Sharks Killed in Bridgeport

With apologies to that great philosopher Forrest Gump, 'a matinee is like opening a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get.' A 1 o'clock game the same day as the NHL's Winter Classic, I was surprised at the crowd at the walk-up  windows and the number of cars in the parking lot. Attendance was announced at 5945 and included Charles Wang and Garth Snow, neither of whom I saw in line for tickets.

Coming off a long road trip of 18 hours on the bus and a disappointing end to 2011 (last place in the division with just 2 wins in the last 12 games), the Bridgeport Sound Tigers were about to face the Worcester Sharks (near the top of the division with but 9 losses in 32 games).

Both teams were skating well early in the first with the the speed of the Backman - Haley - Romano line impressing. Then five minutes in, Cizikas buried a shot from the top of the slot off a nice feed from Rakshani and the Tigers had a 1-0 lead with assists to Rakhshani and Ness. The Tigers continued to dominate play through the rest of the period and took the 1-0 lead to the locker room with a 10-7 shots on goal advantage and some great checking in all three zones.

The 2nd period got started with Poulin making a huge save on a shot in close but Worcester seemed to be picking up some momentum as Howes was called for tripping. Backman was all over the ice making solid checks in the defensive and neutral zones while on the penalty kill. Seconds after the penalty expired, Moullierat went off for slashing and it became gut check time for Bridgeport; back to back penalties are leg killers but this one was survived.

Bridgeport gained momentum at the half way mark but they were in a state of denial. First Cizikas wa robbed of a great opportunity for a tip-in, then Romano couldn't finish a nice attempt at a wrap around. Then the tide turned as Romano fired a wrist shot off of a Donovan feed to the roof of the net for a 2-0 lead. Donovan continues to impress, playing a high risk game at the blue line.

In his first game as a Sound Tiger, Matthieu Aubin made a nice steal behind the Sharks net and fed Mouillierat, who buried it, giving the Tigers a surprising three-goal lead. Moments later Rakhshani ripped one through Haley's screen and it was 4-0 with assists going to Ness and Reese.

Poulin stopped everthing coming his way and got rewarded with his first professional shutout and Bridgeport's first since Nov. 30, 2010. A solid game for all 60 minutes; the announced three stars went to Ness, Rakhshani and Poulin. Great way to start 2012.

-Mike Flannery

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