Sound Tigers prove they’re not pussy cats

Published on March 31, 2011 by

The Sound Tigers season is coming to a close and it is a season that defies analysis.

The Bridgeport icemen are by far and away the worst team in the American Hockey League, there’s no question about that. The Tigers are last in the league with 57 points and have not been a threat to the division leaders in any way shape or form. That’s a team you would expect to throw in the towel, no?

No.
This team has guts.

Despite being gutted by injuries, and the NHL New York Islanders being gutted by injuries, the locals have stayed tough under the guidance of coach Pat Bingham. Last weekend was a perfect example. Bridgeport had a rare four game homestand and responded by sending all four games into overtime. True they lost three of them but they gained a single point in each of them and dispatched a superior Manchester Monarch team on Saturday night. This all made for a thrilling weekend and a burst of optimism for next year.

Justin DiBenedetto scored the game-winning goal 1:37 into overtime and Nathan Lawson earned first star honors with an impressive 38-save performance as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers came from behind to knock off the Manchester Monarchs 2-1 at Webster Bank Arena on Saturday night. The Sound Tigers now have points in five of their last six games and improve to 23-36-3-7 overall. The Monarchs fall to 41-23-2-6.

Both teams started out slow with only one combined shot on goal in the first five minutes of play, but Manchester began to pour it on when Sound Tigers defender Ty Wishart was called for roughing at 5:54. The Monarchs managed four shots on Bridgeport goalie Nathan Lawson during the man-advantage but could not solve the Sound Tigers netminder. Bridgeport had its best scoring chance of the period on the 4 on 4 when Dylan Reese, David Ullstrom and Justin DiBenedetto skated on a 3-on-1 break. Reese sent the puck over to a cutting Ullstrom at the left circle but Ullstrom couldn’t handle the pass. Lawson made some big saves on the penalty kill towards the end of the frame, but the Sound Tigers and Monarchs ended the period scoreless.

Manchester controlled the start of the second period and held the Sound Tigers without a shot for the first 12 minutes of the middle frame. The Sound Tigers nearly took the lead when Jeremy Colliton and Hisey entered the Manchester zone on a 2-on-1. Colliton hit Hisey with the pass at the edge of the left circle but his one-timer caromed off the left post. Lawson continued his outstanding play with several great saves in the period as well as good team penalty killing. However, Manchester was able to finally break through on the power play with 1:19 left in the period. Justin Azevedo’s shot from in front of the blue line was blocked in front, but went right Bud Holloway at the left circle who
put it past Lawson’s diving effort for the 1-0 lead.

The Sound Tigers had a golden opportunity to start the third as Justin DiBenedetto took a high cross-check from David Kolomatis 1:05 into the period and was given a five-minute major as well as a game misconduct. But the Sound Tigers struggled to mount a presence in Manchester’s zone and the Monarchs killed off the five-minute power play. But just as they had the previous night,the Sound Tigers battled from behind to tie the score late in the third period.

Tony Romano came in on a hard forecheck to force a turnover deep in the Monarchs zone, then drove hard to the left post and managed to push the puck through Martin Jones and tie the score 1-1 with 3:35 left in regulation.

That set the stage for Justin DiBenedetto’s heroics.

Mark Katic entered the right side of the Manchester zone and fired towards Martin Jones. Jones knocked down the initial shot, but DiBenedetto found the loose puck by the crease and backhanded it through his legs as he drifted across the goal mouth past Jones to set off the celebration as the Sound Tigers earned the come-from-behind 2-1 win. The game was exciting and the crowd was enthralled.

And the three other games last week all stretched into the extra period, which is a great treat for the fans. Maybe this season hasn’t been the best in terms of standings for the Sound Tigers, but the foundation has been built. This will be a good hockey team. Now about those Bluefish….

See you at the games.

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