ALLENTOWN, PA - Kieffer Bellows scored a goal in his professional debut and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (0-1-0-0), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, went 2-for-5 on the power play, but suffered a 6-3 loss in their season opener to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (1-0-0-0) at PPL Center on Saturday.
Michael Dal Colle (1g, 1a) and Mitch Vande Sompel (1g, 1a) also collected goals 17 seconds apart midway through the third period, while Josh Ho-Sang notched two assists in the setback.
Nic Aube-Kubel and Greg Carey each scored twice for the Phantoms.
Lehigh Valley controlled the game early and jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the seven-minute mark of the middle frame, beginning with Carey’s rebound goal just 5:51 in. Phil Myers skated to the right point and swept a long shot towards Christopher Gibson that was initially stopped, but Carey found the second chance and converted stick side to open the scoring.
Aube-Kubel got his first of the night two minutes into the second period when he blocked Parker Wotherspoon’s shot in the Phantoms’ zone and sprung the opposite direction. Aube-Kubel settled for a wrist shot from the top of the right circle, but placed it perfectly over Gibson’s right shoulder, off the post, and in.
Less than five minutes later, Aube-Kubel added his second tally as the beneficiary of Phil Varone’s skillful work. Carey advanced the puck to Varone down there left wing, where he charged directly to the left post and drew two Sound Tigers his direction. Varone then dished the puck across to a wide-open Aube-Kubel who connected at 6:51.
Bridgeport got one back at 16:54 of the second period when Bellows made it 3-1 with his first pro goal on the power play. With Cole Bardreau in the box for holding, Chris Bourque collected Sebastian Aho’s pass in the right circle and threw a centering feed to the crease. The pass clipped Bellows’ skate and redirected past Phantoms goalie Carter Hart. Bellows also had two power-play goals during preseason play with the Islanders.
Lehigh Valley answered in the third period and bumped its lead to 5-1 with a pair of goals from German Rubtsov and Carey less than a minute apart. Rubtsov notched his first pro goal, also in his debut, at the 7:50 mark when he caught T.J. Brennan’s pass and quickly went forehand-to-backhand to beat Gibson in front. Fifty-one seconds later, Brennan set up another tally by finding Carey above the right circle, where he spun and fired a wrist shot past Gibson’s blocker.
The Sound Tigers offered at a comeback midway through the third when Vande Sompel and Dal Colle each scored to make it 5-3. Ho-Sang and Dal Colle teamed up to create space for Vande Sompel following a cross-checking penalty to James de Haas, and Vande Sompel beat Hart’s glove for a power-play tally at the 11:01 mark. Seconds later, Dal Colle got one himself from between the circles at 11:18.
With a two-goal deficit, head coach Brent Thompson elected to pull Gibson for the extra attacker inside the final three minutes, but it was to no avail. Instead, Varone found the empty net at 19:18 to seal the Phantoms’ win.
Bridgeport finished the game 4-for-4 on the penalty kill to go along with its two power-play tallies. Gibson (0-1-0) made 23 saves on 28 shots, while Hart (1-0-0) stopped 31 of 34 and earned a victory in his pro debut.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers complete the weekend tomorrow night with a 5 p.m. matchup against the Hershey Bears at Giant Center. Fans can follow all of the live action via the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m. Bridgeport's home opener is set for Saturday, Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. against the Rochester Americans.
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 (Nov. 23 and 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), while other new headliners include Holiday Gift Weekend (Dec. 15-16) and a revamped Teddy Bear Toss (Nov. 23). View the full 2017-18 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.