BRIDGEPORT, CT - Carter Verhaeghe scored twice and Jaroslav Halak set a franchise record with his 10th straight victory as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (30-16-1-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, topped the Hershey Bears (25-14-8-3) for the second time this season, 5-4, at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday.
Bracken Kearns (one goal, one assist), Tanner Fritz (one goal, one assist) and Ryan Pulock (three assists) also recorded a multi-point effort, helping the Sound Tigers win their fourth consecutive game. In addition, Bridgeport logged a season-best 50 shots, just three off the franchise record for shots in regulation. The Sound Tigers launched 53 shots against Hartford on Oct. 29, 2005.
Bridgeport struck first for the 25th time this season when Ben Holmstrom beat goaltender Vitek Vanecek at 6:15 of the opening period. Michael Dal Colle set up the attack from the left boards before making a pass across to Holmstrom in the right circle. The captain proceeded to rip a snap shot past Vanecek’s blocker for his fifth of the season.
Just 1:19 later, Bridgeport doubled its lead with Kearns’ team-leading 17th tally this season. From behind the Bears’ net, Kearns sent the puck along the right boards before making his way to the doorstep. Ryan Pulock continued the play with a wrist shot from the right point that Kearns tipped over Vanecek’s blocker at 7:34.
Hershey cut its deficit in half with Zach Sanford’s first of two tallies at 11:16 of the first period. Chandler Stephenson skated with the puck to the left circle where he made a diagonal pass to Sanford at the top of the crease. The centerman settled the pass and lifted a shot over Halak’s glove to make it a 2-1 game.
The Sound Tigers regained their two-goal advantage just 21 seconds later when Verhaeghe scored his second goal in as many days. Kearns began the play when he brought the puck in across the right side of the blue line and left it for Verhaeghe. There, the third year forward skated towards the slot and wristed a shot inside the left post, past Vanecek’s blocker.
With less than a minute remaining in the first, the Bears again cut their deficit to one, this time on the power play. With Kyle Burroughs in the box for boarding, Paul Carey set up below the goal line and directed a pass to Riley Barber at the right hash marks, where the latter shot a one-timer past Halak’s glove to make it 3-2 at the 19:03 mark. It concluded a five-goal period between the two clubs.
Hershey tied the game with another power-play goal just 2:33 into the second period. Following a hooking minor accessed to Kane Lafranchise, Jakub Vrana blasted a shot on goal that was initially stopped by Halak. However, the veteran netminder but couldn’t cover and Sanford finished the rebound for his second goal of the contest. It was his 11th tally in the AHL this season.
Fritz put the Bridgeport back in front with his 14th goal of the season at 7:29 of the middle frame. Pulock started the opportunity when he skated into the Bears’ zone, danced his way around the defense and brushed a pass to Fritz. The second-year pro proceded to skate from right to left before firing a snap shot past Vanecek’s blocker, which chased Vanecek from the game. Former Sound Tiger Parker Milner replaced Vanecek after 27:29 of work.
Verhaeghe notched the eventual game-winner, and his second tally of the game, at 15:32 of the second. Jesse Graham gained possession at the left point of Hershey’s zone and wristed a shot towards the crease, which Verhaeghe tipped in front for Milner's only blemish.
The visitors capped the scoring on Barber’s second power-play goal of the contest at 18:21 of the middle frame. With Verhaeghe in the box for boarding, Travis Boyd skated down the left boards and slid a pass in front to Barber who redirected it home for his seventh of the season.
The third period saw 24 combined shots but no goals for the 5-4 final. In addition, the contest included one fight when Connor Jones and Tyler Lewington dropped the gloves at 19:45 of the first period.
The Sound Tigers went 0-for-5 on the power play and 1-for-4 on the penalty kill. Halak (11-1-2) finished with 22 saves on 26 shots, while Milner (3-0-0) stopped 23 chances in 30:56 of a no decision. Vanecek (12-9-7) turned back 22 of the 26 shots he faced.
Bridgeport outshot Hershey 50-26.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers hit the road on Friday for a 7:05 p.m. matchup against the Rochester Americans at Blue Cross Arena. The contest kicks off another three-game weekend series. Fans can follow all of the action online via AHLlive.com, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m. ET.
For additional details or to reserve seats for any of the 2016-17 giveaway and theme nights, please call the Sound Tigers’ front office at (203) 345-2300.
Executive suites and premium seat packages are also available by calling the team’s front office at (203) 345-4841. If you are interested in group outings with your friends, family, co-workers, or clients an unforgettable experience at a discounted rate, call the group sales hotline at (203) 345-2300 Ext. 7.
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