AHL: checkers at sound tigers Sound Tigers sweep homestand
BRIDGEPORT — All that stood between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and a perfect five-game homestand on Sunday was the best team in the AHL, which was a little beaten up and road-weary but not looking that way at the start.
Bridgeport took a lead on the Charlotte Checkers, gave it back but scored two goals in the third to win 4-2 at Webster Bank Arena.
“We know things have been going pretty well for us lately,” Bridgeport winger Ryan Bourque said, “so (Bridgeport was) just sticking to the things that have been benefiting us, the identity we’ve built over the past few games, playing hard defensively and cashing in on our chances.
“When we play like that and play physical, our record over the past few games speaks for itself.”
Bourque had two assists, including one on Mike Sislo’s empty-netter with 56.1 seconds left. Connor Jones scored the game-winner 1:42 into the third off a Josh Ho-Sang pass.
And they teamed up to help the penalty kill, which had slumped to last in the 31-team AHL, to a perfect 5-for-5 day against the AHL’s No. 4 power play.
It didn’t hurt that goalie Christopher Gibson was sharp.
“I think it was a good steppingstone for Gibby. He made a lot of tough saves,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “They got some tips on the penalty kill. I thought Gibby did a great job making those saves on the penalty kill. I thought he was seeing the puck well.”
Andrew Poturalski scored for Charlotte in the second period after Gibson fanned on a puck at the side of the net. The Checkers’ other goal came on a Janne Kuokkanen breakaway with the teams playing four-on-four.
Gibson, who had allowed at least three goals in each of his first seven starts, stopped the Checkers’ other 28 shots.
“That one mistake that led into a goal, but I think overall it was a good game,” Gibson said. “I have to build off it.”
The Sound Tigers are 9-5-1-0 after this five-game winning streak. The Checkers are 11-3-0-0.
Bridgeport survived turning the puck over a few times in the first three minutes. The Checkers, who played Friday at Binghamton and Saturday at Lehigh Valley, made odd-man rushes out of seemingly nothing a few times.
“That’s a really g oo d hockey team. You can see why they’re in first place,” Thompson said. “They have great pace. They have great transition. They execute on the rush. They’re big and fast. I thought we competed hard and found a way to win.”
Jones broke the tie in the third period when Ho-Sang found a seam through the Charlotte defense, from above the right circle to Jones going alone to the front of the net from the left-wing boards. Jones walked around goalie Callum Booth and backhanded it in.
“I don’t even think I called for it. I saw Sanger look at me, and was like,” Jones said as he mimed holding his stick out with a wide-eyed grin. “I smiled at him, he put it on my tape and luckily I got a goal.”
Attendance was 3,333.
Kieffer Bellows scored his fifth goal in four games to open the scoring. Otto Koivula got his third in four games five minutes later after Bourque took a hit from Josiah Didier to get him the puck; Koivula made a hard move to his backhand to beat a defender and elevated a backhand shot past Booth.
“He’s been unbelievable for us early on in the season,” Bourque said of Koivula. “He’s shown what he can do with some space.”
SOUND TIGERS 4,
Charlotte0 2 0—2
Bridgeport2 0 2—4
First Period — 1, Bridgeport, Bellows 6 (Aho, Bernier), 11:45. 2, Bridgeport, Koivula 3 (R.Bourque), 16:32. Penalties — Stortini, Cha (roughing), 5:56; Necas, Cha (hooking), 13:53; Sislo, Bpt (slashing), 17:54.
Second Period — 3, Charlotte, Poturalski 4 (Robertson), 4:53. 4, Charlotte, Kuokkanen 7 (Necas, Booth), 17:55. Penalties — Robertson, Cha (hooking), 2:44; Robertson, Cha (roughing), 4:53; Helgeson, Bpt (cross-checking), 4:53; Toews, Bpt (high-sticking), 11:56; Geekie, Cha (tripping), 13:08; Poturalski, Cha (slashing), 17:11; Vande Sompel, Bpt (cross-checking), 17:11.
Third Period — 5, Bridgeport, Jones 3 (Ho-Sang, Vande Sompel), 1:42. 6, Bridgeport, Sislo 5 (R.Bourque, Kubiak), 19:03 (en). Penalties — Bellows, Bpt (slashing), 2:39; St. Denis, Bpt (tripping), 7:51; Didier, Cha (roughing), 11:36; Jones, Bpt (roughing), 19:48.
Shots on goal — Charlotte 8-12-10—30. Bridgeport 8-7-6—21.
Power play opportunities — Charlotte 0 of 5, Bridgeport 0 of 5.
Goaltenders — Charlotte, Booth 1-1-0 (20 shots-17 saves). Bridgeport, Gibson 5-3-0 (30-28).
Attendance — 3,333. Referees — Schlittenhardt, Tarnaris. Linesmen — T.Baker, Pincus.