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Smith saves Sound Tigers in win over Hartford

December 6, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — For most of Wednesday’s first period, there was only one Bridgeport Sound Tiger who really looked to be on his game against the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Fortunately for Bridgeport, he was a pretty good Sound Tiger to have on his game. Goalie Jeremy Smith made 12 of his 25 saves in the first period of a 2-1 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack at Webster Bank Arena.

“Especially in the first, we gave up a few odd-man rushes, even in the second,” Bridgeport defenseman Seth Helgeson said. “And in the third, that half-breakaway (Shawn O’Donnell chipped the puck into Smith with 2:21 left), Smitty was right there.

“If it wasn’t for him, who knows what would’ve happened?”

Hartford almost certainly would’ve grabbed a lead early, when the Sound Tigers struggled to clear the defensive zone and maintain possession for long.

Instead Chris Bourque’s four-on-three goal with 10:01 left in the game held up as the Sound Tigers limited Hartford to three third-period shots.

“Working with Chris (Terreri, Bridgeport’s goaltending coach) and Mitch (Korn, the parent New York Islanders’ director of goaltending), my game has come a long way,” said Smith, who stopped 34 of 38 shots in Sunday’s overtime win at Springfield.

“There’s work to be done, but their teaching and coaching, I’m trying to be like a sponge, work it into my game and be comfortable in the net.”

Bridgeport is 9-0-2-1 in the past 12 home games. The team record for points in consecutive games at the arena is 13, set partly during an overall 22-game point streak in 2003.

“It’s tough to win in this league. Every game’s a battle,” Smith said.

“We’re just trying to keep playing as a team and get points every night. These points are huge, especially division games.”

Hartford outshot the Sound Tigers 12-7 in the first period Wednesday, and it took a late charge for Bridgeport to get to seven.

It was reminiscent of Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Providence, when coach Brent Thompson wondered whether it was his team’s effort or execution that held them back.

“Effort was the key” to Wednesday’s turnaround, Thompson said. “Effort helps with execution. If you don’t have effort, how are you going to execute the right play at the right time?

“I feel like our guys in the first period were sleeping. I thought our leadership stepped up in the second, and really started pulling their weight, and guys followed.”

Otto Koivula got the first goal with 4:11 left in the second, putting the rebound of a Kyle Burroughs shot past Wolf Pack goalie Alexandar Georgiev for his third goal in two games.

“Especially in the second, we had a lot of offensive-zone time, created scoring opportunities and scored that goal,” Helgeson said. “We responded in the second, had a few big penalty kills throughout, and Smitty was a rock back there.”

Hartford’s only goal came 97 seconds after Koivula’s, when Boo Nieves scored from the left side off John Gilmour’s cross-ice pass.

Attendance was 3,678.

Goalie Christopher Gibson remained up with the New York Islanders, so Bridgeport brought up Mitch Gillam from Worcester (ECHL) to back up Smith, the fourth AHL game for which he has dressed this season. He has yet to make his AHL debut.

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

SOUND TIGERS 2, WOLF PACK 1

Hartford0 1 0—1

Bridgeport0 1 1—2

First Period — No scoring. Penalties — Koivula, Bpt (hooking), 18:32.

Second Period — 1, Bridgeport, Koivula 6 (Burroughs, Aho), 15:49. 2, Hartford, Nieves 3 (Gilmour, Beleskey), 17:26. Penalties — Bernier, Bpt (tripping), 10:25; Holland, Hfd, minor-major (slashing, fighting), 12:05; R.Bourque, Bpt, minor-major-misconduct (instigating, fighting), 12:05; Burroughs, Bpt (high-sticking), 12:19.

Third Period — 3, Bridgeport, C.Bourque 6 (Aho, Sislo), 9:59 (pp). Penalties — O’Gara, Hfd (interference), 8:54; Rathgeb, Bpt (unsportsmanlike conduct-diving), 8:54; Bigras, Hfd (slashing), 9:20; Leedahl, Hfd (interference), 15:16; Crawley, Hfd (boarding), 15:16; Burroughs, Bpt (slashing), 18:08.

Shots on goal — Hartford 12-11-3—26. Bridgeport 7-12-12—31.

Power play opportunities — Hartford 0 of 4, Bridgeport 1 of 3.

Goaltenders — Hartford, Georgiev 2-2-0 (31 shots-29 saves). Bridgeport, Smith 7-4-1 (26-25).

Attendance — 3,678. Referees — Biggers, Blandina. Linesmen — K.Briganti, Ernst.

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