Sound Tigers stay in playoff mix with win over Charlotte
BRIDGEPORT — A loss Sunday might have all but turned out the lights on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ playoff dreams. They’ll wake up on the day of the NHL trade deadline still in sight of fourth place.
Kristers Gudlevskis made 39 saves, Kellen Jones scored, a few breaks went their way and the Sound Tigers beat the Charlotte Checkers 1-0 at Webster Bank Arena.
“Looking at the standings, it’s close between everybody battling for that last spot,” said Jones, who played (and scored in) an ECHL game Saturday night and returned to Bridgeport on Sunday. “They’re big games at this point in the season.”
The Sound Tigers are right where they began the weekend, seven points behind Charlotte for the fourth and final Atlantic Division playoff spot, but now with 21 games to go. They do have two games in hand on the Checkers.
But after Charlotte’s 2-1 win here Saturday, a Sound Tigers loss Sunday would’ve dropped them 11 back, with only one head-to-head meeting remaining, and things might’ve looked grim.
“Last night was similar to Friday. We just didn’t put it all together,” Connor Jones said. “Today, we played hard. We battled. It was a greasy, gritty game.”
Gudlevskis was in net for Friday’s 5-3 loss at Providence, or at least for half of it. Eamon McAdam relieved him midway through the second period after Providence took a 4-1 lead.
“It was a good response game for (Gudlevskis),” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “The other game was never his fault. I don’t blame him; I think our team was sleeping. It was a tremendous response for him.”
Attendance was 4,222 for Brock Nelson bobblehead day. The Sound Tigers alumnus, with a day off for the New York Islanders, was on hand to sign autographs.
Bridgeport’s goal came, as Charlotte’s did Saturday, off a turnover.
Andre Benoit dumped the puck back into the zone after a Charlotte clear. Checkers defenseman Roland McKeown came from the right side to the left circle to corral the puck, and as Connor Jones came in to forecheck, McKeown flipped the puck up the middle, where there was only one man in a blue sweater, Kellen Jones.
“Sanger (Josh Ho-Sang) did a great job on the forecheck,” Connor Jones said. “We played the forecheck right, and Kellen made a great play to catch the puck.”
Kellen Jones reached up with his left hand like a shortstop fielding a soft line drive, dropped the puck in front of him and stepped up into the slot.
“It was probably just kind of being in the right spot,” Kellen Jones said. “It hurt my hand a bit. I tried to shoot as hard as possible.”
Smith came a couple of feet above the crease out to cut down the angle, but Kellen Jones blew it past him and two Checkers defenders, inside the left post. Smith appeared to be arguing for interference on Connor Jones, who was at his right side, to no avail.
Coincidentally enough, the Checkers had an apparent goal waved off two minutes later on Andrew Poturalski’s wraparound. The reason wasn’t announced, but Gudlevskis appeared jostled in the crease.
The Checkers had chances beyond the 39 Gudlevskis stopped, hit a couple of posts and missed a couple of open nets.
Gudlevskis stopped Warren Foegele, whose four short-handed goals share the AHL lead, twice on short-handed two-on-ones in the final few minutes to preserve the win and keep the playoff deficit at least manageable as Bridgeport heads on a road trip next week to Rochester and Canada.
SOUND TIGERS 1, CHECKERS 0
Charlotte0 0 0—0
Bridgeport0 1 0—1
First Period — No scoring. Penalties — St. Denis, Bpt (hooking), 15:45; Cullity, Bpt (high-sticking), 18:17.
Second Period — 1, Bridgeport, K.Jones 2, 6:21. Penalties — C.Jones, Bpt (roughing), 8:38; Gauthier, Cha (hooking), 11:15; Saarela, Cha (slashing), 15:54; Bernier, Bpt (elbowing), 15:54.
Third Period — No scoring. Penalties — Dal Colle, Bpt (high-sticking), :29; Kichton, Cha (delay of game), 3:25; St. Denis, Bpt (slashing), 6:58; Robertson, Cha (interference), 12:45; Roy, Cha (tripping), 17:18.
Shots on goal — Charlotte 14-9-16—39. Bridgeport 5-16-2—23.
Power play opportunities — Charlotte 0 of 5, Bridgeport 0 of 4.
Goaltenders — Charlotte, Smith 7-12-1 (23 shots-22 saves). Bridgeport, Gudlevskis 7-10-5 (39-39).
Attendance — 4,222. Referees — P.Lambert, Blandina. Linesmen — Simeon, E.Ernst.