BRIDGEPORT, CT - Otto Koivula scored for the fourth straight game and posted the overtime winner with less than seven seconds remaining on Saturday, giving the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (29-18-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, a 4-3 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack (21-25-4-3) in their final meeting of the season at Webster Bank Arena.
Andrew Ladd and Thomas Hickey, who were loaned to Bridgeport on conditioning by the Islanders earlier in the day, each scored a goal to make an instant impact, while Josh Ho-Sang also tallied his third goal of the season. It was Bridgeport’s league-leading 12th win beyond regulation in their 19th contest that went to overtime.
Between the pipes, Christopher Gibson (15-9-4) made 25 saves on 28 shots, while Brandon Halverson (2-2-1) allowed four goals on 24 shots.
Hartford used its initial power play to strike first at 13:35 of the opening period. Following a roughing penalty against Kyle Burroughs, Peter Holland tracked down a loose puck below the goal line and snapped a pass to Vinni Lettieri in the slot. Lettieri connected with the one-timer and gathered his 14th goal of the season to give the Wolf Pack a 1-0 lead.
Less than four minutes later, the Sound Tigers evened the score at 1-1 when Ladd collected a goal in his Bridgeport debut. Tanner Fritz saucered a crisp, cross-ice pass from the bottom of the left circle to Yannick Rathgeb at the point, who found Ladd in the slot on a successful slap-pass that was deflected between Halverson’s legs. Ladd’s first-period marker was his first AHL tally since Dec. 12, 2007 with the Albany River Rats.
It took Hartford just 58 seconds into the middle frame to regain its one-goal advantage when Steven Fogarty made it a 2-1 game. At 4-on-4 play, Fogarty altered Ryan Lindgren’s point-shot out of mid-air and into the back of the net for his 13th goal of the season.
Ho-Sang potted the equalizer at 17:52 of the second period to even the score for a second time. After settling a breakout pass from Ladd, Ho-Sang banked the puck to himself off the boards at the red line and corralled it inside the blue line. He used his elusive speed to evade a pair of defensemen, made a quick breakaway move on Halverson, and scored off the far post and in.
The Wolf Pack got off to yet another quick start in the third period as Tim Gettinger scored his 11th goal of the year just 17 seconds in. He gathered a rebound off of Lindgren’s point shot in the slot, and buried the go-ahead goal into the near-empty cage. But the Sound Tigers tied the game for a third-consecutive time at the 3:30 mark when Hickey fired home a goal in his Bridgeport debut as well. After the Sound Tigers controlled offensive-zone pressure, Hickey received a D-to-D pass at the blue line and
wristed a seeing-eye shot that sailed past Halverson’s glove from the left point.
The game remained deadlocked at the end of 60 minutes, handing the Sound Tigers their third straight overtime decision and the club’s fourth in the last six affairs. And 3-on-3 action did not disappoint.
While Bridgeport controlled the majority of possession in the first four minutes, Gibson made a spectacular pad save on Hartford’s first scoring chance of the extra frame, as he stretched out and robbed Lindgren on the doorstep.
With less than seven seconds left in overtime, Koivula iced the contest with a spectacular move above the crease. Koivula caught a Chris Bourque feed in the slot and used his lengthy reach to execute forehand-to-backhand move, before he elevated a backhander just under the bar for the 4-3 final.
Koivula’s team-leading 17th goal of the season was his first career AHL game-winning goal, and extended his point streak to six games (4-3–7).
The Sound Tigers finished the contest 0-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena tomorrow afternoon for a matinee matchup against the first-place Charlotte Checkers. The puck drops at 3 p.m. and the tilt will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network, and may be viewed live via AHLTV. Pre-game coverage begins at 2:45 p.m.