Sound Tigers Host Bears in Decisive Game 5 Tonight
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers host the Hershey Bears at 7 p.m. tonight in a decisive Game 5 of the Atlantic Division Semifinals at Webster Bank Arena. The best-of-five first-round series is tied 2-2 following Matt Lorito's overtime heroics in Hershey on Thursday, which boosted Bridgeport to a 3-2 victory and the club's first ever win when facing elimination on the road. It was Lorito's first game-winning goal in the playoffs since Game 5 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals with Grand Rapids, and it gave the Sound Tigers their first and only lead on Thursday. Stephen Gionta and Oliver Wahlstrom also scored in regulation, while Christopher Gibson (2-1) made 22 saves on 24 shots. The winner of tonight's contest will face the Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division Finals after Charlotte knocked out the Providence Bruins in four games. The Sound Tigers are trying to win their first playoff series since 2003.
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 3-5-1 in nine all-time playoff meetings against the Bears.
MR. BIG GAME
Matt Lorito's goal 73 seconds into overtime on Thursday was Bridgeport's biggest goal of the year, extending its season in a must-win Game 4. Lorito received a pass from Josh Ho-Sang and skated to the left circle, where he beat Vitek Vanecek glove side for the Sound Tigers' second overtime-winning goal of the series. Lorito is tied with Oliver Wahlstrom for the team lead in scoring (one goal, two assists) this round and has 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 34 career Calder Cup Playoff games, including three game-winning goals.
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 137 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.
WHEN 60 ISN'T ENOUGH
The Sound Tigers went past regulation 24 times during the regular season (fifth most in the AHL) and logged a record of 15-9 when doing so. They picked right where they left off during the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs, winning both of their overtime games so far. Kieffer Bellows ended Game 1 in double overtime on Friday, Apr. 19 prior to Thursday's win in Hershey.
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 (9g, 37a)... 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 went 26-7-3-2 at home during the regular season (57 points), tied for the AHL lead with Charlotte and Syracuse... The Sound Tigers are 1-6 all-time in Game 5s - their only win coming in overtime against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2006... Hershey's top two scorers during the regular season, Mike Sgarbossa and Riley Barber, each have three points (one goal, two assists) in four playoff games to pace the Bears.
NHL: NY Islanders (0-1) - 1-0 OTL to Carolina in Game 1 of Round 2, Next: Sunday at 3 p.m.
ECHL: Worcester Railers (32-29-7-4) - Did not qualify for 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs
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