PROVIDENCE, RI - Sound Tigers goaltender Kevin Poulin made 46 saves and Rhett Rakhshani added a goal and two assists as the Sound Tigers clinched the 2011-12 Northeast Division title with a 4-1 win over the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday night. With the win, the Sound Tigers improve to 40-25-3-6 overall and earn their first division crown in 10 years. The Bruins fall to 34-33-3-4.
Providence controlled much of the play in the opening period, but the Sound Tigers would be the only team to find the back of the net in the first 20 minutes. Rookie forward John Persson forced a turnover behind the Providence on an aggressive forecheck and fed the puck to Rhett Rakhshani in the slot. Rakhshani snapped the puck over Michael Hutchinson’s right shoulder for his 19th goal of the season and the Sound Tigers led 1-0 with 4:54 left in the first period. Kevin Poulin was solid to begin his 12th consecutive start in goal, making 14 saves to hold Providence scoreless.
The Sound Tigers increased their lead to two goals late in the second period on the power play. Rakhshani fed the puck to Tony Romano near the left post, and Romano fired the puck off Hutchinson and in for his 12th goal of the season at 16:17 of the middle frame. Poulin was just as strong in the second period, turning aside 14 more shots to preserve the 2-0 lead heading to the third period.
The Bruins cut their deficit in half 5:40 into the third period. The Sound Tigers struggled to clear the zone, and Kyle MacKinnon beat Poulin as he stuffed the puck through his pads from close range to bring Providence within one goal. The Bruins would draw no closer, as Ty Wishart put the game out of reach with just under three minutes left in regulation, sending a wrist shot from the top of the left circle past Hutchinson to put Bridgeport back up by two goals. Aaron Ness added an empty-netter and the Sound Tigers came away with the 4-1 victory.
The Northeast Division title marks the second division title in team history. The Sound Tigers only other division title came during their inaugural 2001-02 season when they reached the Calder Cup Finals before falling to the Chicago Wolves.
The Sound Tigers will travel to Pennsylvania for their final road game of the regular season to open a home-and-home series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m.