AHL Sound Tigers beat league-leading Charlotte
BRIDGEPORT — It took a few shifts to really get it rolling, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers captured it by the end of the first period, that style that had carried them to wins in the first four games of this homestand, the style that slipped away Wednesday.
It was back Saturday night at Webster Bank Arena in a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers, the same league-leading team that shut out the Sound Tigers on Wednesday.
“We focused on playing our style. We had a long talk as a team about getting back to our game,” said Jeff Kubiak, who scored Bridgeport’s first goal. “We played with a lot more effort tonight, and passion.
“That’s the way we need to play every game here on out, going into the playoffs.”
Bridgeport’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to three points; it could happen as early as Tuesday morning against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Charlotte could’ve clinched the Atlantic Division with a win; that will have to wait.
“I think we came out strong. That first period kind of set the tone,” said goalie Jeremy Smith, who made 28 saves to beat his former teammates.
“The guys were ready, and they continued through the night like that. The defensive side of things we were really good at what we talked about in the locker room.”
Charlotte still controlled possession for the first few minutes until the Sound Tigers’ fourth line, veterans Ryan Bourque, Connor Jones and Ben Holmstrom, hit the ice. They got in lanes, forced turnovers, turned the momentum. The Sound Tigers outshot Charlotte 14-9 in the first.
“I thought they were excellent. The physicality, intensity, simplicity of the game, I think they led by example,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said.
“We wanted them to be physical, play on their toes. It meant a lot to our group to have that kind of leadership, to have those kind of guys go over the boards shift after shift playing the same way.”
It took the Checkers almost 59 minutes to beat Smith, who is 7-1-1 in his past nine starts, before Julien Gauthier’s one-timer on a six-on-five got by.
Smith made a stop on Andrew Poturalski, the Checkers’ leading scorer, in the slot with about 35 seconds left to preserve the win.
Charlotte’s Alex Nedeljkovic, one of the AHL’s top goalies for the second year in a row, kept the Sound Tigers scoreless for 47 minutes.
John Stevens and Kubiak forced a turnover. Josh Ho-Sang recovered the puck and dodged a check behind the net, then found Kubiak at the edge of the left circle.
Kubiak didn’t get all of his one-timer, but it was enough to hit Nedeljkovic and go in.
“We went all game looking for a bounce, and we got one late in the game,” said Kubiak, whom Nedeljkovic robbed point-blank in Wednesday’s second period. “It was nice to see it go in.”
Steve Bernier made it 2-0 four minutes later, his left-circle shot changing direction off a defenseman.
Attendance was 3,333.
“I think everyone loves to play in that type of atmosphere. As we go down the stretch here, it’s so much fun playing when there’s a lot of energy in the building,” Kubiak said. “Guys are working so hard. It was just a lot of fun tonight.”
email@example.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio
SOUND TIGERS 2, CHECKERS 1
Charlotte0 0 1—1
Bridgeport0 0 2—2
First Period — No scoring. Penalties — Aho, Bpt (holding stick), 17:48.
Second Period — No scoring. Penalties — Geekie, Cha (roughing), 4:15; Vande Sompel, Bpt (roughing), 4:15; St. Denis, Bpt (hooking), 9:22; Robertson, Cha (cross-checking), 13:33; McKeown, Cha, major (fighting), 13:33; Kubiak, Bpt, major (fighting), 13:33.
Third Period — 1, Bridgeport, Kubiak 8 (Ho-Sang, Stevens), 7:16. 2, Bridgeport, Bernier 23 (Helgeson, Casto), 11:37. 3, Charlotte, Gauthier 22 (Carrick, Fleury), 18:43 (ea). Penalties — McKeown, Cha (hooking), 8:40; Renouf, Cha (tripping), 9:06.
Shots on goal — Charlotte 9-9-11—29. Bridgeport 14-5-8—27.
Power play opportunities — Charlotte 0 of 2, Bridgeport 0 of 3.
Goaltenders — Charlotte, Nedeljkovic 32-8-5 (27 shots-25 saves). Bridgeport, Smith 21-10-4 (29-28).
Attendance — 3,333. Referees — Dietrich, O’Donnell. Linesmen — Cooke, Kiriakos.