Special teams pave way for Sound Tigers
Updated 11:33 pm, Friday, December 28, 2012
BRIDGEPORT -- Which follows which: a stronger game overall or special-teams play to set the tone?
"You play well on special teams -- we had 28 minutes (Thursday) night on special teams; that's half the game right there. If that's strong, you're going to have a chance for success every night."
Bridgeport's power play has provided scoring all season.
The penalty kill has moved up to 13th in the league (84.1 percent) going into Friday's games.
"We're getting in front of shots, blocking shots and getting in lanes," defenseman Ty Wishart said.
"When there's an opportunity, we're jumping as a unit, instead of just one guy."
The Sound Tigers are 5-1-1-1 in the past eight games after an eight-game winless streak.
They've moved back up to sixth in the conference going into Friday, four points behind Northeast Division-leading Springfield.
The penalty kill has helped, killing off 20 opposition chances in a row.
"It comes down to good habits and good goaltending," said coach Scott Pellerin, whose team faces Manchester at home Saturday night. "Your goaltender is your best penalty killer."
Watkins agreed. "You're going to give up some chances at five-on-four, five-on-three," he said. "You have to have (goaltending)."
The team record is 36 to end the 2003-04 season, in which Bridgeport set a league record with a 90.66 penalty-kill percentage.
Within a season, they've killed as many as 27 in a row.
Wishart sees a more cohesive unit, especially among the forwards.
The power play, meanwhile, ranked second in the league at 21 percent going into Friday, run by assistant coach Eric Boguniecki. Its modest 0-for-12 streak going into the Christmas break was a season-long; it struck twice in two games against the Whale after the break.
"Bogy's done a really good job with it," Pellerin said. "Doug (Holewa, the team's other assistant) has done a good job with the penalty kill, showing them scouting reports, tendencies."
FOR NEWTOWN: Newtown residents can receive a free ticket for Saturday's game with valid photo identification.
Tickets are available at the Webster Bank Arena box office.
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Manchester Monarchs at Bridgeport Sound Tigers
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Webster Bank Arena
RECORDS: Manchester 14-12-2-2 (through Thursday); Bridgeport 15-12-1-2
SEASON SERIES: Bridgeport leads 2-0.
LAST MEETING: The Sound Tigers won 4-0 at home Nov. 17.
ABOUT THE MONARCHS: Manchester played Friday night at Worcester, having won two in a row. ... Former Sound Tigers G Peter Mannino was 7-2-0 going into Friday with a 2.00 GAA and .931 save percentage, among the league leaders and part of why the Monarchs were fifth in AHL defense (2.63 goals/game). ... Rookie RW Tyler Toffoli (13-9-22) and RW Brandon Kozun (8-14-22) went into Friday as the team's scoring leaders.
ABOUT THE SOUND TIGERS: Bridgeport comes off a home-and-home sweep of the Connecticut Whale (5-2, 3-0). ... Leading scorer LW Nino Niederreiter (15-14-29) missed Thursday's game (stick to the face). ... C Brock Nelson (puck to mouth) and D Travis Hamonic (upper body) remain out, among others. ... LW John Persson has a six-game scoring streak (3-3-6). ... The Sound Tigers are 5-1-1-1 in the past eight.
UP NEXT: Monday at Adirondack, 3 p.m.
-- MICHAEL FORNABAIO