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Holmstrom’s two goals pace Sound Tigers past Senators

February 4, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — What Ben Holmstrom does for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, every night now for two and a half years, doesn’t always show up in the box score.

Saturday, he was all over it. He scored the first and third goals in the Sound Tigers’ 3-1 win over the Belleville Senators at Webster Bank Arena.

“Obviously our leader stepped up,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “When your captain steps up and everybody follows, that’s a good sign.”

Holmstrom has mostly played a defensive role for the Sound Tigers over three seasons, on the third or fourth line, first forward on the penalty kill.

He’d scored only 16 goals in his first 197 games for the Sound Tigers. Saturday was 198, all without missing a game, the team record for consecutive games and the AHL’s longest active streak.

“It’s always nice to be able to contribute on the scoresheet, where it’s a little more tangible,” Holmstrom said.

“At this point of the season, it doesn’t matter who’s putting up goals. What matters is two points (in the standings) every night.”

Those two points Friday moved the Sound Tigers one ahead of Charlotte, who lost in a shootout at Hershey, for the fourth and final playoff spot in their division with 30 games to go.

Connor Jones, set up by a spin move by Josh Ho-Sang that sent a defenseman sliding into the corner, put the Sound Tigers ahead 2-0 in the first period.

It was a solid comeback after a 1-0 loss Friday night to Springfield, when the Sound Tigers held the Thunderbirds to 13 shots on goal but couldn’t solve Evan Cowley.

“I don’t think we were bad last night,” Holmstrom said. “I thought we did a lot of good things, just didn’t get any bounces. Tonight, we picked up where we left off, got a couple of goals and played with the lead.”

Holmstrom hadn’t scored two in one game since his rookie season, when he did it twice in March 2011 for the Adirondack Phantoms.

He got his first 5:46 into the game, battling his way to the front after Kyle Schempp’s shot was blocked and battling to get the puck as he was knocked down.

“From the start of the game, Ben was a physical presence,” Thompson said. “He got us off the schneid right off the hop with secondary effort, a secondary chance, just sheer hard work.”

Kane Lafranchise’s second effort set up Holmstrom’s second goal. His first breakout pass was knocked away, but he picked up the loose puck and carried up the right wing.

“I don’t rush the puck often anymore,” Lafranchise said with a grin. “I saw Ben going to the net.”

With the Senators’ attention focused on Lafranchise, Holmstrom was open to take the pass and beat Danny Taylor.

“We need scoring throughout the lineup,” Thompson said. “I’d still like to see more shots, more zone time.”

Scott Eansor, Bridgeport’s leading goal-scorer with 16, missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury.

Attendance was 3,366.

The Senators moved to Belleville, Ontario, last summer after 15 years in Binghamton, N.Y. This was their first visit from their new home.

They broke up Christopher Gibson’s shutout Saturday with 10:26 left on Filip Chlapik’s power-play goal, but they took three penalties in the last five minutes to make sure they weren’t coming back.

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

SOUND TIGERS 3, SENATORS 1

Belleville0 0 1—1

Bridgeport2 1 0—3

First Period — 1, Bridgeport, B.Holmstrom 6 (Schempp, J.Holmstrom), 5:46. 2, Bridgeport, C.Jones (Ho-Sang, St. Denis), 12:46. Penalties — None.

Second Period — 3, Bridgeport, B.Holmstrom 7 (Lafranchise), 8:07. Penalties — Erkamps, Bel (tripping), 3:30; Blunden, Bel (roughing), 12:37; Helgeson, Bpt (high-sticking), 12:37; Wotherspoon, Bpt (slashing), 17:57.

Third Period — 4, Belleville, Chlapik 7 (Paul, Sexton), 9:34 (pp). Penalties — Ciampini, Bel (hooking), 5:43; Vande Sompel, Bpt (cross-checking), 8:48; McCormick, Bel (cross-checking), 15:11; Blunden, Bel (slashing), 17:18; Sieloff, Bel (slashing), 18:48.

Shots on goal — Belleville 6-10-9—25. Bridgeport 8-5-14—27.

Power play opportunities — Belleville 1 of 2, Bridgeport 0 of 5.

Goaltenders — Belleville, Taylor 7-11-2 (27 shots-24 saves). Bridgeport, Gibson 17-9-2 (25-24).

Attendance — 3,366. Referees — Pontes, Sheehan. Linesmen — Colby, Pincus.