UTICA, NY - Parker Wotherspoon scored the game-winner with less than 36 seconds left in overtime on Friday, propelling the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (22-11-4-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, to a 4-3 victory against the Utica Comets (20-17-3-1) at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Chris Casto, Tanner Fritz and Yannick Rathgeb also scored in regulation as the Sound Tigers snapped a three-game winless streak and took the first of two meetings against the Comets this season. Josh Ho-Sang added two primary assists in his first AHL game since Dec. 4, while Jeremy Smith (12-6-2) stopped 31 of 34 shots to backstop his fifth win in his last seven starts.
Bridgeport now sits seven points behind the league-leading Charlotte Checkers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. With the win, they became the second AHL team to eclipse the 50-point mark this season.
In yet another one-goal outcome, the Sound Tigers and Comets where never separated by more than a single tally all evening. Casto put the visitors on top just 50 seconds into the contest when he sailed a lengthy shot through traffic and past goaltender Ivan Kulbakov for his first goal with the Sound Tigers. Travis St. Denis won a right-circle faceoff in the Comets’ zone and Ho-Sang played it back to Casto for his first of two helpers. From the right point, Casto converted a long shot through traffic to make it 1-0.
Wacey Hamilton tied the game at 1:20 of the second period when he scored his first goal of the season, which came shorthanded. Just nine seconds after Reid Boucher was called for holding the stick, Smith mishandled a loose puck near his own net and Hamilton raced onto it. He forced home the equalizer with the cage practically empty, and the game remained tied past the halfway mark.
Fritz put the Sound Tigers back on top at 11:07 of the middle frame with Bridgeport’s first of two power-play goals. Following an interference penalty accessed to Brendan Gaunce, Mitch Vande Sompel received a pass from Chris Bourque and stepped into a wrister from the high slot that Fritz deflected down from the doorstep. It was Fritz’s sixth goal of the season and his third on the man advantage.
Tom Pyatt knotted the game at 2-2 in the final half-minute of the second period when he notched his first goal in four games with Utica. Gaunce was successful on a gritty forecheck and stole the puck deep in Bridgeport’s zone to create the opportunity. Gaunce found a charging Pyatt down the slot and Pyatt converted by beating Smith’s glove at the 19:32 mark.
Zach MacEwen potted Utica’s lone power-play goal at 11:32 of the third period to give the Comets their only lead of the night. With St. Denis in the box for hooking, Jonathan Dahlen directed a shot from the left side that got deflected into the air and MacEwen capitalized from the doorstep for his 15th goal of the season. It stood as the go-ahead tally until Rathgeb drew the contest back even with his third goal of the year in the final five minutes.
On the backend of Hamilton’s double minor for high-sticking, Ho-Sang fed a pass to the point and Rathgeb filtered home a long wrist shot to square the game at 15:22.
The Sound Tigers did a miraculous job on a late five-on-three penalty kill that lasted for 1:19 to keep the game tied heading into overtime. That’s where Wotherspoon played hero with his fifth goal of the season at the 4:24 mark, ripping a snap shot off the left post and in past Kulbakov’s blocker for the 4-3 final score. Fritz gathered the only assist.
Bridgeport finished the game 2-for-7 on the power play and 5-for-6 on the penalty kill. The Comets outshot the Sound Tigers 34-31.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday for Military Appreciation Night against the Hartford Wolf Pack, presented by the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut. The first 2,000 fans will receive a camouflage hat when doors open at 6 p.m. and fans are encouraged to look into a $25 ticket package (tickets at the box office are regularly $31 in this seating area) that includes a ticket to the game and a military themed Sound Tigers t-shirt! A portion of this ticket package will also be donated to the BBB Foundation to support scholarships for children of military members from Connecticut.
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