Sound Tigers - The Last Stand?
It is probably safe to say that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers will not repeat as division champs, but that does not mean they can’t grab a more coveted award. The Eastern Conference championship banner and even the Calder Cup are available, but only if the team makes the playoffs.
In order to make the playoffs the Tigers will probably have to finish their last nineteen games with a record of 13-4-1-1 or better. Anymore than four losses will have the players eating home cooking on Mayday.
The way the team has played lately gives the most optimistic of fans (hand raised) hope, but we need a consistency fans have not seen all year. While the Tigers have had one win streak of four games and three streaks of three wins in a row, losing streaks include stretches of four, five, seven and eight nights of frustration. There is, however, good reason for hope.
After leading the AHL in goals allowed all season the team is finally showing some improvement. In their last four games the Sound Tigers allowed more than two goals in regulation only once, a 4-3 win over the Adirondack Phantoms (Rick DiPietro’s first win) on March 2nd.
DiPietro gave up two goals in his most recent start as well but it could just as easily been his first shutout. The Devils dominated play in the first period out shooting the Sound Tigers 12-4 and out scoring them 1-0 on a beauty of a redirection. Devils Joe Whitney was gliding backwards in front of the crease when he redirected a shot by Jay Leach past Rick DiPietro for the opening tally.
This was not your typical deflection where slow motion cameras are needed to detect the pucks change of rotation. The shot by Leach was headed for the two-hole and RDP was in position for the save Whitney’s redirect deposited it in the three-hole. No chance for any goalie.
Less than one minute into the second period Albany’s Harri Pesonen picked up a lose puck and started racing through the neutral zone. Matt Donovan had to do whatever was necessary to stop Pesonen’s progress and hope to avoid a whistle but couldn’t.
Pesonen scored on the penalty shot awarded but it was the last puck RDP allowed over the line. Niedereiter, Ness and Backman (2) would score four unanswered goals to secure the win.
The defense, a significant contributor to the high GAA, has shown marked improvement. Turn-overs are down and the blue-liners are racking up goals and assists. Donovan, Landry, Ness and Wishart are making huge contributions offensively to a team that has struggled to score.
In the last twelve games the Sound Tigers have scored more than three goals only three times, each time they came away winners losing the other nine, but there is hope here as well. The franchise record 0 for 41 power play slide ended on Tuesday, Nino Neiderreiter is out of his mini slump and the UPS (Ullstrom, Persson, Sundstrom) or ‘Swedish line’ is back.
The goal tending tandem of Ken Reiter and Rick DiPietro could be as good as the team has had all year. The defense is playing better than they have all season and there is every reason to hope that the offense will regain their swag. Missing from it all will be the teams’ heart.(Photo:Pope Steve XXVII)
Brett Gallant underwent season ending shoulder surgery last week and will be sorely missed by the team and his many fans. This seasons Trevor Gillies or another seasons Pascal Morency his job was to watch a team mates back and nobody ever did their job better than No. 44.
Be well ‘Gally’.
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