That was pretty much a must-win, and if it was going to get won, someone was going to have to get Bridgeport off the schneid, and, well, there went Parker Wotherspoon, taking a pass from Casey Bailey in the Bridgeport zone, shooting past one forward, then another, up the middle, making it a three-on-two with Matty Gaudreau and Ben Holmstrom flanking.
“I was going to kick it out wide,” Wotherspoon said. But he saw a gap between Vince Pedrie and Brendan Smith as Holmstrom changed and Bailey jumped into the rush. Pedrie went down. Wotherspoon dove past him and shoveled the puck over Brandon Halverson.
Wotherspoon wound up in the net, off its moorings, and turned around to greet Gaudreau and Bailey as they arrived. A goal! Remember those?
“It was obviously a highlight reel goal,” Brent Thompson asked after I asked how many of those he’d had. “It was nice for him. I thought he played a solid game. My focus is defensively, and I was happy with his defensive game, the way he battled.”
It was a pretty solid defensive night all around. Bridgeport had both the travel and rest edge and needed the game desperately. Christopher Gibson’s second shutout in a row got it done.
Thompson and he refused to play along, but sure looked like Gibson was taking his stuff to the Island, where the Big Club plays Monday afternoon. Thomas Greiss “tweaked something” the other night. Bridgeport doesn’t play again until Friday, so things can conceivably play out up there. Eamon McAdam did serve out his suspension in last night’s Worcester shootout loss, capping the three-game set in Orlando.
Got a kick out of that Bridgeport switched up three lines, and the one that returned intact scored the last three goals. “Just trying to generate some chemistry, generate some scoring,” Thompson said. “We play the same way night in, night out. I like the effort. … Tonight, we finished.”
The intact line got a couple of good plays from Ryan Bourque to start sequences that turned into Travis St. Denis goals, once coming out of the corner to set up Kane Lafranchise for a pass to St. Denis at the front, once chipping the puck out to start a two-on-one. Bernier carried up the right side off a Benoit chip to score the third goal. “Bourque’s a fast player,” St. Denis said. “He gets to the puck quick and makes plays. Bernie’s probably the strongest guy I’ve played with. He’s a brick wall. … We feed off each other and make plays.”
Edit: Really, the Dal Colle-Holmstrom-Gionta line stayed the same as Friday, too. They started the shift that became the Wotherspoon goal, though the wingers had changed before the rush.
Streaks: Wotherspoon’s goal ends the scoreless streak at 170:52, seventh-longest in team history (by four seconds). It was their first even-strength goal since the third-period comeback in the Hartford morning game a week and a half ago. Gibson’s shutout streak is 135:12, back to the Syracuse game. The team’s is… well, I guess it’s 60:00, because that shootout goal counts against it (but not against Gibson), but with the clock running, it’s 142:17.
Gibson becomes the first Sound Tigers goalie with back-to-back shutouts since Kevin Poulin’s three in a row to turn the calendar in 2012. Wade Dubielewicz and Mike Morrison are the only other Bridgeport goalies with two in a row. His four shutouts this year are the most for a Bridgeport goalie since Morrison had five a decade ago, and the only other two Sound Tigers goalies with more in a season were Wade Dubielewicz (nine) and Dieter Kochan (six) in that ridiculous 2003-04 season. Only Dubielewicz (15), Poulin (eight), Rick DiPietro (eight) and Kochan (seven) have more career Bridgeport shutouts than Gibson’s six.
Speak of the devil: Olympic shutout for Kevin Poulin over the hosts. The Americans meet Slovakia again in the play-in round, tomorrow night at 10:10 (NBCSN). The American women play tonight in the semifinals against Finland.
Charlotte lost, so the deficit is again seven points. (So’d Providence, for that matter; nine points there.)
Sacred Heart closed out its home schedule at someone else’s home. Good win, though, on a late Mike Crocock goal and a Zach Tsekos empty-netter. The Pios play two at West Point next weekend, then travel in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs, first weekend in March.
Team’s off tomorrow. See what moves may come. More Tuesday, otherwise.