SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (January 20, 2017) – Bracken Kearns scored twice and added an assist to lead the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (20-15-1-1), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, to a 5-3 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds (15-16-5-2) at the MassMutual Center on Friday.
Steve Bernier (one goal, two assists), Andrew Rowe (one goal, two assists) and Ryan Pulock (two assists) also logged multiple points to help Bridgeport capture its second straight 5-3 win. The Sound Tigers have now registered at least one point in five straight road games (3-0-1-1), and are five points out of a playoff spot.
After a scoreless opening frame, the Thunderbirds struck first at 1:25 of the second period courtesy of Graham Black. Chase Balisy forced the puck to Anthony Greco in the trapezoid, where the latter slipped a centering feed to the crease despite being pinned against the wall. Black was the beneficiary, flipping a shot over Jaroslav Halak’s glove from the right post.
The Sound Tigers bounced back with two goals before the second intermission to lead 2-1 after 40 minutes. Bernier notched his team-leading eighth power-play tally at the 3:02 mark when he redirected Pulock’s shot from the blue line under the glove of netminder Mike McKenna. It was his 14th tally of the season overall.
Kearns followed with a power-play goal of his own in the final 11 seconds of the middle frame. With Mike Downing in the box for interference, Kearns was stuffed on an initial shot by McKenna, but the rebound trickled to Bernier below the goal line. There, Bernier fed it back in front where the veteran forward forced it home for his 14th goal of the season.
Andrew Rowe extended Bridgeport’s lead at 6:50 of the third period, capitalizing on a breakaway for his sixth tally of the year. Kearns hit a streaking Rowe through the neutral zone, helping Rowe get behind the defense and to the doorstep. He pulled off a successful head fake and beat McKenna blocker side to make it 3-1.
Springfield responded with a pair of third-period goals less than two minutes apart to even the game 3-3. Jayce Hawryluk recorded his first professional goal at the 7:42 mark when he finished a centering feed from rookie Denis Malgin from the bottom of the right circle. The latter was rewarded with an assist in his AHL debut.
At 9:22, Matt MacKenzie netted the equalizer when he beat Halak with a slap shot off a faceoff. From the left circle, Kyle Rau won a clean draw to MacKenzie at the point, where the defenseman slammed in his second goal of the season.
Kearns capped his three-point night with the eventual game-winning goal at 14:14 of the third period, following a brilliant centering pass by Rowe. Near the right wing goal line, Rowe filtered a pass to the doorstep where Kearns jammed it home for his team-best 15th goal this season. Bernier was also credited with a helper.
Ben Holmstrom sealed the victory with an empty-net goal in the final two seconds. The unassisted tally was his third of the season.
Bridgeport finished the game 2-for-6 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. The Sound Tigers penalty kill is now 22-for-23 over its last six games. Halak (2-1-2) made 25 saves in the win, while McKenna (6-8-0) stopped 31 chances.
The game also included one altercation when Ross Johnston and Sean Acolatse dropped the gloves at 16:41 of the second period. Johnston was given a five-minute fighting major and a two-minute roughing minor, while Acolatse received a two-minute roughing minor.
The Sound Tigers outshot the Thunderbirds 36-28.