BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – The Providence Bruins visit the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Tuesday morning, knowing a victory clinches a spot in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. Bridgeport, meanwhile, knows every game is a must-win at this point if they don’t want to be left at home at season’s end. This sets up what should be an intense battle, throw in thousands of screaming kids, and this is a game you do not want to miss.
The game will begin before most are ready for their lunch break at work, with faceoff set for 10:30 AM ET. It is the Spring Fun 102 School Day Game for the Sound Tigers, with kids from around the Bridgeport area bussing in for a field trip they will never forget. These school day games are always extremely loud, as kids are rumored to be, and the added energy may be just what the home side needs to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Including today’s game, the Sound Tigers have seven games remaining, and if they are going to make the playoffs they need to win them all. They currently sit eight points and .049 behind fourth-place Charlotte, who have a magic number of just six. A regulation loss tomorrow would be the second to last nail in Bridgeport’s coffin, as it would allow third-place Providence to clinch and move Charlotte’s magic number four. The Checkers would then have a chance to cut the magic number to a measly two points with a victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Tuesday night.
The kids will try to help their Sound Tigers find a way to win, but the visiting Bruins have zero interest in seeing the field trip end in two points for the home side.
The Bruins come into Tuesday’s game sitting but one point and .008 behind the second-place Penguins, but, first and foremost, one win against the Sound Tigers away from clinching a playoff birth. The win will need to be in regulation, though, as Providence has a magic number of four. The Bruins will chip two points off for a win, and the Sound Tigers would chip away the remaining two for failing to gain a point. Talk of clinching will instantly cease for the day if the game goes to overtime, as Bridgeport would have then gained a point.
This will be the eleventh of twelve total meetings between the two New England rivals, and the season series has been as tight as can be so far. Each side holds a winning 5-4-0-1 record against the other this year, and the Bruins own just a slim 22-21 edge in goals scored. The series has been more one-sided recently, with the Bruins winning four straight, but three of the four games were played Providence. The teams have split the four previous meetings in Bridgeport, with the Bruins gaining the only consolation point in a 2-1 SOL to the Sound Tigers on January 13.
If Bridgeport is to win they will need a big game in net from Kristers Gudlevskis, who is 1-3-0 (3.16 GAA, .908 SV%) against Providence this year and was in net during the two most recent losses to the Bruins. Four of Bridgeport’s five wins against Providence are in New York with the Islanders in the form of Christopher Gibson. Gibson was 4-1-1 (1.30 GAA, 9.49 SV%) is six starts against the Bruins.
The Sound Tiger offense in the season series has led by Josh Ho-Sang with seven points (1-6-7,) and by four goals each from Casey Bailey and Sebastian Aho. They will need to continue to chip in, but Bridgeport also needs some production from Travis St. Denis if they are to win. St. Denis leads in both goals (22) and points (43,) but has just two assists in ten games against Providence.
Providence has been led by its goaltending in the series, with all three goalies to have seen time posting goals-against averages below 2.36, and save percentages above .926. Starter Zane McIntyre has paced the group, going 4-1-1 (1.95 GAA, .938 SV%) in six starts. The Bruins have allowed just five total Sound Tiger goals during their current four-game winning streak against Bridgeport.
Providence has received scoring from throughout the lineup against Bridgeport, as 14 different players have scored goals in the series. Leading the way for the Bruins as they have all year has been Jordan Szwarz (3-4–7) and Austin Czarnik (3-3–6), while Colton Hargrove has also potted three goals (3-0–3). Kenny Agostino is another player the Sound Tigers need to watch out for. While Agostino has yet to score a goal (0-4–4) in ten games against Bridgeport, he is second in points overall for Providence with 49 points (14-35–49) in 62 games for the Bruins.
The drama will be thick and the action intense in this contest, as clutch time has arrived for each squad. Will Providence lock up a spot in the postseason, or will Bridgeport step up and win a huge game in front of the kids? One thing is certain; you better make sure you have your coffee and a bagel, because this one promises to be a great battle from the drop of the puck.
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