Asked Chris Casto about how the team defense had come along, holding a couple of pretty good offenses in check the past two nights, including this one Sunday. A goal a game on the homestand, he pointed out: Not bad at all.
“It’s a good test. They came into the Webster, and (they’re) not coming out with any points, just like most people,” Casto said. Where’s that come from? “That’s the magic in the air, and I’m not sure. … Obviously there’s a level of comfort at home, sleep in your own bed, eat your own meals. You’d have to go to a statistician.”
We’re less one of those than a compiler, so it might be worth pointing out that, of the seven home streaks longer than 10 games without a regulation loss in team history, this year’s team now has two of them. It started 0-1, went 12-0-2-1 in the next 15, went 2-4, and now has gone 9-0-1-0. That’s 23-5-3-1 at home overall this year, including three shootout wins. This year’s team will play two fewer home games than the two Bridgeport teams that led the AHL at home: 2001-02 went 26-9-4-1 here (W-L-T-OTL), and 2008-09 went 29-7-1-3 (converting shootout wins to ties, 27-7-5-1).
Strong effort for the team defense, and in particular the defense corps. Tough to have the same kind of matchup as Saturday night; with the Crunch’s weapons spread out, but the defense stepped up.
“I think they’ve been doing great,” Jeremy Smith said. “That’s just a testament to how hard they work every day, and as a corps, as a unit, they’re clicking. You can see their camaraderie in the locker room. You can see it out there. They talk. You see plays like breakouts, through the middle, up the wall, it’s clean, and it’s just pretty to watch.”
Chris Bourque had three points, so maybe he should have Steve Bernier rough him up his first couple of shifts every night. Most notably Bourque took the brunt of a Bernier bomb of a bodycheck on Bourque’s ex-Hershey teammate Hubert Labrie, was slow to get up, caught his breath at the bench. “He’s a big boy,” Bourque said of Bernier. “I don’t think he knows how strong he is.”
Another solid game for Casto. I threw him in my three stars, actually. Couple of games the past two nights where the defense really shone, and thought it was worth it, Helgeson last night, Casto tonight. “He’s had to go through a lot early in the year,” Thompson said. “He’s a guy who’s been around. He knew the role he was in. He stayed positive, a great team guy. He worked hard to be ready when called upon, and he continues to be ready.
“He’s at his best when he’s playing simple, solid D,” Thompson added. “He has great feet, he has a good stick and he’s a big, strong kid. When he’s focusing on defense first, he’s solid.”
Smith on the Crunch’s forwards: “They’re smart. They’re opportunistic. And they’re dangerous,” he said. “They’re dangerous at every line. They’re deep, and they play a system that works, so you know when you’re playing them, every game is going to be a battle.”
Josh Ho-Sang back in… “He’s healthy. He brings an offensive dynamic a lot of people don’t have,” Thompson said. “He has speed, creativity, so, I thought he played a good game. For being sick, he came in and played a hard game.” And on Parker Wotherspoon: “He competed. I thought he was a little rusty at first, a little slow with his puck decisions, but as the game got going and the defensive situations got bigger, he rose to the challenge and was pretty solid.”
That’s 20 wins for Jeremy Smith, joining a club that includes Rick DiPietro, Kevin Poulin, Mike Morrison, Dieter Kochan and, three times, Wade Dubielewicz. Christopher Gibson should join him at some point in the next nine games; Gibson has 19 for the third time as a Sound Tiger.
That’s also eight penalty shots against Bridgeport this year, which had never had faced more than five (2013-14). That’s three in a month for only the second time (three in November 2014, including two in one game).
Bridgeport has clinched a finish ahead of Springfield with the Penguins’ win. The magic number is seven to finish ahead of the Pens and six to finish ahead of the Phantoms. (So, The Magic Number Is Seven.) It’s 12 versus both Providence and Hershey, and doing it to both clinches home ice for the first round.
Elsewhere, tip of cap to longtime official Paul Carnathan, who was honored before his last pro game today.
Worcester is winless in four, though Tyler Barnes scored his 27th.
Quinnipiac’s going to Allentown for the NCAA regionals; Arizona State, for starters.
And a tip of cap to Wisconsin, national champions.
Maybe more Tuesday, unless warranted, but if not, Charlotte’s in Wednesday.