The Bridgeport Sound Tigers sandwiched a hard-fought shootout win against the Springfield Falcons in between two forgettable losses against the Worcester Sharks this past weekend.
Kirill Kabanov had surgery on his wrist due to an injury sustained in Friday’s 5-1 loss in Worcester. The AHL Live video feed never really showed what happened aside from a brief shot of Kabanov on the ice, and the Worcester radio announcer -- the broadcast accompanying the video feed -- did not address the issue aside from noting that the Bridgeport bench was yelling for a stoppage in play so Kabanov could leave the ice. So, all the information I have on the injury is probably the same stuff you all have read. The Sound Tigers’ Twitter feed tells us: “Injury Update: Kirill Kabanov was cut in last night's game on the left wrist, had surgery last night & is expected to make a full recovery.” Kabanov reported via Twitter that the surgery apparently went well, so that’s good news. No word yet on a timetable for return, but Michael Fornabaio at the Connecticut Post
) says there should be an update today (update -- there was no update).
And perhaps the strangest not-injury-but-maybe-illness situation is Anders Nilsson, who, six games into the season, has yet to get see any action, with word from coach Scott Pellerin that he’s still not 100 percent, according to Fornabaio. This weekend, Nilsson did not dress as the backup, unlike the first three games of the season. Instead, Kenny Reiter, called up from the ECHL, backed up Kevin Poulin on Friday in Worcester and Saturday in Springfield, and Reiter started the game Sunday afternoon in Worcester, facing 46 shots and stopping 41 of them in the loss.
WORCESTER PART 1
Onto the games. Friday’s game against the Worcester Sharks opened with the Sound Tigers being outshot 11-5 in the first period, but the game remained scoreless through that frame. Early in the first, Bridgeport’s Brett Gallant got “the edge” in a good fight with Bonneau (sorry, bad joke...but the tilt with Worcester’s Jimmy Bonneau was a good one).
In the second, the shot differential and sustained pressure by Worcester would finally take their toll. Bridgeport got outshot 13-8 in the frame and outscored 3-0. On the first goal, the Sharks baffled the Sound Tigers with some nice offensive-zone passing, ending in a Tim Kennedy goal just 29 seconds in. Less than nine minutes later, Worcester fourth liner Curt Gogol found himself on the ice with first liners Kennedy and Bracken Kearns, and it paid off for Gogol. Kennedy controlled the puck behind the net, and then fed it out in front, and Gogol blasted it by Poulin to make it 2-0 Sharks. Later, at 15:48 into the period, Sena Acolatse fired a hard shot from the top of the circle to Poulin’s right for the Sharks’ third goal. Acolatse was wide open and unchallenged.
Defenseman Nathan McIver, dressing in light of the season-ending shoulder injury to Calvin deHaan, had a fight that never really got started with Worcester’s Frazer McLaren at 6:56 of the second. By the time the camera turned to the fight, it was over and McIver was down on a knee with the linesmen stepping in. Fornabaio reports that McIver took a punch to the face and was hurt. He did play the rest of the period (he was on the ice with Jon Landry for Acolatse’s goal late in the frame), but he didn’t play in the third, or in the following two games.
In the third, Bridgeport looked better. Nearly nine minutes into the period, just as a Bridgeport power play expired, Aaron Ness made a D-to-D pass to Landry, who sent a pass across the zone to Brock Nelson. Nelson beat Sharks’ goaltender Alex Stalock for his second goal of the year. Despite being decisively outplayed for most of the game, Bridgeport had a great chance to pull within one goal later in the third, but Stalock made an impressive glove save on Johan Sundstrom, and at 18:32 of the period, the Sharks put the game away on a 5-on-3 power play goal by Jon Matsumoto. The Sharks’ Kearns added another goal 30 seconds later for a 5-1 final, giving the Sharks their first win of the season and the Sound Tigers their first loss.
The next night in Springfield, the Falcons and Sound Tigers treated viewers to the best hockey game I have watched so far in this young season, with good action throughout and multiple changes in momentum. The Sound Tigers came out determined after dropping the game in Worcester the night before, and controlled play for a good portion of the first. But toward the end of the period it was Springfield’s turn to seize momentum, and the Sound Tigers were forced to rely on Poulin to keep the game scoreless. Poulin did not help himself with his less-than-stellar rebound control, but he made up for it with lightning reflexes and good positioning on the initial shots. His impressive play at the end of the period was a big factor in this game remaining scoreless after the first. Shots were deadlocked at 10-10.
