Although the New York Islanders will not be competing in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Islanders, punched their ticket to the Calder Cup Playoffs on Friday night.
Three things needed to happen for Bridgeport to secure a spot, as they needed to beat the Springfield Thunderbirds, the St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate. They needed the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers) to lose to the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals). Lastly, they needed the Hartford Wolfpack (New York Rangers) to lose to the Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers/Seattle Kraken).
And everything fell into place.
The most important piece to the puzzle was Bridgeport winning their contest, as they defeated Springfield by a score of 4-2. After allowing a goal less than a minute and a half into the contest, the Islanders scored two in the final four minutes to take a 2-1 lead to the locker room.
Kyle MacLean scored his 10th of the season at 16:15 of the first period, with Chris Terry scoring his 30th at 17:00.
History repeated itself early in the second, as Springfield tied the contest at two just over two minutes into the middle frame.
The deadlock lasted until late in the third before Austin Czarnik found the back of the net for his 13th of the season with just over five minutes to play in regulation. Cole Bardreau added the insurance marker with his empty-net tally with a tad over a minute to play in the game.
Netminder Cory Schneider stopped 23 of the 25 shots that came his way.
The Bridgeport Islanders had a new face in the lineup for their clinching performance in Aatu Räty, who was drafted 52nd overall back in the 20201 NHL Entry Level Draft. Räty was assigned to Bridgeport back on Tuesday.
Defenseman Grant Hutton, who was placed on waivers by the New York Islanders on Thursday, cleared and played in the game.
Although TOI is private information at the AHL level, the 19-year-old Räty skated on the second line alongside Austin Czarnik and Michael Dal Colle. Räty recorded three shots on goal and created some chances for his teammates throughout Bridgeport’s playoff-clinching win.
With COVID-19 outbreaks earlier in the season, the American Hockey League decided that point percentage is how playoff spots would be determined. The Islanders locked in their playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with a .518 point percentage (31-29-7-4), with one game remaining.
The Bridgeport Islanders finish their season with a matchup against their rival, as they host the Hartford Whalers Saturday night at 7 PM. Hartford did not qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
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