Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson both scored as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers put forth a solid effort in a 4-2 victory over the Norfolk Admirals in a game that began in Wednesday’s a.m. hours.
The contest also saw its share of scraps, with enforcer Brett Gallant getting a fighting hat trick, sandwiching a close loss to former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Jay Rosehill in between two decisions over Troy Bodie (obviously I’m no boxing judge -- just my opinion on who won the fights).
After being victimized by a few soft goals in their previous game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Sound Tigers benefitted from a tally 3:40 into this game that Admirals’ goalie Federik Andersen would probably like another chance at. Bridgeport's Jordan Hill pushed the puck up the boards from center ice, where Colin McDonald tracked it down. McDonald skated in along the boards to Andersen’s left and took a shot from a sharp angle that beat Andersen on the short side for his second goal of the season to put Bridgeport up 1-0. It is just the second game this season in which Bridgeport managed to score first.
At 6:19 of the first, Bridgeport’s Blair Riley took a tripping penalty, and during the stoppage of play that followed, Gallant dropped the gloves with Bodie for their first go of the day. Bodie threw a series of jersey jabs, while Gallant swung some wild right hands in Bodie’s direction. At the end of the bout, Gallant threw a series of rights and lefts, connecting with Bodie on one of the lefts, drawing blood from the Admirals’ player.
Bridgeport’s 1-0 lead would last until 39 seconds into the second period. Niederreiter took an interference penalty, and off the ensuing faceoff in Bridgeport’s zone, Norfolk’s Kyle Palmieri, who is tied for first in points on his team with 11, took the puck and executed a nice toe drag around defenseman Aaron Ness. From the circle to goaltender Kevin Poulin’s left, Palmieri beat Poulin on the far side with a hard, well-placed shot for his fourth of the year, tying the game at 1.
But at 4:58 of the second, Johan Sundstrom would give the Sound Tigers a power-play goal of their own, and Bridgeport would take the lead once more. Nelson took a shot from the faceoff dot to Andersen’s left that may or may not have gotten through. John Persson took some swipes at the puck in front as well before it bounced onto Sundstrom’s stick to Andersen’s right, and he fired the puck in on the short side for his second goal of the year.
A little over five minutes later, the Admirals would tie the game once more. Ryan Lasch made a nice move around Jordan Hill, placing the puck under the Bridgeport defender’s stick, then jumping in front of him and picking it up again. Lasch then fed the puck to Emerson Etem, who was breaking to the net, and Etem beat Poulin for his third goal of the year.
Shortly afterward, Gallant would have his second fight of the game, against Rosehill. Rosehill looked much bigger than Gallant, and Gallant wisely did all he could to keep in close to Admirals’ enforcer, limiting the reach advantage. The two threw some dangerous-looking punches, connecting on a good number of them. At one point, Gallant dropped to a knee after the two exchanged some blows, but he popped right back up and kept going before both combatants, clearly exhausted, offered nods and let the linesmen break things up. Gallant put up a good fight, but I thought Rosehill landed the better shots.
Bridgeport gained momentum as the second period progressed, forechecking well. At one point, the Sound Tigers caused a turnover leading to a quality chance for Persson in front, but Andersen was able to turn it aside.
In the final minute of the period, Jon Landry took a shot that the Admirals gained control of. But Nelson picked off the clearing attempt, and with his head up in the slot, he beat Andersen low for his fifth of the year to put Bridgeport back on top 3-2.
Bridgeport did not yield much to the Admirals in the way of scoring chances in the third. Casey Cizikas almost gave the Sound Tigers a two-goal lead when he carried the puck up ice and, at full speed, made a neat move around Hampus Lindholm, the Anaheim Ducks’ first-round selection (6th overall) in the 2012 entry draft. Cizikas put the puck through Lindholm’s legs, then pulled the puck to his backhand and tried to tuck it between Andersen’s legs. But the Admirals’ goaltender closed up any opening quickly and kept it a one-goal game.
