SOUND TIGERS Sound Tigers beat Providence, clinch playoff spot
BRIDGEPORT — Their goals for this season go way behind the ‘x’ that will appear next to the word “Bridgeport” in the AHL standings Sunday morning. The Sound Tigers are aiming for a long playoff run, a chance at a Calder Cup.
But after two fruitless tries, the Sound Tigers finally secured their place in the playoffs Saturday night.
Bridgeport’s 4-3 win over the Providence Bruins at Webster Bank Arena clinched a playoff spot for the first time in three years. It also made the Sound Tigers’ hold on second place, and thus home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, a little more secure.
“The biggest thing is getting that playoff spot,” said Ryan Bourque, who scored two goals. “It’s something we pinned down as our main goal and focus as a team is getting to the big dance. That’s a start. Once you punch your ticket, everyone has a chance.
“Our next objective is trying to get home ice. Anytime you can play at home in the playoffs, from experience, is a huge advantage.”
Hershey lost 5-2 at Laval to end a four-game Bears winning streak, so the Sound Tigers lead third-place Hershey by four points. The Sound Tigers have three games remaining, while Hershey plays four. Bridgeport needs just one more point to secure a finish ahead of fourth-place Providence.
Oliver Wahlstrom scored his first as a professional, and Travis St. Denis’ power-play goal in the third period proved to be the winner.
St. Denis tucked in a loose puck in the crease after Grant Hutton’s shot, tipped by Steve Bernier, trickled through Providence goalie Dan Vladar. That gave Bridgeport a 4-2 lead, enough to withstand Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s goal midway through the third period.
It was the first time the Sound Tigers scored two power-play goals in a game since Feb. 24.
Christopher Gibson made 27 saves to earn his 20th win, the seventh different Bridgeport goalie to reach the milestone; with Jeremy Smith at 21 wins, it’s the second time two Bridgeport goalies have done it in the same season, joining Wade Dubielewicz and Dieter Kochan in 2003-04. Gibson had won 19 games twice before for Bridgeport.
“It’s all about clinching playoffs,” Gibson said. “Tonight was a great team game. Everybody battled hard.”
He shrugged away a Jordan Szwarz shot with his head with a little over a minute to go to preserve the win.
Attendance was 5,714.
Bourque gave Bridgeport a lead for good 4:46 into the second period.
Seth Helgeson forced a turnover as the Bruins crossed into the Bridgeport zone. Quick passing from Connor Jones to Stephen Gionta to a streaking Bourque led the winger between Bruins defensemen Wiley Sherman and Victor Berglund, and his shot got under Vladar’s right pad.
Like Friday night in Providence, the Sound Tigers scored first, early. Unlike Friday, an 8-6 debacle of a Bruins victory, the Sound Tigers made it 2-0.
Bourque deflected in Kyle Burroughs’ shot 3:29 in to claim the lead, and then Oliver Wahlstrom’s first professional goal doubled the lead at 12:50. Wahlstrom one-timed a Mitch Vande Sompel pass from the left circle on a power play.
The Bruins came back to tie it before intermission on two goals by Paul Carey. Carey, left alone, drove to the net from the right wing to get the Bruins on the board with 4:06 left, then scored with 41.8 seconds left in the period on a four-on-four, taking a pass from Szwarz at the back door.
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SOUND TIGERS 4, BRUINS 3
Providence2 0 1—3
Bridgeport2 1 1—4
First Period — 1, Bridgeport, R.Bourque 5 (Burroughs, Aho), 3:29. 2, Bridgeport, Wahlstrom 1 (Vande Sompel, Ho-Sang), 12:50 (pp). 3, Providence, Carey 23 (Stempniak, Zboril), 15:54. 4, Providence, Carey 24 (Szwarz, Zech), 19:18. Penalties — Zboril, Pro (tripping), 11:14; Johansson, Pro (roughing), 18:57; Jones, Bpt (roughing), 18:57.
Second Period — 5, Bridgeport, R.Bourque 6 (Gionta, Jones), 4:46. Penalties — Sherman, Pro (interference), 2:23; Burroughs, Bpt (cross-checking), 9:35; Fitzgerald, Pro (slashing), 13:44.
Third Period — 6, Bridgeport, St. Denis 16 (Bernier, Hutton), 6:27 (pp). 7, Providence, Forsbacka Karlsson 5 (Stempniak, Berglund), 9:06. Penalties — Szwarz, Pro (hooking), 4:36; Zech, Pro (holding stick), 7:58; Aho, Bridgeport (holding), 7:58; C.Bourque, Bpt (tripping), 15:15 McNeill, Pro, major (fighting), 20:00; Helgeson, Bpt, minor-major (cross-checking, fighting), 20:00.
Shots on goal — Providence 10-11-9—30. Bridgeport 12-10-4—26.
Power play opportunities — Providence 0 of 2, Bridgeport 2 of 4.
Goaltenders — Providence, Vladar 12-13-4 (26 shots-22 saves). Bridgeport, Gibson 20-11-5 (30-27).
Attendance — 5,714. Referees — Blandina, Jenken. Linesmen — M.Baker, N.Briganti.