Tough win: Sound Tigers scrap out OT victory at Utica
The degree of difficulty kept sneaking up, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers managed to pull out a win Friday to end their season-long road trip.
Parker Wotherspoon’s goal with 35.9 seconds left in overtime gave the Sound Tigers a 4-3 win over the Utica Comets at the Utica (N.Y.) Memorial Auditorium.
Tanner Fritz carried the puck end to end, around the Comets net and back near the blue line to hand off to Wotherspoon, who moved left away from a defender and beat Ivan Kulbakov.
Bridgeport snapped a season-long three-game winless streak and finished the road trip 3-2-0-1.
The struggles were both self-inflicted and thrust upon the Sound Tigers, sometimes both at the same time in a feisty game.
The Comets took their first lead with 8:28 remaining on Zack MacEwen’s power-play goal. But a Comets double minor handed Bridgeport a chance to tie it, and Yannick Rathgeb’s blast did so with 4:38 left in regulation.
Steve Bernier spun into Kulbakov after the puck went in and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. During the Utica power play, Kulbakov stepped out into Connor Jones’ path, and Jones obliged the goalie with contact that was called interference, giving Utica a 78-second two-man advantage with 3:56 left.
But Bridgeport killed it off to get to overtime.
Defenseman Chris Casto gave the Sound Tigers a lead 50 seconds into the game with his first goal in over a year. Wacey Hamilton tied it short-handed early in the second after the puck caromed away from Bridgeport goalie Jeremy Smith to the front of the net.
Fritz’s power-play deflection restored a one-goal lead midway through the second, but Brendan Gaunce knocked Josh Ho-Sang off the puck late in the period and set up Tom Pyatt to tie it again.
Ho-Sang returned from a 10-game NHL stint with assists on Casto’s and Rathgeb’s goals.
Smith finished with 31 saves, three of them in overtime.
Bridgeport returns home Saturday to face Hartford for the team’s Military Appreciation Night.
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SOUND TIGERS 4, COMETS 3 (OT)
Bridgeport1 1 1 1—4
Utica0 2 1 0—3
First Period — 1, Bridgeport, Casto 1 (Ho-Sang, St. Denis), :50. Penalties — Bellows, Bpt (hooking), 5:15; Burroughs, Bpt (hooking), 15:39; Hamilton, Uti (interference), 18:43.
Second Period — 2, Utica, Hamilton 1, 1:20 (sh). 3, Bridgeport, Fritz 6 (Vande Sompel, C.Bourque), 11:07 (pp). 4, Utica, Pyatt 1 (Gaunce), 19:32. Penalties — Boucher, Uti (holding stick), 1:11; Wotherspoon, Bpt (delay of game), 5:37; Gaunce, Uti (interference), 10:17; Brisebois, Uti (tripping), 13:33; Lind, Uti (roughing), 17:30; Wotherspoon, Bpt (roughing), 20:00; Hamilton, Uti (roughing), 20:00.
Third Period — 5, Utica, MacEwen 15 (Dahley, McEneny), 11:32 (pp). 6, Bridgeport, Rathgeb 3 (Ho-Sang, Bernier), 15:22 (pp). Penalties — St. Denis, Bpt (hooking), 10:48; Hamilton, Uti, double minor (high-sticking), 12:13; Bernier, Bpt (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:22; Jones, Bpt (goaltender interference), 16:04.
Overtime — 7, Bridgeport, Wotherspoon 5 (Fritz), 4:24. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Bridgeport 7-12-7-5—31. Utica 11-10-10-3—34.
Power play opportunities — Bridgeport 2 of 7, Utica 1 of 6.
Goaltenders — Bridgeport, Smith 12-6-2 (34 shots-31 saves). Utica, Kulbakov 7-7-3 (31-27).
Attendance — 3,917. Referees — Halkidis, J.Williams. Linesmen — Frederickson, Carissimo.
Hartford Wolf Pack at Bridgeport Sound Tigers
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport
WEBCAST: www.soundtigers.com; free leaguewide video Saturday at watchtheahl.com
RECORDS: Hartford 17-17-2-2; Bridgeport 22-11-4-2
SEASON SERIES: Bridgeport leads 4-3, and 10-7 in points.
LAST MEETING: The Sound Tigers won 3-2 in overtime Dec. 29 at Hartford.
ABOUT THE WOLF PACK: Hartford blew an early lead and lost 6-3 Friday night at Providence. ... G Brandon Halverson, up from Maine (ECHL), made his AHL season debut in the loss. ... C Peter Holland was suspended when the teams last met but is 5-6-11 in five games since.
ABOUT THE SOUND TIGERS: Bridgeport won 4-3 in overtime Friday night at Utica, snapping a three-game winless streak at the end of a six-game road trip. ... This is Bridgeport’s first home game since Dec. 27 and its second since Dec. 16. The Sound Tigers are 12-0-2-1 in their past 15 home games. ... G Christopher Gibson (upper) sat out Friday.
UP NEXT: Tuesday at Charlotte, 7 p.m.