Bridgeport –The game couldn’t go like last night in Hartford or the Sound Tigers would be entering the playoffs on a two game schnide and knocked out of the top seed.
“We were a different team,” said Jason Podollan. “Our fans and home ice, we knew we were the aggressors.”
Aggressive they were as Bridgeport came out flying. Raffi Torres threw hit after hit, including knocking Thomas Kloucek out of the first period with a hit near the penalty box.
â€œItâ€™s a big part of my game,” said Torres, and I was lucky enough to catch a few guys.”
Torres body checks opened up the ice, giving players like Matt Higgins room to operate.
Higgins took advantage by scoring a power play goal at 9:27 of the first period. Ray Giroux slapped the puck in from the point and it hit Higgins for his first goal since February 23rd, a 16 game scoreless streak.
“It was a lucky bounce,”â€ said Higgins, “It hit me in the foot and went in.”
Trent Hunter put the Sound Tigers up two goals with his 29th of the year. Hunter skated into Hartford’s zone, pulled the puck to his backhand, deked Terry Virtue out of position and roofed it past Johan Holmqvist.
Said Hunter, “We came out [in the 1st period] and made our mark. It was our best team effort of the year.”
In a reversal of fortune the Sound Tigers out shot Hartford 12-5 in the first after being out shot more than 2:1 last night in Hartford.
Brad Smyth of the Wolf Pack kept the teams close by scoring his 34th of the year on the power play at 13:42 of the second period. Smyth’s goal was all the offense Hartford could muster against the Sound Tigers.
The third period saw Torres score his 20th of the year on a pretty feed from Scott Ricci. Ricci was racing down the left side and fed Torres in front of the net. The pass hit Torres foot but the winger managed to control the puck and sneak it past Holmqvist.
With 1:14 remaining the Wolf Pack called a time-out and pulled their goalie. The face-off went to DiPietro and he lobbed the puck towards the vacated net. The puck went just wide and was touched for icing.
“I knew when I let it go it was wide,” said DiPietro. “We were fortunate to win the face-off otherwise it would have been a mistake.”
Hunter made amends by scoring his second of the night, the 30th of the year, at 19:25 to finish off the Wolf Pack and send their fans heading back up home.
Hunter was pleased to reach the 30-goal mark but wasn’t expecting to: “I don’t even know if at the start of the season I could [score 30 goals].”
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
Jason Podollan had another effective night using his speed to create scoring chances both at even strength and on the penalty kill. In the second period Podollan stole the puck from Mike Mottau and came in on Holmqvist only to shoot it right into the goalie’s glove.
Said Podollan, “Tonight the boys didn’t need me which is what you want. I’m saving my chances.”
The Sound Tigers face somebody in the 1st round of the AHL playoffs on either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Your guess is as good as mine.