The Bridgeport Sound Tigers never trailed the Norfolk Admirals in the two games the teams played this weekend, but both teams exit action with three of a possible four points, with Bridgeport taking Friday's game in overtime and Norfolk taking Saturday's in the shootout.
Bridgeport’s second-leading scorer Brock Nelson picked up a goal and an assist Friday night in Norfolk, but was struck in the face with the puck in the second period of that contest and did not return. He also missed Saturday’s game, which was also played in Norfolk.
Leading scorer Nino Niederreiter picked up an assist on Friday and a goal on Saturday to continue his impressive scoring pace. Niederreiter now has 13 goals and 27 points in 26 games played this season.
Casey Cizikas was the hero Friday night, scoring the overtime winner. He also picked up an assist on Saturday night on Niederreiter’s goal.
The OT winner Friday was not without some controversy. Cizikas dropped his shoulder, drove to the net, and tried a backhander that Admirals goaltender Frederik Andersen stopped. But Cizikas was then pushed forcefully from behind, and his body knocked the puck into the net as Cizikas collided hard with Andersen. After a lengthy review, it was deemed a goal. The call drew a chorus of boos from the Admirals’ fans, and the Norfolk color commentator seemed disappointed, but while an unfortunate break for the Admirals, it was the right call. The Admirals' player created the havoc by pushing over Cizikas. Had he refrained from doing so, Andersen would have stopped the puck and the play would have gone the other way.
Both games saw Bridgeport endure early pushes from Norfolk. The Sound Tigers were outshot 15-4 in the first period Friday and 21-14 in the first period Saturday.
On Friday, Bridgeport took the lead and gave it back three separate times. Ty Wishart’s slow shot from up high that snuck through Andersen at 3:31 of the third period appeared as if it would hold up to give the Sound Tigers the win, but Patrick Maroon, who played strong in both weekend games for the Admirals, tied it up with less than three minutes to go in regulation.
Though Cizikas’ OT goal came at 2:28 into the extra frame, the referees managed to call two penalties in that time. Sami Vatanen was called for hooking 50 seconds into overtime. It was a light hook, and a bit of a mysterious call after the refs were seemingly in “let them play” mode. But the hook did occur just in front of the Admirals’ net and prevented a good scoring opportunity.
Just over a minute into that penalty, Niederreiter was called for tripping. Cizikas’ goal came as the teams were skating three aside.
Friday’s game saw plenty of up-and-down action, and once again, Bridgeport relied heavily on the first line of Niederreiter, Nelson and Colin McDonald. The line combined for five points, with Nelson picking up a goal and an assist, McDonald recording two assists, and Niederreiter picking up a helper.
Aside from Cizikas, Nelson and Wishart, John Persson also scored for Bridgeport -- a power-play goal that opened the scoring at 3:36 of the first. It was Bridgeport’s only shot on that man advantage. After Anders Nilsson made a good kick save on a shorthanded breakaway, Nelson took the puck the other way, carrying it the length of the ice, faking out a defender and getting a shot on net. Persson drove home the rebound.
Nelson’s goal at 1:13 of the second came off of a wraparound, as he took a pass from McDonald and beat Andersen around to the other side.
Nilsson played a solid game, particularly in the first when the Admirals barraged him with quality shots.
On Saturday, both teams seemed determined to put everything on net. The final shot total was 52-41 in favor of Norfolk. Much like Friday, the game saw plenty of action at both ends of the ice, and solid goaltending from Kevin Poulin -- who made some saves that were flat out unbelievable -- and Admirals’ netminder Igor Bobkov.
Niederreiter opened the scoring at 16:09 of the first on the power play. He was set up down low next to the net, took a pass from Cizikas, and scored by reaching his long arms around Bobkov and putting the puck in on the far side.
Persson made it 2-0 Sound Tigers at 1:51 of the second. Johan Sundstrom threaded a nice cross-ice pass to Persson on a 2-on-1, and Persson fired it into a mostly empty net.
But they say goals given up in the first and last minutes of periods can change momentum, and the Admirals got one in the last minute of the second. Defenseman Gabe Guentzel fired a long homerun pass that found John Kurtz, and he scored on a breakaway to pull Norfolk to within one goal.
In the third, it appeared McDonald gave Bridgeport back its two-goal lead. He deflected a point shot into the net, but it was discounted after a review, presumably for being knocked in with a high stick, although the replay they showed on AHL Live seemed to show otherwise. while McDonald’s stick was held out high initially, he brought it down and made contact with the puck much lower. However, the refs likely had a much better view of it than I did.
Unfortunately for the Sound Tigers, the Admirals would take advantage and tie the game up at 9:01 of the third. Maroon easily fought off a much smaller Sean Backman, who was trying to check him behind the net, and Maroon fed the puck in front to Devante Smith-Pelley, who rifled it by Poulin.
From there, the game would go to a shootout. Smith-Pelley put in the deciding goal in round eight. Emerson Etem also scored in the shootout for the Admirals. Jon Landry got the lone tally for Bridgeport. Poulin continued to play strong through the skills competition, making some improbable glove saves before yielding the decider to Smith-Pelley.
As mentioned, Nelson suffered an injury after taking a puck to the face on Friday. Per Michael Fornabaio’s blog at the Connecticut Post
), coach Scott Pellerin says Nelson took the puck in the mouth and is still sore. He could not say if it is expected to be a short-term injury, stating, “He’s not feeling well. We’re waiting to see.”
Ullstrom returned to action on Friday and played Saturday, getting one assist in the second game. Travis Hamonic is still out along with the longer-term usuals like Calvin deHaan and Kirill Kabanov. Fornabaio said in the comments section of his blog that he inquired about Kabanov last week and was told there still is no timetable.
BY THE NUMBERS
Shots: Bridgeport -- 26, Norfolk -- 30
Power Play: Bridgeport -- 1/6, Norfolk -- 1/6
Nelson: 1g, 1a, +1
McDonald: 2a, +1
Persson: 1g, -1
Wishart: 1g, +2
Cizikas: 1g, +1
Niederreiter: 1a, +1
Riley: 1a, +1
Shots: Bridgeport -- 41, Norfolk -- 52
Power Play: Bridgeport -- 1/3, Norfolk -- 0/3
Niederreiter: 1g, -1
Persson: 1g, +1
Cizikas: 1a, -1
Ullstrom: 1a, +1
Ness: 1a, +1
Sundstrom: 1a, +1
26gp, 13g, 14a, 27 pts
25gp, 11g, 11a, 22 pts
24gp, 2g, 15a, 19 pts
26gp, 7g, 7a, 14 pts
26gp, 9g, 4a, 13 pts
26gp, 6g, 7a, 13 pts
20gp, 6g, 6a, 12 pts
26gp, 0g, 12a, 12 pts
24gp, 1g, 10a, 11 pts
15gp, 3g, 7a, 10 pts
Bridgeport is home against the Albany Devils on Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.