The long wait is over for the Sound Tigers. Bridgeport, which hadn’t won a game on its home ice all year, finally broke through on the winning side of the ledger and defeated the first-place Manchester Monarchs, 4-2, before 5,058 fans at the Webster Bank Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Bridgeport’s David Ullstrom scored his first professional hat-trick, while Brandon Svendson picked up the other marker for the Sound Tigers. Justin DiBenedetto picked up helpers on all three of Ullstrom’s tallies.
Dwight King and Brandon Kozun scored for the Monarchs.
It was a game of waves. After a scoreless first period in which the Monarchs held a 5-4 advantage in shots on net, Ullstrom got the Tigers on the board first midway through the second stanza on a power play, then doubled the Bridgeport lead with just over a minute remaining in the middle frame. Brett Motherwell also had an assist on Ullstrom’s first maker, while captain Mark Wotton picked up a helper on the second tally by the 6-3 rookie forward from Jonkoping, Sweden, as Bridgeport took a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the second intermission.
Manchester came storming back, erasing the deficit with two unanswered goals in the first half of the third period. King scored the Monarch’s first goal, his 20th of the season, on the power play just 2:54 in, while Kozun scored his 16th marker of the season six minutes later knotting the score at 2-2.
Then, just when it looked to be Groundhog Day all over again, with the Sound Tigers putting up a solid effort, but falling just short—the Tigers came into the game riding an 11-game winless skid (0-10-0-1)—the momentum once again shifted, this time in Bridgeport’s favor.
Even after arriving home in the wee hours after a 6-4 loss in Hershey on Saturday night, the Tigers played a spirited game from the outset with two fisticuffs and seven penalties resulting in 20 minutes in the box vs. Manchester’s three infractions for 12 minutes. Bridgeport, however, proved to be far superior in special-teams play, killing off four of five of Manchester’s power play shifts, while notching a score on its lone man-advantage opportunity.
The Sound Tigers also outplayed the Monarchs between the pipes. Bridgeport netminder Mikko Koskinen stopped 20 of the 22 shots Manchester took at him to earn the victory, while Jeff Zatkoff was tagged with the loss after turning aside 13 of 16 shots he faced.
Ullstrom, who had gone 21 straight games without scoring a goal, has had a scorching week, finding the net six times in his last three games. The 21-year-old Swede now has 12 goals and 30 points in 50 games, and will likely receive strong consideration for AHL Player of the Week accolades. For DiBenedetto, it marked the third straight game in which he scored multiple points (2-5-7).
With the win, the Sound Tigers collected their first victory since winning 6-3 at Worcester on Jan. 22. Their last victory on home ice, a New Year’s Eve matinee contest, also came against the Sharks, 3-2. Since then, the Tigers had dropped nine straight at home before reversing their fortunes on Sunday. The Monarchs saw their four-game points streak (3-0-1-0) came to an end.
The Sound Tigers next entertain the Providence Bruins on Wednesday night at the Webster Bank Arena. First puck drops at 7 p.m.
Follow Us on Twitter @CTSptsExaminer