Sound Tigers Battle in Must-Win Game 4 Tonight
HERSHEY, Penn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers face the Hershey Bears tonight in Game 4 of the Atlantic Division Semifinals at 7 p.m. inside Giant Center. Hershey leads the best-of-five first-round series 2-1 and can clinch the series with a victory tonight. The Sound Tigers must win tonight to extend their season following a 2-1 loss at Giant Center on Tuesday, in which Josh Ho-Sang scored Bridgeport's lone goal and Christopher Gibson (1-1) made 32 saves on 34 shots. Liam O'Brien and Ryan Sproul each converted for the Bears, including Sproul's eventual game-winner that came from the blue line at 2:50 of the third period. Prior to Tuesday's matchup, both teams split a two-game series at Webster Bank Arena last weekend. The Sound Tigers haven't won a playoff series since the first round in 2003.
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TIGERS VS. BEARS
Each team won three of the six meetings during the regular season (14 goals apiece), but the Sound Tigers earned points in four of the six (3-2-0-1), including a 5-1 win at Webster Bank Arena on Feb. 24. Bridgeport went 1-1-0-1 at home during the season series and 2-1-0-0 at Giant Center. Michael Dal Colle and Steve Bernier led the Sound Tigers against the Bears with six points apiece during the regular season, while Mike Sgarbossa and Riley Barber collected six points each to pace Hershey. Bridgeport is 2-5-1 in eight all-time playoff meetings against the Bears.
The Islanders' 11th overall pick last June, Oliver Wahlstrom, set up Bridgeport's lone tally Tuesday night by advancing the puck out of his zone and ahead of a charging Josh Ho-Sang late in the first period. It was his second assist of the postseason and Wahlstrom is now part of a three-way tie for the most points during the playoffs (for the Sound Tigers). Matt Lorito also has two assists and Kieffer Bellows has two goals in three games.
FORMER BEAR BITING BACK
Chris Bourque won three Calder Cups with Hershey over parts of nine seasons (2006, 2009, 2010), but now battles his former team in the playoffs for the third time in his career. Bourque, who led Bridgeport in points (54) and assists (39) during the regular season, faced Hershey with the Providence Bruins in 2013 and Hartford Wolf Pack in 2015 - and he won both times. The six-time all-star and AHL's active leading scorer (746 regular-season points) also ranks among the AHL's all-time playoff leaders in assists (83 = first) and points (118 = fourth) in 136 postseason appearances (second). He is fourth in Bears history in games (603), third in assists (390), fifth in points (586) and seventh in goals (196). His younger brother, Ryan Bourque, is also a former Bear who helped Hershey reach the Calder Cup Finals in 2015.
BELLOWS BREAKS THROUGH
Twenty-year-old rookie Kieffer Bellows was the hero in last Friday's double-OT thriller that finished exactly four hours after the puck initially dropped. Bellows had 12 goals and 19 points in 73 regular-season games, including one other two-goal performance on Nov. 4 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Islanders' 19th overall pick in 2016 became the first Sound Tiger to score a power-play goal in overtime of a playoff game. It was Bellows' first AHL playoff game - one of 11 Bridgeport players who put that nugget on their resume Friday evening.
Otto Koivula finished the regular season fourth among league rookies with 21 goals and tied for seventh in scoring (46 points)... Sebastian Aho ranked seventh among AHL defensemen with 46 points (nine goals, 37 assists)... Steve Bernier finished the regular season fourth among all AHL players in shooting percentage (23.3%), while Michael Dal Colle was second (24.3%)... Bridgeport was just 17-17-3-1 on the road during the regular season, but 26-7-3-2 at home (57 points), tied for the AHL lead with Charlotte and Syracuse... Christopher Gibson saw his four-game win streak come to an end Tuesday... Oliver Wahlstrom and Matt Lorito each have two assists in the first-round series against Hershey.
NHL: NY Islanders (4-0) - Next: Round 2, Game 1 vs. Carolina Hurricanes (Friday, 7 p.m.)
ECHL: Worcester Railers (32-29-7-4) - Did not qualify for 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs
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