February 24, 2014

AHL Journal: Strong netminding has Sound Tigers surging

By Mike Miccoli

Anders Nilsson improved his record to 11-14-2 with a pair of wins for Bridgeport this past weekend. (Getty Images)

The Sound Tigers are doing something right.

Bridgeport’s put together its longest winning streak of the season with six consecutive victories, outscoring their opponents by a 26-15 margin.

The Sound Tigers’ goaltending tandem of Anders Nilsson and Kenny Reiter has been strong, especially this weekend. Nilsson made 56 saves in wins on Friday and Saturday, while Reiter stopped 40 of 41 shots in Bridgeport’s 2-1 victory over the Providence Bruins. It was Reiter's first start in almost a month.

"We've been getting good goaltending, no matter who's in net," Bridgeport head coach Scott Pellerin told CTPost.com on Saturday, crediting the team's netminders for the team's recent surge. "Defensively, guys are really solidifying our defensive habits. We've gotten production with more versatility throughout our lineup."

With their last six wins, the Sound Tigers find themselves only nine points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It’s an especially tight race, too. The teams ranked fourth to ninth are only separated by five points, which gives the Sound Tigers (currently in 10th) a fighting chance to make the playoffs.

While their surge is coming at the right time, the biggest challenge will be to maintain it if they hope to avoid missing the postseason for the third time in four years.

Power Rankings

1) Manchester Monarchs (36-14-2-6): Friday's 4-3 shootout loss against the Falcons stung, but the Monarchs rebounded with back-to-back wins over the struggling Pirates and Sharks. Collecting 13 of a possible 14 points in their last seven games, the Monarchs grip on first in the Eastern Conference is tightening. (Last week: 2-0-0-1, #1)

2) Springfield Falcons (33-17-1-4): An emotional shootout win against the top-seeded Monarchs was probably the best way the Falcons could have started the week. However, the finish left plenty to be desired with back-to-back losses against the Wolfpack and Norfolk Admirals. If the Falcons want to compete with the Monarchs, they'll have to start scoring more. The last time the Falcons were able to win when scoring less than four goals? Jan. 7. (Last week: 1-2, #3)

3) Providence Bruins (29-19-1-6): With wingers Matt Fraser and Nick Johnson on the sideline, Justin Florek has been stepping up for Providence, with two goals in two games this past week. Florek extended his point streak to four games on Sunday, registering the only goal against a streaking Sound Tigers club. (Last week: 1-1, #2)

4) Bridgeport Sound Tigers (25-24-1-4): The significance of Feb. 8? That’s the last time the Sound Tigers lost a hockey game. Riding a six-game winning streak, Bridgeport is starting to make waves in the Eastern Conference, which include their three-straight victories this past week. Most impressive was backup goalie Kenny Reiter's 40-save performance in the Sound Tigers' 2-1 win over the Bruins. (Last week: 3-0, #4)

5) Hartford Wolfpack (20-26-0-6): They couldn't beat the red-hot Sound Tigers (though neither could the Bruins or the Adirondack Phantoms), but their 4-3 win over the Falcons on Saturday night was big in and of itself. The Wolfpack rallied back from a 3-1 deficit with three unanswered goals in the third period. Andrew Yogan broke the tie and added another assist for a multi-point game. (Last week: 1-1, #7)

6) Worcester Sharks (23-25-3-1): Their strong surge to start 2014 is the only good part of the year so far. After dropping three straight this past week, the Sharks are now on a six-game losing skid, putting them even further out of the playoff picture after they worked their way back in January. In those six games, the Sharks were outscored 29-6. (Last week: 0-3, #6)

7) Portland Pirates (19-24-2-7): One would think that scoring 14 goals in three games would suffice but for the Pirates, it's a week with three-straight losses, allowing 18 goals against. While goalie Mark Visentin allowed 12 tallies and was pulled twice, there was a bright side for the Pirates' personnel. Andy Miele set a new career-high with 20 goals and now sits 11th all-time on the Pirates with 104 assists. (Last week: 0-3, #5)

Games of the Week

Friday, February 28

Manchester Monarchs vs. Norfolk Admirals (7:30 pm)

Saturday, March 1

Worcester Sharks vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (7 pm)

Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Falcons (7:30 pm)

Sunday, March 2

Albany Devils vs. Providence Bruins (3:05 pm)

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