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Otto Koivula stayed hot Saturday afternoon and scored for a third straight game, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (14-8-3-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, allowed three goals in the third period and suffered a 3-1 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (11-10-3-1) at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Koivula, the Islanders' fourth-round draft choice in 2016, has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in his last 15 games and four goals in his last three. He has quickly climbed to third on the team in goal-scoring behind Steve Bernier (10) and Michael Dal Colle (nine). Sebastian Aho and Chris Bourque both assisted on Bridgeport's lone tally, while Jeremy Smith (7-5-1) stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced.
Jeff Taylor, Ethan Prow and Teddy Blueger each scored at even strength for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who entered Saturday's contest seventh in the Atlantic Division standings.
The Sound Tigers outshot the Penguins 10-5 in the opening period and became just the second team in the Eastern Conference to score 30 first-period goals when Koivula broke the ice on the power play. Following a high-sticking penalty to Adam Johnson late in the opening frame, Aho and Bourque played catch near the high slot. Bourque, on the left side, returned a pass to Aho at the point, where the defenseman wound up and hammered a slap shot that Koivula deflected between the circles. It sailed past Anthony Peters' blocker at the 17:12 mark to make it 1-0.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton controlled much of the second period and outshot the Sound Tigers 17-8 in the frame, but Smith and Peters remained tough and took a goaltender's duel into the third. That's where the Penguins earned the win, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton kept the pressure on and took charge with two early goals in a span of 74 seconds.
Taylor tied the game at 1-1 with his first AHL goal in the opening two minutes. Will O'Neill gathered Sam Lafferty's pass at the left point and guided a cross-ice feed to Taylor on the right side, where he unleashed a heavy slap shot over Smith's reaching glove and into Bridgeport's cage at 1:47.
Prow followed up with his seventh goal of the season at the 3:01 mark to give the Penguins their first lead of the afternoon. Lafferty collected his second assist when he skated to the high slot and wristed a shot on target, which Smith kicked back with an initial save. The rebound angled to the doorstep and Prow swooped in, and swept a backhand shot across the goal line to make it 2-1.
The Penguins nearly widened the gap with less than eight minutes remaining, as Joseph Cramarossa charged the net and Ryan Haggerty forced home the rebound, but Cramarossa barreled into Smith and goaltender inference was called. Instead, the game remained 2-1 inside the final two minutes when Bridgeport pulled Smith for the sixth attacker. Despite a few shot attempts, the Sound Tigers couldn't generate many close calls and Blueger scored the Penguins' third unanswered goal with an empty-netter at 18:47.
Bridgeport finished the game 1-for-4 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, while the Penguins outshot the Sound Tigers, 32-22. Peters (6-3-2) backstopped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's victory with 21 saves.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers face the Providence Bruins on Friday, Dec. 14 with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Fans can follow all of the live action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m.
HOLIDAY GIFT WEEKEND: The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena next weekend for a doubleheader of holiday-hockey fun against two division rivals. Bridgeport will host the Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday at 7 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. matchup against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday. With the purchase of a ticket, you're automatically entered to win some of the biggest prize giveaways this season like a VIP suite to an upcoming game, Sound Tigers apparel, team signed items, or goodies from our local partners. In addition, take pictures with Santa and Ms. Claus during each game. Great seats are on sale now!
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]