At 3:49 in the second, Springfield’s Cam Atkinson opened the scoring, skating over the blue line with speed and firing a wrist shot over Poulin’s right pad. The goal capped off a dominating start to the period for Springfield. Up to this point in the game, the best player on the ice was Ryan Johansen -- highly-touted Columbus prospect and former WHL Portland Winterhawk teammate of Nino Niederreiter.
But, as in the first period, momentum would change. After failing to convert on three first-period power plays, Bridgeport would find the back of the net on their fourth try at 6:12 of the second. After some good puck movement by Ness and Nelson, Landry fired a shot from the point that Brandon DeFazio tipped by Springfield goaltender Paul Dainton. Bridgeport would take the lead just over two minutes later during an excellent shift by the team’s first line of Casey Cizikas, Colin McDonald and Niederreiter. Their hard work resulted in a good pass by Cizikas to Ness up high, who fired a shot on net. Niederreiter followed up, crashing the net as he’s done in every game so far, and he was rewarded with his fourth goal of the season. In general, I thought Niederreiter’s positioning was better in this game than any previous one.
Poulin kept up his impressive play, making his best save of the game shortly after Niederreiter’s goal -- coming all the way across the crease to make an improbable glove save on a Sharks player who was all alone in front.
Things looked good for the Sound Tigers, but the momentum swings were not finished yet. At 15:04, Tomas Kubalik beat Poulin from the high slot. Travis Hamonic tried to intercept a pass across the zone, but instead tipped the puck lightly toward the blue line. The tip ended up being the perfect setup for Kubalik’s blast.
In the third, the action and momentum swings continued, but neither team was able to score. Blair Riley fought Springfield’s Greg Amadio, which was likely in response to a shift in the second when Amadio got his elbow up on Sean Backman (looked unintentional to me), and then proceeded to take four additional minutes in roughing penalties after dropping his gloves and going after a seemingly reluctant Ty Wishart. Amadio found a bit more of a challenge with Riley in the third, as the two had a pretty good bout.
Overtime did not settle the game, so it went to a shootout. The AHL has five shootout rounds as opposed to three in the NHL. But five rounds were not enough to settle this game. After seven rounds, the Sound Tigers would win on a David Ullstrom backhand. Cizikas, John Persson and McDonald also scored in the shootout for Bridgeport (McDonald on a blazing, well-placed wrist shot that made me wonder why all of his in-game shots were right into Dainton’s crest), while Atkinson, Johansen and Nick Drazenovic scored for Springfield. The final score was 3-2 (SO)
In the interest of space I’ll keep this game summary short. Worcester was all over Bridgeport from the drop of the puck in the teams’ second meeting of the weekend, and the Sharks cruised to a 5-2 win. Bridgeport found their legs a bit in the second period, but it was not enough to overcome the three-goal hole they put themselves in during the first. As noted previously, Reiter started in net, giving Poulin a well-earned rest after starting the first five games of the season. Reiter was beaten just 46 seconds into the game for the first goal, but settled down after that. Despite giving up five goals in the game, he was not the biggest issue for the Sound Tigers. The Sharks were hungry after coming off a loss the night before, and the Sound Tigers just couldn’t match the intensity, particularly in the first. The game got chippy in the second and third, as can be expected with Bridgeport losing two games convincingly in three nights to the Sharks. Just-signed defenseman Jordan Hill (signed after McIver’s injury) and McDonald recorded the Sound Tigers’ two goals, which both came in the second.
As I write this, Hurricane Sandy is battering the East Coast. Hope everyone stays safe and pays attention to instructions from officials. Watch out for the storm surge if you’re near the coast.
Niederreiter -- 6gp, 4g, 2a, 6 pts
DeFazio -- 6gp, 3g, 1a, 4 pts
Cizikas -- 6gp, 2g, 2a, 4 pts
Nelson -- 6gp, 2g, 2a, 4 pts
McDonald -- 6gp, 1g, 3a, 4 pts
Bridgeport is home against the Hershey Bears on Saturday, Nov. 3
I was away this weekend, so I had to watch the three games from archived feeds from AHL Live (a nice feature that takes a tiny bit of the sting out of the price they charge -- you can watch, in its entirety, any previous game for your team if you buy the season pass). As such, I decided to write up all the weekend games in one wrap-up after watching them. Normally, I’ll write up three-in-three games individually, as I’ve done with the others.