After Bridgeport hockey fans jammed the sold-out Webster Bank Arena for a preseason game between the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders, the National Hockey League affiliate of the Sound Tigers, another raucous crowd packed the building for the team’s opening game against the Portland Pirates.
Mathieu Beaudoin scored twice and Curtis McElhinney made 37 saves as the Pirates doubled up the Bridgeport Sound Tigers by a score of 4-2 in front of 7,343 fans on Saturday night. However, the icemen evened up their record at 1-1 in Albany Sunday afternoon, dispatching the Devils by the same 4-2 score.
The Pirates got on the board just 3:03 into Saturday’s game. Andy Miele’s shot on the net was initially stopped by Sound Tigers netminder Kevin Poulin, but Brett Hextall found the rebound in front and flipped it home to give Portland the early 1-0 lead. The Sound Tigers responded just 1:27 later. Trevor Frischmon made a pass from behind the Portland net to Tomas Marcinko in the slot, and the fourth-year Sound Tiger fired a snap shot off the left post and past McElhinney to even the score at one. Bridgeport outshot Portland by a 15-6 margin in the opening frame, but the teams remained tied at one after twenty minutes.
Portland turned the tide in the second and jumped back in front with another early goal. Andy Miele’s shot from just below the Sound Tigers’ blue line made its way through a screen and past Poulin to give Portland the 2-1 lead at 2:04 of the middle frame.
Beaudoin scored the first of his two goals just 3:31 later with a one-time blast from the base of the left wing circle on the power play. The Sound Tigers countered at 15:38 of the second period when Aaron Ness’s shot from the point caromed off of Portland defenseman Tyler Eckford and past McElhinney. It was Ness’s first goal of the season, and the Sound Tigers entered the third period trailing Portland, 3-2.
The Sound Tigers had opportunities early in the third to even the score with nearly four minutes of combined five-on-four and five-on-three power plays, but Brent Thompson’s squad could not convert. Portland added an insurance goal when Beaudoin scored on a two-on-none breakaway and beat Poulin with a backhand to the top left corner at 13:22 of the final period.
Poulin made 29 saves in the losing effort, and the Sound Tigers were 0-for-6 on the power play.
It was a different story in Albany, though. Justin DiBenedetto recorded a hat trick and Anders Nilsson made 28 saves in his North American debut as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers defeated the Albany Devils, 4-2, at the Times Union Center on Sunday.
The Sound Tigers got on the board just 1:54 into the game. Rookie forward Casey Cizikas freed the puck from below the Devils’ net and found DiBenedetto in front. DiBenedetto was able to get his stick on the bouncing puck, and tipped it past Albany netminder Keith Kinkaid for his first goal of the season to give the Sound Tigers the 1-0 lead. The Devils evened the score on a 4-on-4 at 14:14 of the first period. Albany defenseman Peter Harrold sent a pass from above the right circle to a streaking Chad Wiseman, who got to the back post and deflected the pass past Nilsson to tie the score at one.
The score remained even until the 5:17 mark of the middle frame when DiBenedetto put the Sound Tigers back in front. After a sustained shift in the Albany zone, Cizikas’ shot on the net was initially stopped before DiBenedetto slid the rebound past Kinkaid for his second goal of the game. Nilsson stopped all 14 shots he saw in the frame and also received some help with two shots caroming off of posts during an Albany power play. The Devils outshot the Sound Tigers, 14-5, in the second period, but Bridgeport still held the 2-1 edge heading to the third period.
Albany responded after an Aaron Ness hook led to a Mike Sislo penalty shot. Sislo skated in and fired off the right post and in to even the score at two 4:10 into the third period. However, the Sound Tigers responded just 22 seconds later. Cizikas assisted on all three of DiBenedetto’s goals, and his third came from a blocked shot in the Sound Tigers zone. The Maple, Ontario, native carried the puck on a 2-on-1 on the right side and fired into the top left circle for his first pro hat trick to give the Sound Tigers the 3-2 lead.
Bridgeport killed a Sean Backman penalty in the final 2:30, and Backman ended up grabbing a loose puck at center ice and scoring an empty-netter to give head coach Brent Thompson the first win of his AHL coaching career.
The Sound Tigers return to action Oct. 21 when they travel to Glens Falls, N.Y., to take on the Adirondack Phantoms. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.