Sound Tigers Try to Regain Series Lead in Game 3
HERSHEY, Penn. - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers face the Hershey Bears tonight in Game 3 of the Atlantic Division Semifinals at 7 p.m. inside Giant Center. The best-of-five series is knotted at 1-1 following a two-game split at Webster Bank Arena last weekend. The Sound Tigers prevailed in double overtime on Friday, when Kieffer Bellows scored his second goal of the night just after 11 p.m. in a 3-2 victory. However, Hershey responded less than 24 hours later with a 2-0 win on Saturday, backstopped by Vitek Vanecek's 39-save shutout. Mike Sgarbossa and Riley Barber had the goals for the Bears. The Sound Tigers haven't won a playoff series since the first round in 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 2-4-1 in seven all-time playoff meetings against the Bears.
VIEW FROM HERSHEY
Spencer Carbery's club finished the regular season with three straight wins and on a four-game point streak, including a 3-1 victory against the Hartford Wolf Pack in its final game on Sunday. Chris McCarthy, Joey Leach and Yale product Joe Snively scored three consecutive goals after Hartford potted the opening tally just 32 seconds in, while Ilya Samsonov (20-14-2) made 23 saves to get to 20 wins. Mike Sgarbossa led Hershey with 65 points during the regular season (30g, 35a), which was tied for ninth in the AHL's scoring race, while Riley Barber had a team-best 31 goals (sixth in the league). In addition, former Sound Tigers captain Aaron Ness tallied 50 points and 55 assists to lead all AHL defensemen in both categories. The Bears have won 11 Calder Cup championships in team history, more than any other franchise.
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 134 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 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 (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%)... Grant Hutton has six points (1g, 5a) in his last eight games... 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 league lead with Charlotte and Syracuse... The Sound Tigers were shut out three times during the regular season.
NHL: NY Islanders (4-0) - Swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
ECHL: Worcester Railers (32-29-7-4) - Did not qualify for 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs
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