Penalty kill successful for Sound Tigers
BRIDGEPORT — Even in practice, there’s a desperation in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ penalty kill. A blocked shot here, John Stevens diving to clear a puck there.
Bridgeport has denied 29 consecutive opposition power plays, the second-longest streak in team history and a run that has boosted the Sound Tigers’ penalty kill to fourth place in the AHL as of Tuesday morning.
“It starts with Gibby and Goody,” forward Connor Jones said Monday, referring to goalies Christopher Gibson and Kristers Gudlevskis. “They’ve made some big saves for us. Being down one, you’re going to give up a Grade-A from time to time. They’ve been awesome for us.”
Both special teams have worked well for Bridgeport of late as they set out on a three-game road trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Rochester and Toronto over the next four days.
The power play has a goal in each of the past six games, the team’s longest streak in five years, and it’s 9-for-22 in that stretch. The penalty kill hasn’t given up a goal in seven games.
“We’re getting blocked shots. We’re getting saves. The goalies are making key saves for us if (other teams) do get good chances,” said defenseman Kyle Burroughs, a mainstay on the penalty kill. “It’s just attention to detail right now for us.”
Whether because of luck or the constant chess match of adjustments, special teams can run in cycles. When Bridgeport’s penalty kill hit a lull earlier in the season, coach Brent Thompson, who runs the unit, said he was seeing less of a problem with its structure, more bad bounces going against them.
“You’ve got to be a little lucky,” Jones said. “We’ve been doing a good job keeping pucks to the outside, and when we don’t, Gibby and Goody have been there.”
They’re winning their faceoffs and clearing the puck out of the zone effectively, Thompson said.
“You always want to be better,” Thompson said. “It’s important that we focus on improving our routes, tightening up seams, eliminating any kind of second chances.”
If Seth Helgeson and Burroughs weren’t on the ice on defense to start a penalty kill, it was usually Devon Toews with one of them. But he’s out injured; the team was hoping to have a clearer timeline on his injury soon.
Patrick Cullity and Parker Wotherspoon got into the lineup Saturday to replace Toews and Sebastian Aho, who was called up to make his NHL debut Sunday. Bridgeport brought Mike Cornell up from Worcester.
Bridgeport will have a little different look up front, too, with veteran Steve Bernier and youngster Anthony Beauvillier down, and leading scorer Tanner Fritz called up to make his NHL debut Tuesday night.
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