By Brian Ring
Hartford, CT, October 12, 2012 – The Connecticut Whale were defeated by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 6-4, Friday night at the XL Center in their 2012-13 season opener.
The Sound Tigers scored five times in the second period and once in the third to defeat the Whale in their first meeting since the first-round of the 2011-12 Calder Cup Playoffs, which the Whale swept in three games.
Bridgeport’s Casey Cizikas scored twice, and Nino Niederreiter tallied three points with a goal and two assists to derail Connecticut. Kris Newbury scored twice for the Whale.
“There were some positives, but by and large we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “I think it starts with a little more commitment to winning some one-on-one battles. I think we have to track pucks and pursue.”
The veteran Newbury tallied the first goal of the season for Connecticut, converting on the first man-advantage of the year just 2:31 into the opening period. Matt Gilroy fired a shot from the point that Bridgeport goaltender Kevin Poulin (27 saves) got a piece of, but Newbury was there to direct the rebound home. The assist for Gilroy came in his first AHL action since a five-game stint in 2009-10 with the then-Hartford Wolf Pack.
The Whale would catch another break 14:52 into the first, as Kyle Jean was awarded a penalty shot after his rush on Poulin. Jean, making his professional debut, calmly took the puck in on his free attempt and snuck it past the Bridgeport goaltender for his first pro point and a 2-0 Connecticut advantage.
The Sound Tigers would quickly even things up and then take control in the second period, beginning with a power-play goal from Cizikas 3:23 into the middle frame. Cizikas’ goal was assisted by Travis Hamonic and Niederreiter.
Niederreiter would score a goal of his own 5:14 into the period, erasing the Whale’s two-goal first period advantage. Kirill Kabanov made a nifty backhand pass in front of Whale starting goaltender Jason Missiaen (five goals-against, 33 saves) to set up Niederreiter’s second point of the game. It was the first career AHL point for Kabanov, in his league debut.
Bridgeport would take a 3-2 lead on Cizikas’ second goal of the period, coming just over a minute later at 6:26. Colin McDonald and Niederreiter picked up the helpers on the third Bridgeport goal, with Niederreiter tallying his third point of the period.
The Sound Tigers would extend their lead to 4-2 at 8:39 of the second, when Brock Nelson wristed a feed from Kabanov past Missiaen. Aaron Ness also contributed an assist on the play.
With 1:05 remaining in the second, John Persson converted a pass from Nelson in the slot to bump the Bridgeport lead to 5-2. Hamonic also assisted, his second of the game.
Brandon DeFazio scored just one minute into the third period to make it 6-2, chipping a Hamonic attempt up and over new Whale goaltender Scott Stajcer (one goal-against, six saves), who also made his professional debut for Connecticut.
Defenseman Mike Vernace would get the Whale to within 6-3 at 4:27 of the third period, as his shot eluded Poulin. J.T. Miller and Jean recorded assists on the goal.
Newbury would score again on the power-play 6:16 into the third to draw the Whale to within 6-4, deflecting another bid past Poulin. Blake Parlett and Chris Kreider tallied the assists on the score.
The Whale, however, could not get any closer, as they dropped the first game of their 16th season in Hartford.
The Whale will be back in action Sunday, when they host the St. John’s IceCaps at the XL Center at 3:00 PM.
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Bridgeport Sound Tigers 6 at Connecticut Whale 4
Friday, October 12, 2012 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Bridgeport 0 5 1 – 6
Connecticut 2 0 2 – 4
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Newbury 1 (Gilroy), 2:31 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Jean 1 14:52 (SH TXT_PS). Penalties-Sundstrom Bri (holding), 0:45; served by Wiebe Ct (bench minor – too many men), 6:55; Kreider Ct (hooking), 9:35; Haley Ct (tripping), 13:39; Riley Bri (fighting), 16:12; Haley Ct (fighting), 16:12; DeFazio Bri (slashing), 18:13.
2nd Period-3, Bridgeport, Cizikas 1 (Hamonic, Niederreiter), 3:23 (PP). 4, Bridgeport, Niederreiter 1 (Kabanov), 5:13. 5, Bridgeport, Cizikas 2 (McDonald, Niederreiter), 6:26. 6, Bridgeport, Nelson 1 (Kabanov, Ness), 8:39. 7, Bridgeport, Persson 1 (Nelson, Hamonic), 18:55 (PP). Penalties-Collins Ct (interference), 2:53; McDonald Bri (slashing), 15:20; Klassen Ct (boarding), 17:50.
3rd Period-8, Bridgeport, DeFazio 1 (Hamonic, McDonald), 1:00. 9, Connecticut, Vernace 1 (Miller, Jean), 4:27 (PP). 10, Connecticut, Newbury 2 (Parlett, Kreider), 6:16 (PP). Penalties-Sundstrom Bri (tripping), 2:33; Riley Bri (high-sticking), 3:08; Hamonic Bri (unsportsmanlike conduct, misconduct – abuse of officials), 4:27; Segal Ct (elbowing), 7:49; Niederreiter Bri (hooking), 10:20; Parlett Ct (interference), 14:26; de Haan Bri (delay of game), 17:16.
Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 19-19-7-45. Connecticut 15-7-9-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 2 / 7; Connecticut 3 / 8.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Poulin 1-0-0 (31 shots-27 saves). Connecticut, Missiaen 0-1-0 (38 shots-33 saves); Stajcer 0-0-0 (7 shots-6 saves).
Referees-Ryan Hersey (8), Mark Lemelin (41).
Linesmen-Luke Galvin (2), Kevin Redding (16).