Oh yeah, McDonald apparently fought Jordan Hendry. You’d never know it though. The video feed was too busy showing an off-ice official as the fight occurred. I didn’t even realize the fight happened until I saw it on the score sheet and went back through the game archive to find it. Hendry and McDonald jostled a bit before Hendry took a minor penalty at 10:58. As soon as he got out of the box, he went right after McDonald. And then I watched a bunch of old guys sitting down (the off-ice officials) throughout the entire fight so I can’t say who won.
The Admirals would then get a golden opportunity to tie the game. Palmieri, with the puck on Bridgeport’s door step, tried to wait out Poulin and put a shot through, but the Bridgeport goaltender made a pad save and the play turned the other way. Sean Backman then chipped the puck into the Admirals’ zone, and Niederreiter would take over from there.
Niederreiter checked a defenseman along the boards, took the puck, and cut in front of the net. He lost the puck for a minute, then reached back and muscled it forward at the same time a second defender tried to clear it out of harm’s way. The puck went past Andersen and into the net as Niederreiter was knocked down to the ice.
With 20 seconds remaining and Bridgeport up 4-2, Riley dropped the gloves with John Kurtz. Riley threw a flurry of punches right off the bat, and Kurtz dropped to a knee, but when he came back up, he connected with a solid shot to Riley’s face, ending the bout.
The broadcast noted that Nelson left the ice after taking a hit sometime around then as well, but there’s been no indication since that he was hurt.
As the final buzzer sounded, everyone on the ice started pushing and shoving, and Gallant and Bodie would calmly skate to center ice for their second fight of the night. Gallant landed some decent shots in the scrap and scored a takedown at the end.
The Sound Tigers played well. They never really allowed the Admirals to get sustained pressure in the zone. The Admirals picked it up in the last half of the third, but the Sound Tigers did a good job limiting chances against, despite yielding 30 shots on net.
I’ll give it to Nelson this game. He finished with a goal and an assist, and just looks better and better as the season progresses.
Hard to really find anything to complain about in this game. It was a solid effort all around. Looking at the stat sheet, Travis Hamonic and Riley were -1. So there. They get it if I have to pick something.
Gallant is listed at 6’, 185 pounds. Not the biggest player on the ice for either team on any night. But he’s a scrappy fighter, bobbing and weaving while throwing punches with both hands. And he doesn’t appear to back down from anyone. He’s a good enforcer for this Bridgeport team.
The kid just keeps on scoring. His last two goals, powering to the front and scoring, are exactly what everyone wants to see from him. Offensively, it’s clear his confidence is back.
Poulin didn’t make any spectacular saves, but he stopped all the shots he should have stopped in a nice bounce-back after what I’d call two tough games for him. The two shots that beat him in this one were quality scoring chances.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Bridgeport -- 26, Norfolk -- 30
Power Play: Bridgeport -- 1/3, Norfolk -- 1/5
Bridgeport iced different lines for this game. Coach Scott Pellerin began making changes in the third period last game against the Penguins. For Wednesday morning’s game, Persson and Brandon DeFazio skated on Cizikas’ wings (McDonald and Niederreiter were previously there). Niederreiter and McDonald skated with Nelson. Sundstrom skated with Backman and Mike Halmo, while Matt Watkins centered Riley and Gallant.
On D, Marc Cantin dressed for this game while Ty Wishart was a healthy scratch. The Connecticut Post’s
Michael Fornabaio (http://blog.connpost.com/fornabaio/
) reports Pellerin said it was a scheduled scratch, but that Wishart was also not feeling well.
Fornabaio also reports that David Ullstrom is not yet ready to play, but Anders Nilsson appears to be available, as does Nathan McIver. Maybe we’ll see Nilsson make his first start of the year soon.
Niederreiter -- 9gp, 6g, 4a, 10 pts
Nelson -- 9gp, 5g, 4a, 9 pts
Cizikas -- 9gp, 3g, 3a, 6 pts
DeFazio -- 9gp, 4g, 1a, 5 pts
McDonald -- 9gp, 2g, 3a, 5 pts
Donovan and Ness also have five points
Bridgeport travels to Manchester to face the Monarchs tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 9 at 7:00 p.m.