PROVIDENCE, RI - Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all 31 shots he faced and Sebastian Aho scored his first professional hat trick on Sunday as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (6-5-0-0), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, capped a three-game weekend sweep with a 6-0 win against the Providence Bruins (7-4-0-0) at Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Aho became the first Sound Tigers defenseman to ever record a hat trick, and four of his five tallies this season came this weekend in Providence. Between the pipes, Gudlevskis (3-2-0) recorded his first hat trick since Nov. 29, 2015 when he blanked Bridgeport with the Syracuse Crunch, also a 31-save effort.
John Stevens, Steve Bernier and Mitch Vande Sompel also beat goaltender Zane McIntyre on Sunday, who entered the contest with the third best goals-against-average in the AHL (1.81). It was the Sound Tigers biggest win of the season and the first time the club has scored six goals since Dec. 14, 2016 against Lehigh Valley.
The Sound Tigers notched the first goal for a sixth straight game when Aho beat McIntyre from the slot on the power play. With Colby Cave in the box for tripping, Josh Ho-Sang danced his way free from traffic in the trapezoid and centered a pass for Aho, who received it between the circles and pushed home his second goal of the season. Tanner Fritz was also credited with an assist.
Less than two minutes later, Bernier drove a shot off McIntyre’s right pad, which skipped between his legs and across the goal line shortly after a faceoff. Ryan Bourque and Devon Toews helped set up Bernier in front, where the veteran forward scored his sixth tally of the season at 13:42.
Stevens made it 3-0 just 56 seconds into the middle frame when he cleaned up a loose puck in the low slot following a breakaway from Ho-Sang. After a Providence turnover in the neutral zone, Ho-Sang grabbed possession and raced towards the net, but was denied on a forehand shot from the doorstep. However, the puck bounced right back towards the slot where a trailing Stevens flipped it home for his first goal of the season. Kane Lafranchise was also credited with a helper and Stevens now has points in three straight games (one goal, two assists).
Bridgeport didn’t let off the pedal as the second period continued and Mitch Vande Sompel made it 4-0 at the 7:55 mark. The rookie defenseman received a pass from Bailey on the right wing and skated to the high slot, where he hammered a slap shot past McIntyre’s blocker for his second professional tally.
Aho capped a three-goal second period at 10:17 when he turned and wristed a shot from the blue line that clipped the left post and redirected in. The Islanders’ fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft then secured his first career hat trick at 10:08 of the third period with another shot from the blue line that sailed through traffic and past McIntyre’s blocker.
A convincing performance for the Sound Tigers also turned physical midway through the second period, and continued that way into the final minutes of the third. The game included four scraps, with Ross Johnston and Providence’s Sena Acolatse each fighting different opponents twice. The pair of heavyweights, who fought head-to-head on Friday, also received game misconducts in the third. Johnston, Acolatse, Stevens, Kyle Burroughs, Adam Payerl, and Tommy Cross all dropped the gloves at least once.
Bridgeport finished the game 2-for-5 on the power play and 7-for-7 on the penalty kill. The Sound Tigers also outshot the Bruins 37-31, while McIntyre (4-2-0) made 31 saves in just his second loss of the year.