BRIDGEPORT, CT - Travis St. Denis celebrated his first professional hat trick as part of a five-point performance on Thursday, guiding the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (31-23-5-3), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, to their second straight four-goal comeback in a 6-4 win against the Rochester Americans (30-17-10-6) at Webster Bank Arena.
Bridgeport defeated the Springfield Thunderbirds with five unanswered goals after trailing 4-0 last Sunday.
The Sound Tigers allowed each of the first four goals on Thursday for the second straight game, but rallied with six unanswered, including three from St. Denis. Ryan Bourque (two goals), Steve Bernier (one goal, one assist) and Ryan Hitchcock (three assists) also recorded a multi-point effort, while Eamon McAdam (2-1-0) stopped all 19 shots in 37:36 of relief. For Hitchcock, a Yale University product, all three helpers were the first three points of his professional career in just his second pro outing.
In addition, St. Denis’ five points (three goals, two assists) are tied for a franchise record with four other players – last done by Ryan Strome on Nov. 1, 2013 at Worcester.
With the win, the Sound Tigers closed the gap back to five points behind the fourth-place Charlotte Checkers for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Bridgeport also has two games in hand on Charlotte with 14 contests left in the regular season.
Sean Malone put the Amerks out front early with his ninth goal of the season just 3:55 into the first period. After Hudson Fasching failed to convert from just outside the right post, the puck bounced loose to the right of Kristers Gudlevskis and sat in the crease for Malone. The rookie forward was in the right place at the right time and flipped the puck directly over Gudlevskis’ blocker to make it 1-0.
Stuart Percy recorded his sixth goal of the season while on the power play for a Seth Helgeson high-sticking penalty at the 10:06 mark. Percy received the puck from Taylor Fedun near the left circle and stepped into a rocket that flew towards the top shelf of Gudlevskis’ stick side, which put Rochester up 2-0.
The Amerks added another tally in the final minute of the first period to make it 3-0. Malone collected a lead pass from Alexander Nylander and skated the puck deep into Bridgeport’s zone, where he eventually brought it behind the net. He neared the trapezoid and issued a quick centering pass to Fasching, who didn’t miss and buried his eighth goal of the year.
Rochester collected its fourth goal in less than 22 minutes when Danny O’Regan beat Gudlevskis just 1:13 into the second period, which chased Bridgeport’s starter from the crease. O’Regan settled a stretch pass from Sahir Gill and skated down the right wing before he smoked a wrist shot off the post and in for his 10th goal this season.
A resilient Sound Tigers squad began to chip away little by little, much like they did against Springfield, and got on the board for the first time at 3:29 of the second period. Following a hooking penalty to Malone, Kyle Burroughs fired a long shot from the right point that Bourque tipped in front and past the outstretched blocker of Adam Wilcox.
St. Denis made it 4-2 with his first of three goals at 12:42 of the middle frame. Hitchcock began the play by redirecting the puck over Rochester’s stripe where Bernier raced onto it and pushed it to the doorstep. A charging St. Denis got there and forced a shot past Wilcox to light the lamp and cut Bridgeport’s deficit to a pair.
St. Denis struck again at 3:53 of the final frame and pulled the Sound Tigers within one with another power-play tally. Following a second hooking penalty against Malone, St. Denis called for the puck and wired a slap shot from the point that whistled through traffic and past the ear of Wilcox.
St. Denis sent the hats flying at 10:48 of the third period and tied the game at four with his team-best 20th goal of the season, and his seventh goal in as many games. Hitchcock guided a centering pass to St. Denis in the high slot, where he squared up and unleashed another powerful slap shot that Wilcox couldn’t solve. St. Denis now has 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in his last seven contests.
Nearly five minutes later at the 15:43 mark, Bernier gave Bridgeport its first lead of the night in what ended up being the game-winning goal. St. Denis found Hitchcock with a tape-to-tape pass at the point, and the former Yale captain nailed a slap shot towards the net that Bernier tipped for his 15th goal of the season, which put the Sound Tigers up 5-4.
Bourque added his second goal of the game, and 10th of the season, on an empty-net tally to seal it at 19:00 of the third.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 2-for-6 on the power play and 6-for-7 on the penalty kill. Rochester outshot Bridgeport 36-27, while Gudlevskis made 13 saves on 17 shots in 21:13 of a no decision. Wilcox (10-6-6) stopped 21 of 26 shots in Rochester’s loss.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to action tomorrow night and open a four-game road trip with a 7 p.m. puck drop against the Hershey Bears at Giant Center. Fans can follow all of the live action on the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHL Live, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m.