Amerks fall to red hot Bridgeport 5-2
(Rochester, NY) – After trailing 2-0 less than three minutes into the contest, the Rochester Americans (20-28-0-2) tied the game before allowing three unanswered goals by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (31-16-1-1) to suffer their third straight loss Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena.
Newcomer Patrick Mullen and former Sound Tiger Justin Vaive each scored in the first period to knot the score at 2-2 for the Amerks, who are now winless in six straight home games. Goaltender Linus Ullmark, who made his 10th straight in between the pipes, made 24 saves on the night of the 28 shots he faced. The 23-year-old netminder shows a record of 18-19-2 on the campaign and owns a 10-9-1 record in his last 20 appearances.
Josh Ho-Shang led the Sound Tigers as the forward recorded a career-high four-point night (1+3) while fellow first-year skater Michael Dal Colle also collected a career-best three-point (1+3) effort. Carter Verhaeghe (1+1), Joshua Winquist and Kellen Jones rounded out the scoring for the Bridgeport as they picked up their fifth straight win and 13th in the last 14 games. Jaroslav Halak extended his franchise record to 11 straight wins as he stopped 26 of 28 and improved his record to 12-1-2 on the season.
After allowing two goals on the first three shots to the Sound Tigers, the Amerks responded as Mullen blasted his first as an Amerk to cut the deficit to 2-1 at the 7:07 mark of the first period. The tally was his first since Apr. 12, 2016 as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals.
Racing to keep the puck in the zone after jumping into the play, Erik Burgdoerfer connected with Cal O’Reilly behind the net with the puck. As the Rochester captain surveyed the scene from behind the net, he hit Mullen near the left face-off circle for a one-timer. O’Reilly recorded his 14th point (3+11) in the last 15 games and Burgdoerfer added his second assist in as many games.
Less than four and a half minutes later, Vaive tied the game at 2-2 against his former club for his second of the season. Vaclav Karabacek and defenseman Brady Austin each got credit with the helpers. Austin shows two points (1+1) in the past two games for the first time since Feb. 11-13, 2015, a span of 152 games.
“The play was a bit of a cluster,” Vaive said. “I have to give the credit to my linemates for getting the puck into the zone and to the net, but I was lucky enough to find the puck when I covered the point. I just fired a shot and the puck somehow found its way into the net.”
“I thought Brady played a solid game” said Amerks head coach Dan Lambert. “I think he is bringing more physicality to his game and I think it is helping his overall game.”
After the teams entered the first intermission break at two goals apiece, the Sound Tigers gained the lead for good when Dal Colle scored the eventual game-winning goal with 6:05 left in the middle period.
“Tonight was another tough start for us,” said Lambert. “When we tied the game up, we had a chance to grab the lead but our power-play did not execute and Bridgeport’s did and that ultimately was a big momentum shift.”
“The top teams in the league usually have strong special teams that find a way to convert on the power-plays and limit the opponents. That is exactly what the Sound Tigers did tonight and unfortunately we did not,” said Vaive.
Early in the final period, the Amerks took a pair of penalties in succession but were able to kill off both to push the pace of the play and drew their own power-play.
The Sound Tigers killed off the penalty and used the energy to double their lead when they found some puck luck on a clearing attempt just inside their own blueline. Trying to escape their own zone, Bridgeport attempted clear the puck and it caromed off the linesman’s skate and sprung Verhaeghe on a breakaway. The centerman backhanded a shot off the cross bar and it bounced into the net with 5:02 left to make the score 4-2.
In attempt to cut the deficit, the Amerks pulled Ullmark for the extra-skater but Ho-Shang scored his seventh of the slate to preserve the victory and extinguish any thoughts of a comeback.
The Amerks continue their three-game weekend on Saturday, Feb. 18 as they travel to the southern tier to face-off against the Binghamton Senators in the front-end of a home-and-home series at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the fourth of eight scheduled meetings between the two teams this season and will be carried live on The Sports Leaders 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Mullen (1), Vaive (2)
BRI: Jones (3), Winquist (9), Dal Colle (10), Verhaeghe (8), Ho-Sang (7)
RCH: Ullmark – 24/28 (L)
BRI: Halak – 26/28 (W)
RCH: PP (0/4) / PK (4/5)
BRI: PP (1/5) / PK (4/4)