, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (32-18-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, won their third straight game in a 4-3 victory against the Springfield Thunderbirds (22-23-6-5).
It was also Bridgeport's 14th win beyond regulation and its 35th one-goal outcome this season, which both lead the AHL. Connor Jones had his first multi-point night this season (one goal, one assist), while both Ryan and Chris Bourque added tallies for the Sound Tigers. On the other end, the Thunderbirds received goals from three separate scorers and Paul Thompson recorded a game-high two assists.
Between the pipes, Jeremy Smith (16-9-3) made 28 saves on 31 shots in regulation and denied all three Thunderbirds in the shootout. Springfield's Samuel Montembeault stopped 42 shots in the loss.
With the win, the Sound Tigers extended their point streak to seven games (6-0-1-0) and remain second in the Atlantic Division (71 points), just eight points behind league-leading Charlotte (79 points).
An energized Bridgeport team came out of the gate keen on creating offense from the moment the puck was dropped. Although early scoring chances were all met by Montembeault, the Sound Tigers broke the ice when Ryan Bourque scored his fourth goal of the season at 8:24. The chance started at Bridgeport's blue line where Mitch Vande Sompel banked a pass off the near boards to a Bourque. With the puck, Bourque took a stride, loaded and fired a wrist shot under Montembeault's glove to make it 1-0.
Just 2:40 into the second period, Yannick Rathgeb mixed it up with Dryden Hunt, but received an extra roughing penalty, on top of the two matching roughing penalties assessed on the play. It gave the Thunderbirds a power play, but the Sound Tigers scored on the ensuing penalty kill and doubled their lead with a shorthanded tally.
At 5-on-4, Jones carried the puck out of Bridgeport's zone, put on the brakes at the right hash marks, and rifled a wrist shot past Montembeault, with traffic in front. It was his sixth goal of the season. Jones' marker was Bridgeport's third shorthanded goal of the season.
The Sound Tigers extended their lead six minutes later when Travis St. Denis and Chris Bourque connected on a one-timer that made it a 3-0 contest. St. Denis controlled the puck below the goal line before he found Bourque alone in the slot, who slapped home his 12th goal of the season. The goal also increases Bourque's team lead in points to 43.
With nearly seven minutes left in the second period, Seth Helgeson and Ryan Horvat dropped the gloves following some shoving in the corner. Following the tilt, the Thunderbirds scored their first of three consecutive tallies exactly one second after the puck was dropped. Thompson won a faceoff in the left circle directly to Hunt, who one-timed a shot past Smith to make it 3-1 at 13:04.
Springfield continued its scoring at 4:52 into the third period when Harry Zolnierczyk scored his 11th of the season following a boarding penalty against Kyle Burroughs to cut the deficit to 3-2. On the Thunderbirds' second power play, Zolnierczyk caught a pass from Jacob McDonald at the top of the left circle and snapped a shot off the post and in.
Then, at 12:35, the Thunderbirds found the equalizer off a deflection. With traffic in front of Smith, Chris Wideman threw a puck on net from just below the blue line, that was tipped home by Matt Marcinew, which made it a 3-3 contest.
While the Sound Tigers had a 12-11 edge in shots on goal at the end of the period, both teams had quality chances to take a late lead, but were denied by the keepers in the crease. First, Smith shot out his blocker to stop Ludwig Bystrom at point blank range with 3:44. Then at the other end, Montembeault robbed Ryan Bourque at the doorstep after Scott Eansor dished a centering pass on a 2-on-1 with 2:17 left in the third.
As regulation's final horn sounded, the score remained knotted at 3-3. Bridgeport played beyond 60 minutes for the 21st time this season.
During the high-paced overtime, neither team was able to score, but St. Denis had the best opportunity with two minutes left when he took a wide-open slap shot from the slot that Montembeault kicked aside. Dal Colle scored the only goal of the shootout on a backhand-to-forehand move that fooled Montembeault. Smith sealed Bridgeport's 32nd win when he stayed patient and poked the puck away from Bystrom.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 1-for-2 on the penalty kill, 0-for-4 on the power play, and outshot the Thunderbirds 46-31. It was the most shots Bridgeport has had in a game this season.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers complete the final game of a 3-in-3 weekend tomorrow afternoon at Webster Bank Arena when they face the Hershey Bears at 3 p.m. It's also Hockey Weekend in Connecticut featuring a Christopher Gibson bobblehead giveaway to the first 2,500 fans, presented by Newtown Savings Bank! The game will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network and may be viewed live via AHLTV. Pre-game coverage will begin at 2:45 p.m.
Packed Promotional Lineup: The Sound Tigers 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 also be elated for the addition of Hockey Weekend in Connecticut (Feb. 23-24).
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]