Bridgeport and Hartford, Connecticut

Saturday, January 2, 2016 - Sunday, January 3, 2016

Our first jaunt of 2016 took us east to Connecticut to watch a couple of hockey games. Started out on Saturday afternoon, driving as far as the Buffalo Wild Wings in Carbondale for lunch. From there, we continued on to Bridgeport for the first game of the weekend.

Jill and I had been to this rink back in 2004 but that was before I started carrying the camera with us so I didn't have any pics for the arenas site; plus, Mike had never been there so even though it was the focus of the weekend it was a nice detour. Post game we tried to go to Two Boots in downtown Bridgeport, but when we got there the kitchen was closed. Instead, we ended up at the Metric Bar and Grill, a Caribbean type restaurant. Great food, and little did we know (but quickly realized) we had walked ourselves right into a Haitian Independence Day celebration! After dinner, we made our way to the Hilton Garden Inn in Wallingford, Connecticut where we spent the night.

On Sunday morning we returned to an old Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives favorite - O'Rourkes Diner in Middletown, Connecticut. We had been here a few years back, and were very happy for a return visit! The Dubliner omelet was as tasty as I remembered it! After brunch we drove up the road to Hartford, first finding the site where the new ballpark was being built, and then parking near the Civic Center (XL Center) before stopping at The Tavern Downtown for a couple of pre-game libations. Headed across the street to the rink and finally checked another one off of 'the list'. It had taken us quite a few years to get here because 1) it isn't easy to get to from home, and 2) this was our Binghamton Rangers team that was stolen from us so we harbored a bit of resentment towards them. Nice facility, one we would return to again if we had a chance in the future.

Post game we meandered home, stopping off in Albany at the Bonefish Grill near the mall for some dinner. Arrived home around 10:30.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3, Rochester Americans 2

Joe Whitney scored 38 seconds into overtime to propel the Bridgeport Sound Tigers past the Rochester Americans 4-3 on Saturday night at Webster Bank Arena.

Parker Milner made 34 saves on 37 shots to earn the win in his first start of the season.

The Sound Tigers had the best scoring chances in the early part of the first period. With just over three minutes gone Justin Vaive got the puck in traffic and tried to sneak one past Nathan Lieuwen with the backhand but had it slide just wide. Right before the halfway point, Sebastian Collberg fired a wrister on a breakaway, but missed a goal by inches as it clanged off the left pipe.

Milner was solid to begin his first start of the year stopping all 10 of the Americans’ shots in the opening period. After a Rochester power play, Milner made the stop on a slap shot from the left faceoff circle and followed it up with a sprawling save to cover up the rebound and keep the game scoreless.

With just under a minute gone in the second period, Mike Halmo started the scoring and gave the Sound Tigers a 1-0 lead. Whitney found James Wright across the ice, who sent the puck towards the net where Halmo tipped it past Lieuwen’s glove and into the top-right corner. It was Halmo’s fifth goal of the year, while Wright got his sixth assist and Whitney earned his 19th.

Rochester would tie it up on a power play later in the second period thanks to some traffic in front of Milner. Tim Schaller brought the puck in front of the net from the trapezoid and was able to get a shot off which was stopped, but the rebound proved costly as Justin Bailey snuck it past the right blocker of Milner and into the net.

The Americans broke the tie just three and a half minutes later on a Nick Baptiste slap shot from the top of the zone. Milner looked to have made the stop but the puck slipped under his blocker and into the back of the net to put Rochester up 2-1.

Not to be outdone, the Sound Tigers would tie the game up at 2-2 thanks to a short-handed goal from Matt Carkner. Bracken Kearns got his 15th assist of the season when he sent the pass across the net to a streaking Carkner who rifled a slap shot past Lieuwen.

Then with a mere 11.8 seconds left in the period, Taylor Beck would break the tie and give Bridgeport a 3-2 lead as they went to the locker room. Kearns earned his second assist of the game when he dropped the puck off to Beck, who sent a shot from the slot right past Lieuwen.

The Americans would tie the game back up at 3-3 with 15:10 left in the third period on Bailey’s second goal of the game. Bailey fired the puck towards the net from the blueline presumably just to keep it in the zone, but the puck bounced off the ice and knuckled over Milner’s left shoulder for the goal.

After ending regulation tied up at 3-3, the Sound Tigers would go on to finish the job in overtime thanks to Whitney. After getting the puck back from Wright, Whitney fired a wrister from the right faceoff circle past Lieuwen’s glove and the near side pipe. It was Whitney’s second point of the night and his 13th goal of the season to give him 32 points on the year. Wright got his second assist of the night, and Pulock came away with his 10th assist of the year on the game-winning goal.

Bridgeport now has 41 points on the season with a 19-13-2-1 record, and will look to build on the thrilling win against the Hershey Bears on Sunday, January 3 at 5:00 p.m. at Webster Bank Arena.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3, Hartford Wolf Pack 2

The Wolf Pack fought back from a 3-0 deficit against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Sunday at the XL Center, but the comeback fell short in a 3-2 defeat.

Bryan Rust scored his second goal of the weekend, the eventual game winner, for the Penguins, and Casey Desmith took home his first AHL victory with 22 saves. Other Penguin goals were scored by Jean-Sebastien Dea and Dominik Simon.

The Wolf Pack’s Magnus Hellberg made 31 saves in the loss, and Chad Nehring scored his 12th goal of the season with six seconds remaining in the game. Nick Tarnasky accounted for the other Wolf Pack goal.

The first period of the game scoreless until the last 12 seconds, when a ricochet off Tom Kuhnhackl’s skate set up Simon’s 12th goal of the season.

"We had maybe fits and starts, but certainly not sixty minutes of the type of hockey we wanted to play," said Wolf Pack coach Ken Gernander.

Simon’s goal set up an explosive first minute of the second period, in which Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was able to score twice more.

Just 41 seconds into the second period Dea scored a goal assisted by Adam Clendening, beating Hellberg over his glove side shoulder. The Penguins quickly followed up 15 seconds later with an unassisted goal, scored by Rust.

"It gets a little bit frustrating, at times we’ve seen some good hockey", said Gernander, "but we don’t maintain it for long stretches, and given our position right now we’re going to need to start stringing some wins together."

A rash of penalties, tripping minors for Ryan Graves, Tom Kostopoulos and Tim Erixon, put the Penguins down two men. However, the Wolf Pack were unable to capitalize on the advantage.

The first Wolf Pack goal of the game came 7:34 into the second, as Tarnasky punched in a loose puck, assisted by Chris McCarthy and Chris Summers.

Gernander also spoke on the grind of the season. “We finished the game with ten forwards tonight. We’ve got some guys that are banged up, there are a few guys that are currently gutting it out, but that doesn’t always show itself in the stats."

Nehring brought the Wolf Pack within one goal with six seconds on the clock, assisted by Ryan Graves and Mat Bodie. The Wolf Pack, though, did not have enough time to complete the comeback.

The Wolf Pack’s next action is back at the XL Center this Friday, January 8 vs. the Springfield Falcons, the first of three home games on the weekend. At all Friday-night Wolf Pack home games, fans can enjoy $1 hot dogs and $2 beers, through the start of the second period.

Trip Notes: