Bears Weekly: Hershey One Win Away from Advancing
(Hershey, PA) - The Hershey Bears have grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Atlantic Division Semifinal series with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Hershey has a chance to end the series and advance to the second round on Thursday night when they host Game 4 at the Giant Center at 7 p.m.
The series opened in Bridgeport last Friday night with the Sound Tigers earning a 3-2 comeback victory in double overtime. Despite being outshot 15-5 in the opening period, Hershey opened the scoring in the middle frame, getting a goal from Chris McCarthy, and a shorthanded tally from Jayson Megna. Bridgeport's Kieffer Bellows made it 2-1 before the period ended, and the Sound Tigers tied the game on a Steve Bernier goal in the final minutes of regulation on a two-man advantage. In double overtime, Bellows scored the winner at 13:36. Hershey goalie Ilya Samsonov finished the game with 49 saves in the losing effort.
In Game 2, Hershey evened the series with a 2-0 win. Vitek Vanecek earned his first Calder Cup Playoffs shutout with 39 saves, and Hershey got a goal and an assist from Riley Barber and Mike Sgarbossa in the win. After surrendering three power play goals in Game 1, Hershey's penalty kill went a perfect 3-for-3.
The series shifted back to Hershey for Game 3 on Tuesday, and the Bears grabbed a series lead thanks to a 2-1 win. Liam O'Brien of Hershey and Josh Ho-Sang of Bridgeport traded goals in the first period, but Ryan Sproul's goal from the point at 2:50 of the third period proved to be the game winner.
Game 4 of the series is Thursday in Hershey. If Bridgeport wins, the decisive Game 5 would be Saturday at the Webster Bank Arena at 7 p.m.
Ticket information: http://www.hersheybears.com/tickets/single-game.php
Game 4-Thursday, Apr. 25 vs Bridgeport, Giant Center, 7 p.m.
*Game 5-Saturday, Apr. 27 at Bridgeport, Webster Bank Arena, 7 p.m.
*If Necessary. All times are Eastern.
WEEKLY PRACTICE SCHEDULE:
Thursday, Apr. 25: 10 a.m., Morning Skate, Giant Center
Friday, Apr. 26: TBD
Saturday, Apr. 27: TBD
*Practice schedule subject to change. Follow @TheHersheyBears on Twitter for updates.
BRICK WALLS: The Bears have benefited from an exceptional one-two punch in goal so far in the playoffs. Hershey goaltenders Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have stopped 114 of 118 shots so far in the three playoff games, good for a stellar .966 save percentage. Ilya Samsonov made an AHL career-best 49 saves in the Game 1 loss, while Vitek Vanecek recorded his first AHL playoff shutout in Game 2.
BIG PLAYERS STEP UP: Hershey's top two scorers in the regular season are also the Bears top two scorers in the playoffs thus far. Mike Sgarbossa led Hershey with 65 points this season, and has struck for three points (one goal, two assists) in the postseason, with points in two straight contests. Riley Barber finished with 60 points and a team-best 31 goals, and has the same playoff stat line as Sgarbossa, also tallying points in two straight games. Both players led the Bears in scoring in the regular season series versus Bridgeport with six points, scoring three goals and three assists each.
SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW: Hershey is still seeking its first power play goal of the series, going 0-for-12 through the first three games. That makes Bridgeport one of three teams in the playoffs who have been perfect on the penalty kill, as Iowa is 7-for-7 and Toronto has gone 6-for-6. On the other side, after surrendering three power play goals in Game 1, Hershey's penalty kill has gone a flawless 6-for-6 in the following two games.
GAME 4 HISTORY: The Bears will look to reverse some unfortunate history in recent years in Game 4 of the playoff series. Hershey has lost the past five Game 4's they have played in, with the last Game 4 win coming in 2016 in the opening round versus Portland. Hershey's last series clinching victory in a Game 4 was in the opening round of the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs. In that Game 4, Hershey blasted Worcester 10-4 to earn a series victory.
BEARS BITES: Vitek Vanecek's shutout in Game 2 was Hershey's first playoff shutout since Pheonix Copley blanked Lehigh Valley in a 1-0 overtime win in Game 1 of the opening round of the 2017 playoffs...Bridgeport has not won a playoff series since 2003, the longest drought in the AHL.
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