SOUND TIGERS Springfield troubles continue for Sound Tigers
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ modern house of pain remains unsolvable, much like Springfield Thunderbirds goalie Samuel Montembeault was for most of Wednesday night.
The Sound Tigers outshot Springfield handily but lost 5-2 to the Thunderbirds, Bridgeport’s eighth loss in a row at MassMutual Center. Onetime Sound Tigers forward Anthony Greco completed his first professional hat trick into an empty net to finish it.
“Springy’s really good here. They’re a really good team, but they’re really good here,” Bridgeport’s Josh Ho-Sang said. “They use their rink to their advantage in every possible way. They’re one of those teams that really seems to really master their home ice, so it’s a tribute to them.
“It helps that their goalie’s a machine.”
Montembeault stopped 40 of Bridgeport’s 42 shots and nearly stopped one of the others, though Michael Dal Colle managed to power a rebound past him to cut the Thunderbirds’ lead to 2-1 in the first.
Two goals on the rush in the third gave Springfield a 4-1 lead.
All eight consecutive losses here have come in regulation, dating to the 7-0 whitewash on April 14, 2017, that eliminated Bridgeport from playoff contention.
Eight ties the team record for consecutive losses in a visiting arena (Giant Center, Hershey, 2007-2011, not including three losses there in the 2010 playoffs).
What is it about this building? “I wish I had an answer, if there was a magic formula,” Dal Colle said. “The positive was I thought we played pretty well. We generated. We’ve just got to find a way to score. This ice isn’t very good, but it’s not an excuse.”
The teams meet again here Sunday, the rubber match completing three games in eight days after Bridgeport beat Springfield 4-3 at home this past Sunday. Both teams have a game Saturday in the meantime, Bridgeport’s at home against Providence, Springfield’s at Hershey.
The line of Dal Colle, Ho-Sang and Otto Koivula combined for 13 shots on goal (five Ho-Sang’s, a high for his three-year professional career). They were also on the ice for Sebastian Aho’s goal, Bridgeport’s second.
“I thought our line generated a lot of offense tonight. I thought we could’ve had three goals,” Dal Colle said. “Their goalie played pretty well, but we’ve got to find a way to beat him. We can definitely build off that, as a line and as a team.”
Greco hadn’t scored since Oct. 20, but he controlled a loose puck off a faceoff, dragged the puck to get away from a defender and beat Jeremy Smith point-blank to make it 1-0 3:10 into the game. He scored short-handed on a partial breakaway eight minutes later after Travis St. Denis fell.
“Guy blows his wheel, it’s an unfortunate break, and now we’re down 2-0,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “We fought back. It was 2-1 most of the game. We had our chances, that’s for sure. Didn’t bury them.”
Greco had six two-goal games as a professional before Wednesday, three of them against the Sound Tigers. He has 14 goals and eight assists in 26 games against Bridgeport, with whom he made his pro debut in the 2016 playoffs.
Patrick Bajkov scored on a three-on-two off a pass from Jayce Hawryluk to make it 3-1. Six minutes later, Thomas Schemitsch fanned on a forehand shot in the middle of a couple of Bridgeport defenders, but had time and inclination to backhand it to his right to a wide-open Hawryluk to make it 4-1.
Bridgeport defenseman Devon Toews sat out with a reported upper-body injury. Thompson said he’s hopeful Toews can play on the weekend.
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THUNDERBIRDS 5, SOUND TIGERS 2
Bridgeport1 0 1—2
Springfield2 0 3—5
First Period — 1, Springfield, Greco 5 (Horvat), 3:10. 2, Springfield, Greco 6, 11:46 (sh). 3, Bridgeport, Dal Colle 9 (Bellows, Ho-Sang), 16:14. Penalties — Farnham, Spr (interference), 11:07; Farnham, Spr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:07; B.Holmstrom, Bpt (unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:44.
Second Period — No scoring. Penalties — Lowry, Spr (holding), 15:26; Hawryluk, Spr (delay of game), 16:50.
Third Period — 4, Springfield, Bajkov 2 (Hawryluk, Ang), 2:16. 5, Springfield, Hawryluk 4 (Schemitsch, Ang), 8:07. 6, Bridgeport, Aho 2 (Ho-Sang, Vande Sompel), 12:43. 7, Springfield, Greco 7 (Thompson), 19:32 (en). Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Bridgeport 12-16-14—42. Springfield 10-8-11—29.
Power play opportunities — Bridgeport 0 of 4, Springfield 0 of 1.
Goaltenders — Bridgeport, Smith 5-4-1 (28 shots-24 saves). Springfield, Montembeault 8-2-0 (42-40).
Attendance — 2,581. Referees — Wilk, Tufts. Linesmen — Richetelle, Cooke.