Sound Tigers win at Springfield, earn 20th victory
MassMutual Center has been no house of pain this month for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who on Friday won their second consecutive trip to Springfield, Mass, beating the Thunderbirds 4-3.
Otto Koivula scored the game-winner 7:13 into the third period on a three-on-one rush, finishing off a three-on-one from Chris Bourque and Michael Dal Colle.
Only twice in the franchise’s 17 previous seasons had a Sound Tigers team reached 20 wins faster than this year’s 20-9-4-1 group: 2003-04 (30 games) and 2008-09 (31, on the way to the franchise’s best record). Bridgeport is three points behind Charlotte for the Atlantic-Division and overall-AHL lead.
The winning rush began when Bridgeport goalie Christopher Gibson stepped out of his crease to the left of his net to play the puck away from Matt Mangene. The carom off the boards got past Springfield’s Paul Thompson, sending Dal Colle up the left wing.
Though there was one pass too many on the play to get Gibson his fourth assist of the year, he finished with 29 saves in his 10th win.
Until an overtime win at Springfield earlier this month, Bridgeport had lost eight games in a row in regulation at MassMutual Center, two of them dealing death blows to its playoff hopes in consecutive seasons.
Friday’s game was tied at 1, 2 and 3. The third tie came with 0.2 seconds left in the second period. Koivula sent the puck cross-ice, with a tap-along by Bourque, and as it caromed off the left-wing boards, Parker Wotherspoon one-timed it through Koivula’s screen past goalie Sam Montembeault.
Mike Sislo’s power-play goal opened the scoring 4:44 into the game, a left-circle one-timer. A four-time 20-goal scorer in the AHL, including last year for Tucson, Sislo had gone 17 games without a goal since Nov. 10.
Power-play goals by Dryden Hunt and Joel Lowry gave the Thunderbirds a lead midway through the second, but Mitch Vande Sompel scored a power-play goal through a Kieffer Bellows screen to tie it. Springfield defenseman Thomas Schemitsch untied it 35 seconds later on a shot that caromed in off Vande Sompel.
Dal Colle had three assists. Sislo, Bourque and Koivula had two points apiece.
Forwards Jeff Kubiak (upper-body) and Steve Bernier (lower) sat out Friday. Bridgeport plays the second game of a six-game road trip on Saturday in Hartford.
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SOUND TIGERS 4, THUNDERBIRDS 3
Bridgeport1 2 1—4
Springfield1 2 0—3
First Period — 1, Bridgeport, Sislo 6 (Dal Colle, St. Denis), 4:44 (pp). 2, Springfield, Hunt 12 (Marcinew, McCoshen), 15:28 (pp). Penalties — Repo, Spr (high-sticking), 4:12; Rathgeb, Bpt (tripping), 13:33; Burroughs, Bpt (boarding), 14:26.
Second Period — 3, Springfield, Lowry 6 (MacDonald, Greco), 9:22 (pp). 4, Bridgeport, Vande Sompel 5 (Sislo, Dal Colle), 14:05 (pp). 5, Springfield, Schemitsch 4 (MacDonald), 14:40. 6, Bridgeport, Wotherspoon 4 (C.Bourque, Koivula), 19:59. Penalties — Rathgeb, Bpt (holding), 5:56; Sislo, Bpt (hooking), 7:40; Zolnierczyk, Spr (interference), 13:55.
Third Period — 7, Bridgeport, Koivula 8 (C.Bourque, Dal Colle), 7:13. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Bridgeport 6-8-9—23. Springfield 9-13-10—32.
Power play opportunities — Bridgeport 2 of 2, Springfield 2 of 5.
Goaltenders — Bridgeport, Gibson 10-4-4 (32 shots-29 saves). Springfield, Montembeault 11-6-2 (23-19).
Attendance — 6,023. Referees — Duco, Biggers. Linesmen — Richetelle, Colby.