ALLENTOWN, PA - Matt Lorito scored twice and Jeremy Smith was less than a minute from his first shutout of the season, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (35-18-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, earned their seventh straight win with a 3-1 victory against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (28-24-3-3) at PPL Center on Sunday.
Steve Bernier added his team-leading 20th goal of the season, extending his goal-scoring streak to three straight games, while Tanner Fritz chipped in two assists. Mike Vecchione had Lehigh Valley’s only tally at 19:02 of the third period.
With the win, the Sound Tigers also pushed their point streak to 10 in a row (9-0-1-0) and climbed to within six points of first place in the Atlantic Division standings. Bridgeport finished its season series against Lehigh Valley 3-2-1-0.
Following a scoreless first period that saw 18 combined shots, the Sound Tigers struck first at 10:27 of the middle frame with Bernier’s one-time tally. Chris Casto gathered a loose puck in the neutral zone and charged ahead to set up the even-strength opportunity. He skated to the right circle and dropped a pass to Bernier, where he rifted a shot past Alex Lyon’s blocker to make it 1-0.
Lorito’s first goal of the afternoon made it 2-0 early in the third period when he capitalized on an odd-man rush into Lehigh Valley territory. Ben Holmstrom found Fritz racing through center and it quickly developed into a 2-on-1 rush. From the right wing, Fritz directed a cross-ice pass to Lorito in the left circle, where he guided a one-timer past Lyon’s blocker at the 2:02 mark.
The Phantoms responded in the final minute and cut their deficit in half with a 6-on-4 advantage. Following a cross-checking penalty accessed to Seth Helgeson and the Phantoms’ net empty with Lyon on the bench, Vecchione scored a rebound goal to break up Smith’s shutout on Lehigh Valley’s 24th shot at 19:02.
However, the Sound Tigers answered with an empty-net tally from Lorito to seal the victory in the final second of regulation. It was Lorito’s fourth of the season and gives him 10 points (four goals, six assists) in seven games with Bridgeport. Fritz and Chris Bourque each assisted on the final tally.
Bridgeport finished the game 0-for-5 on the power play and 6-for-7 on the penalty kill, while the Phantoms led in the shot department, 25-21. Smith (17-9-3) made 24 saves on 25 shots.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers continue their five-game road trip on Friday with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Rochester Americans at Blue Cross Arena. The game in Rochester, N.Y. will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network and may be viewed live via AHLTV. Pre-game coverage will begin at 6:45 p.m.