CHARLOTTE, NC - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (18-9-4-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, went toe-to-toe with the Charlotte Checkers (23-7-2-0) in their rematch at Bojangles Coliseum on Saturday, but suffered a 3-1 setback with all four goals coming in the final frame.
Scott Eansor scored for the second straight evening and Christopher Gibson (9-4-4) stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced, while also adding his third assist of the season from the crease. Gibson suffered his first regulation setback since Oct. 28 at Providence.
The loss snapped Bridgeport’s five-game unbeaten in regulation streak (4-0-1) and moved the Sound Tigers back to seven points behind Charlotte for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Nicolas Roy, Morgan Geekie and Andrew Poturalski all potted goals for the Checkers just 10:10 apart in the third period, with two of the three coming on the power play.
It took nearly 49 minutes for the game’s first goal as Gibson and Alex Nedeljkovic put on a clinic between the pipes, showcasing their athleticism and stopping every combined shot up until 8:58 of the third period.
Julian Gauthier had an opportunity to put Charlotte on top late in the first period, but was denied by Gibson’s extended right leg from below the left hash marks. Meanwhile, Mike Sislo nearly scored on a breakaway midway through the second, but he too was shut down when Nedeljkovic punched back a forehand shot.
The Checkers finally got one past Gibson during a five-on-three power play nearly midway through the third. Chris Bourque and Seth Helgeson were each called for slashing 42 seconds apart and Roy capitalized with his 10th tally of the season. Trevor Carrick swept a pass to the left wing where Poturalski fired a shot and created a brief scramble in front, which allowed Roy to force the puck home.
Twenty-eight seconds later, Geekie made it 2-0 on the back-half of Helgeson’s penalty and potted his eighth goal of the season, and third in the last four games. Aleksi Saarela set him up down the right side (which extended his points streak to a team-high eight games) and Geekie scored after dragging the puck towards the slot and beating Gibson’s glove.
Eansor put the Sound Tigers back within one at 13:10 of the third period when he converted a breakaway for his third goal of the year. Gibson made a save in the opposite zone and bumped the puck to Chris Casto in the left circle. Casto stretched the puck ahead for Eansor, which sprung him behind Charlotte’s defense and straight at Nedeljokvic, where he made a forehand-to-backhand move.
Poturalski sealed Charlotte’s league-leading 23rd win with an empty-netter at the 19:08 mark – also his team-best 12th goal of the season.
Bridgeport finished the contest 0-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-5 on the penalty kill. Nedeljkovic (15-4-2) made 19 saves en route to his AHL-leading 15th victory, while the Sound Tigers were outshot for the seventh straight game (27-20).
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return from their 2018 holiday break next Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Hartford Wolf Pack at Webster Bank Arena. It’s Union Night presented by the Connecticut Highway Safety office and the first 1,000 fans will receive a free beanie hat when doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale now! Fans can follow all of the live action online via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m.
Packed Promotional Lineup: The Sound Tigers will boast one of their most extensive and wide-ranging promotional schedules ever for the 2018-19 season. The fan-friendly calendar includes the return of popular themes like Hockey and Hops (Mar. 17), Military Appreciation (Jan. 12), Star Wars Night (Jan. 19) and Princess Night (Mar. 30). Regional hockey fans will be elated for the addition of Hockey Weekend in Connecticut (Feb. 23-24). View the full 2018-19 promotional schedule.
For additional details or to reserve a group outing for any giveaway or theme night, please call the Sound Tigers' front office at (203) 345-2300 ext 7.