February 3, 2014

AHL Journal: Nilsson back in the groove for Sound Tigers

By Mike Miccoli

The last few weeks for Anders Nilsson were a roller coaster. For one, his last win for the Sound Tigers came on Dec. 20, followed by seven consecutive starts without a win. During that time, Nilsson spent close to three weeks with the New York Islanders, picking up his first-ever NHL win in his only start of his most recent call-up.

Nilsson lost his his first game back with Bridgeport, a 2-1 Albany Devils win on Friday night, but returned to form winning his first game in eight starts in the same fashion as before – a 3-0 shutout win against the Falcons on Saturday.

“Two pretty good games in a row is good for the confidence, to try to build it up going into the final part of the season,” Nilsson told the Connecticut Post following the win on Saturday.

The Sound Tigers are starting to pick up their game at the right time, too. Coinciding with the popular theory you’ve heard a lot recently of defense winning championships, Bridgeport killed off a record-setting 13 penalties against an offensively-starved Falcons team on Saturday. Nilsson made 27 saves, improving his goals-against average to 2.85 and save percentage to .899.

With the Sound Tigers tightening up their defense, Bridgeport has allowed three or more goals four times in its last 10 games. It’s a habit that they’re learning to correct, especially with the amount of goals they’ve let up this season – 149, the second highest in the Eastern Conference.

With a confident Nilsson back in between the pipes, Bridgeport has the chance to make a run for the playoffs in the final stretch of the season.

Power Rankings

1) Manchester Monarchs (30-13-2-5): Tyler Toffoli may be back with the Los Angeles Kings, but that’s no problem for Jordan Weal who picked up some offense in his absence. Weal recorded two multi-point games in three contests this weekend. When Weal registers points, he does it often. He now has 13 multi-point games this season. (Last week: 2-1, #1)

2) Springfield Falcons (28-12-1-4): Not a good week for the Falcons, who dropped two straight including a loss to the Sharks and a shutout at the hands of the Sound Tigers. Offense continues to be a problem for the Falcons, who have only scored more than two goals once in their last five games – all losses. (Last week: 0-2, #2)

3) Worcester Sharks (22-18-3-1): The Sharks are putting wins together when it matters most, and are now only four points away from a playoff spot. Dan DaSilva continued his torrid streak with two goals and an assist in Friday’s win against the Falcons. Brodie Reid took over some of the offense, replicating DaSilva’s success in their win over the Bruins on Saturday night. (Last week: 2-1, #4)

4) Providence Bruins (23-18-1-5): The Bruins are struggling to string together wins and it’s beginning to cost them. As the Sharks start to heat up, the Bruins’ production is slipping, which is strange seeing as they finally have a full roster with Boston close to all healthy. (Last week: 1-1, #3)

5) Bridgeport Sound Tigers (19-23-1-4): If the Sound Tigers are able to steal some games going forward, they’re going to become a really interesting team to watch for in the second half of the season. Anders Nilsson got a much needed win in net this week, shutting out the Falcons and helping Bridgeport to win for the fifth time in six games. (Last week: 1-1, #5)

6) Hartford Wolfpack (16-23-0-5): Speaking of turning things around, the Wolfpack are starting to win again, collecting two victories in their three games last week. A big reason is the play of T.J. Hensick, who finished the week with a goal and five assists in three games. He’s now on a four-game point streak after joining the team in mid-January. (Last week: 2-1, #7)

7) Portland Pirates (16-19-2-7): Three straight losses this week isn’t the worst part. The 21 goals allowed – seven in each game – is. The Pirates easily had their worst week of the season, with Mark Visentin allowing 11 goals and Louis Domingue allowing 10. Both goalies were pulled for the other on two separate occasions. (Last week: 0-3, #6)

Games of the Week:

Tuesday, February 4:

Albany Devils @ Springfield Falcons (7 p.m.)

Friday, February 7 :

Hartford Wolfpack @ Norfolk Admirals (7:30 p.m.)

Saturday, February 8:

Worcester Sharks @ St. John’s IceCaps (7:30 p.m.)

Providence Bruins @ Manchester Monarchs (7 p.m.)

Sunday, February 9:

Albany Devils @ Manchester Monarchs (3 p.m.)

Springfield Falcons @ Providence Bruins (3:05 p.m.)

Twitter: @MikeMiccoli
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