The Bridgeport Sound Tigers entered last night’s game against the Adirondack Phantoms second in the league in penalties. They did all they could to take first place in that category, and paid for it by surrendering three power-play goals in a lopsided 5-1 loss in Glens Falls.
Bridgeport took seven minor penalties and added three fighting majors on the night. This is not to say that the Sound Tigers would have won had they played a more disciplined game. In truth, they were pinned in their own zone and out-chanced even when they played 5-on-5.
About the only positive on the night for Bridgeport was that Nino Niederreiter kept his point streak going, which now spans nine games going back to Nov. 3 against the Hershey Bears. He has five goals, seven assists and 12 points in that time.
The Sound Tigers thrive when they forecheck relentlessly and use their size and skill to pressure the opposing defense. They never got it going last night. In fact, it was the Adirondack Phantoms who kicked their game into overdrive, not allowing the Sound Tigers any time or space to get an offensive rhythm going.
Despite the dominating play by the Phantoms, it took a while for them to get any goal scoring going, leaving a small window of hope for Bridgeport that they could possibly skate away with a win if they could find a way to get a few lucky bounces.
In fact, the game remained scoreless after the first, and despite much of the period being played in their own zone, Bridgeport was only outshot 10-7 in the opening frame.
But then the penalty parade started. The Sound Tigers began the second period on the PK with 10 seconds left to kill on a Marc Cantin delay-of-game penalty. The Phantoms used those 10 seconds to gain the zone, and just 13 seconds into the period, Harry Zolnierczyk beat Bridgeport goaltender Kevin Poulin with a wide open wrist shot from the slot after he came away with the puck following a short scramble at the Sound Tigers’ blue line.
At 36 seconds, Aaron Ness would take a holding penalty, and at 1:00, Cantin would be sent to the box for a cross-checking penalty, putting the Phantoms on a 5-on-3. On the power play, Sean Couturier took the puck from along the boards to Poulin’s left, skated up high to the slot, and blasted a slap shot by the Bridgeport goaltender to put the Phantoms up 2-0.
The Sound Tigers would stay in the game, getting a power-play goal of their own at 4:21. Niederreiter skated in around the defense, cut toward the net, then fed the puck across to a breaking Jon Landry, who shot it by Phantoms’ goaltender Scott Munroe.
But the Phantoms would regain the two-goal lead, again on the power play, as Brayden Schenn rocketed a one-timer by Poulin at 8:50 after a nice cross-ice feed from Jason Akenson, who had the primary assist on the Phantoms’ first three goals.
Miraculously, the second period ended with the Sound Tigers only down two goals and still in the game. They were badly outplayed in the second period, getting outshot 18-6. While they still had a chance to claw back into it, Tye McGinn (hearing his name called by the announcers, I was convinced it was some sort of new-age name, "Time Again," until I later looked at the stat sheet) ended any chance of a comeback with a power-play goal at 8:32 of the third to make it 4-1 Phantoms. In case there was any doubt, Shane Harper scored another at 16:37 to make it 5-1.
None of the goals were really Poulin’s fault. The Phantoms were just all over Bridgeport from beginning to end. Even the toss-up bounces seemed to always end up on their sticks, but when a team is skating that hard and forechecking that well, they tend to get the bounces. This was a game Bridgeport will probably just want to forget and move on from. The frustration of watching the Sound Tigers’ futile efforts to get any sort of offensive momentum going must have been like what Providence Bruins’ fans felt like watching the Nov. 18 game against Bridgeport, when the Sound Tigers seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Just a tip of the hat to the Phantoms on this one; their energy level was impressive.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Bridgeport -- 23, Adirondack -- 34
Power Play: Bridgeport -- 1/4, Adirondack -- 3/7
You may or may not (probably the latter) have noticed that I didn’t write a wrap-up of last weekend’s games. I was away, and while I watched the archived games from AHL Live when I got back, there were already plenty of stories on just about every NYI outlet recapping the weekend, so I didn’t see the need to tread on the same ground two days later than everyone else. For me, the three big takeaways from last weekend are the strong return for David Ullstrom (four points in two games), the absence of Casey Cizikas from the lineup (I noted in my last writeup way back when that he had been hurt in the Nov. 11 game against the Connecticut Whale...I guess it was more serious that it initially seemed), and the fact that goaltender Anders Nilsson is now undefeated in four starts.
Ullstrom got off to sort of a slow start this season, putting up just two points in his first seven games before getting hurt. He skated mostly on the third line in those games with Johan Sundstrom and John Persson. It’s nice to see the player that led Bridgeport in goals last year find the back of the net again. In the game against the Providence Bruins in particular, he was a threat nearly every time he touched the puck. When he gets going, Ullstrom has an intriguing mix of size, speed and hands. Skill-wise, he seems like a player that would be stuck in limbo between a second-line role and a third-line role in the NHL. The Islanders have had several undersized, non-physical players like that in recent years. But the good news for Ullstrom is that, unlike those other players, he has more than enough size, and the willingness to use it, to fit comfortably into a third-line role on the team. A true third liner with a decent scoring touch should be valuable for the Isles going forward.
Niederreiter: 15gp, 9g, 9a, 18 pts
Nelson: 15gp, 7g, 7a, 14 pts
Landry: 15gp, 3g, 6a, 9 pts
Donovan: 14gp, 1g, 8a, 9 pts
Ness: 15gp, 0g, 9a, 9 pts
Bridgeport is home against the Connecticut Whale tomorrow, Friday, Nov,. 23. They are in Binghamton the following night to take on the Senators. I will write both games up on Sunday, as I’ll be away again this weekend.