By: Drew Casey, Contributor (@drew421)
As always, it was a busy week in Bridgeport. It started on Tuesday in St. Johns, Newfoundland, where Ryan Strome competed in the AHL All Star skills competition. Strome took part in the Pepsi Accuracy Shooting contest, and hit all four of the targets in only six shots. These stats were good enough for him to be crowned co-champion with two others.
The next night Strome competed in the AHL All Star classic against Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. The AHL All Stars dominated play and won 7-2. Strome netted two goals on four shots and had a +1 rating.
On Thursday, the Sound Tigers signed defenseman Jake Newton to a professional tryout contract. Newton, a native of San Jacinto, California, registered 12 goals and 17 assists in 36 games with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL.
Later in the day, Bridgeport dealt defenseman Mike Dalhuisen to the San Antonio Rampage in exchange for forward Adam Brace. Dalhuisen has been playing for the Stockton Thunder recently, and Brace will take his roster spot on the California ECHL team. Thunder fans were not pleased by the trade, and the team took to twitter to clarify that they were not responsible for the trade. The trade was solely negotiated between the two AHL clubs.
On Saturday the Sound Tigers traveled to Mass Mutual Center to face-off with the Springfield Falcons. The team dominated play, especially defensively, and defeated the Falcons 5-2. Matt Donovan had two goals, and Johan Sundstrom, Newton, and Strome each added a goal of their own. Anders Nilsson stopped 15 of the 17 shots he faced.
On Sunday, the team battled with a familiar foe, the Albany Devils, in a matinee contest at home. Beaten by the Devils 8 days earlier, the Sound Tigers did not allow them to best them again. Matthew Pistilli opened the scoring 5:47 into the game off of a beautiful feed from Donovan. 54 seconds later, Aaron Ness netted his 4th of the season to give the Sound Tigers their second goal of the game.
After a near shorthanded goal on a breakaway by Chris Langkow and a disallowed goal because the puck was played with a hand, the Sound Tigers struck again. Strome ripped a shot from the high slot past Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood to extend the Sound Tigers lead to 3-0. Albany added a goal before the end of the period to cut their deficit to two.
Fresh after the first intermission, the Sound Tigers tallied two more quick goals. At the 2:03 mark Sundstrom netted his sixth goal of the season. 16 seconds later Andrew Clark put the Sound Tigers up 5-1. After Clark’s goal, Wedgewood was pulled from the net by Albany coach Rick Kowalsky and was replaced by NHL veteran Johan Hedberg.
Hedberg, who had his contract bought out by the New Jersey Devils in the offseason, was retired prior to this week and working as a scout in the Devils organization. Following Keith Kinkaid’s injury on Saturday in Bridgeport, the team was without a second goaltender. Their ECHL goaltender was also injured, and because the Devils share the Elmira Jackets with another club, they did not have another goalie in their system. Hedberg agreed to a PTO with the Devils during the week and served as a backup on Friday and Saturday. Some, including me, expected him to start on Sunday in Bridgeport, but he did not. In his relief appearance he stopped 11 of 13 shots.
Albany lit the lamp later in the second period, and the score after two periods was 5-2 in favor of the Sound Tigers. More fireworks ensued in the third period. Anders Lee absolutely undressed the defense with multiple dekes and beat Hedberg before Scooter Vaughan scored a short -handed goal. The Devils added a third goal, but that was largely insignificant. The Sound Tigers went on to defeat the Devils 7-3.
With two dominant wins this weekend, Bridgeport is 22-24-1-4 and has 49 points. They are now 12th in the Eastern Conference and 11 points out of a playoff spot.
I dare to say that they are the hottest team in the AHL. They are winners in eight of their last ten games. The team will play in Hartford against the Wolf Pack on Friday night and will travel for a contest with the Adirondack Phantoms on Saturday. They will return home on Sunday for a matinee tilt with the Providence Bruins. If the Sound Tigers are going to make a serious playoff run, they will need to have another big weekend.