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THE STORY COMING IN
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-20-4-1), American Hockey League of the New York Islanders, navigate their second straight three-in-three series this weekend with an eventful slate that features three different opponents. The Sound Tigers face the Springfield Thunderbirds (20-16-2-0) to end a five-game road trip on Friday, before returning to Webster Bank Arena to battle the Charlotte Checkers (19-13-3-0) and Laval Rocket (19-14-3-1) for Military Appreciation Weekend!
WAHLSTROM WELCOMED BACK
Oliver Wahlstrom returns to the Sound Tigers' lineup this weekend for the first time since Dec. 14, following his recent stint with USA Hockey during the 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic. Wahlstrom had one goal and four assists in five games with Team USA, helping advance to the WJC quarterfinals prior to a 1-0 loss to Finland. 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.
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LAST TIME OUT
Bridgeport is hoping to snap a five-game slide (0-4-1-0) and a six-game skid on the road (0-6-0-0), including a 4-2 setback to the Hershey Bears at Giant Center last Sunday. Kieffer Bellows and Jeff Kubiak each found the back of the net, while Jakub Skarek (3-7-1) made 19 saves on 22 shots. The Sound Tigers fell to 5-14-2-0 on the road this season.
SALUTE TO THE TROOPS
The Sound Tigers are proud to honor and recognize members of the United States Armed Forces, both past and present, during Military Appreciation Weekend presented by the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut. All veterans and active duty personnel may receive a free ticket to both home games this weekend, Saturday against the Charlotte Checkers (7 p.m.) and Sunday against the Laval Rocket (3 p.m.), by showing his or her military ID at the box office. On the ice, the Sound Tigers will sport newly-designed, camouflage-themed jerseys both days, which will be up for bids during a silent auction on the concourse to benefit the BBB Foundation. Giveaways will also be prominent as the first 2,500 fans on Saturday will get a free camouflage hat and the first 1,000 in attendance on Sunday will receive a free military-themed t-shirt.
TIGERS VS. T-BIRDS
Friday’s game is the ninth of 12 meetings between the Sound Tigers and Thunderbirds this season, and the fourth of six in Massachusetts. Bridgeport is 4-3-1-0 in the series and won four straight meetings from Nov. 6 - Nov. 29, but the Thunderbirds have taken each of the last two. Springfield has climbed back into a playoff spot with four consecutive wins entering the weekend. On Saturday, they earned a 6-3 victory against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, in which Dryden Hunt recorded four points (1g, 3a) and Owen Tippett scored twice and added an assist. Philippe Desrosiers (11-4-1) made 30 saves on 33 shots. Offensively, Tippett leads the T-Birds in goals (16), assists (14) and points (30) - he is also fourth among all AHL rookies in each of these categories.
TIGERS VS. CHECKERS
Saturday’s 7 p.m. matchup features the third of four meetings between the Sound Tigers and Checkers this season, and the first of two inside Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport split a two-game series in North Carolina back in October, led by Jeff Kubiak’s three points (1g, 2a). Kieffer Bellows also scored once and added an assist in a 4-2 victory on Oct. 11. Charlotte enters the weekend on a six-game win streak and has won every game on its current seven-game road trip. The Checkers topped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday, 6-3, led by three points from Steven Lorentz (two goals, one assist). Julien Gauthier added his team-leading 17th goal of the season and defending AHL Most Outstanding Goalie, Alex Nedeljkovic (9-8-1), made 27 saves.
TIGERS VS. ROCKET
Sunday’s 3 p.m. matinee is the second and final meeting between the Sound Tigers and Rocket this season, and the only matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Laval took the first contest 3-0 on Nov. 16, backstopped by rookie goaltender Cayden Primeau’s 20-save shutout. Montreal’s affiliate enters the weekend on a four-game win streak and in fifth place in the North Division. Led by second-year forward Jake Evans (25 points), the Rocket are in Syracuse on Friday and Lehigh Valley on Saturday prior to Sunday’s contest.
BELLOWS SETS BLISTERING PACE
Kieffer Bellows has 13 goals in his last 17 games and six in his last seven, including his first pro hat trick vs. Springfield last month. He had 10 goals in 11 December contests and was recognized by the league on Thursday, Jan. 2 by being named CCM/AHL Player of the Month for the first time in his career. Bellows has scored in six straight home games dating back to Nov. 29 (the longest active and overall streak in the AHL) and the Islanders' 19th overall pick in 2016 leads Bridgeport in goals (14), shots (101), and ranks third in points (18).
Sebastian Aho was named to the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic last Friday, just hours after he was recalled by the New York Islanders for the first time this season... Aho becomes the first Sound Tigers player to earn three All-Star bids, which he has done in consecutive years... Bridgeport has scored two goals or less in four straight games… The Sound Tigers are 11-2-3-0 when scoring at least three goals in a game, but just 2-18-1-1 when scoring two or fewer… Forward John Stevens was traded to the Utica Comets on Friday in exchange for future considerations.
NHL: New York Islanders (27-12-3) - Next: Saturday vs. Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET
ECHL: Worcester Railers (13-19-2-0) - Next: Friday vs. Adirondack Thunder, 7:05 p.m. ET