AHL PLAYOFFS Exta work pays off

April 20, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — Kieffer Bellows scored 13:36 into double overtime, giving the Bridgeport Sound Tigers a 3-2 win over the Hershey Bears in the opener of the Atlantic Division Semifinals Friday night at Webster Bank Arena.

A stunning injury to Hershey defenseman Aaron Ness, a former Bridgeport captain, saw Ness taken off on a stretcher in the third period. No further details were immediately available.

Bellows took an Oliver Wahlstrom pass in the slot to score the winner, his second power-play goal and the team’s third of the night. Steve Bernier tied the game with 2:08 left for Bridgeport on a five-on-three.

It was the third double-overtime game in team history and the first since the inaugural season of 2001-02. Game 2 is here Saturday night.

Rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov made a few stellar saves for the Bears, first to keep it scoreless, later to keep the Bears ahead.

But with the Bears trying to kill a two-man disadvantage in the final minutes, Bernier backhanded a second rebound past him to tie the game with 2:08 to play.

Attendance was 4,381, the second-highest home playoff crowd in team history at the arena behind Game 2 of the 2002 Calder Cup Final. The Sound Tigers played two better-attended home playoff games on Long Island in 2008-09 because of a scheduling conflict here.

The Bears led 2-1 in the third period when Bridgeport’s Travis St. Denis, carrying up the right wing into the Hershey zone, threw a pass toward the front of the net that was knocked away by the Bears and sent up-ice.

Ness jumped into the rush. St. Denis, chasing, bumped him off-balance in front of the Bridgeport net with 11:02 left in regulation time.

Ness appeared to fall onto his backside, but, still traveling at high speed, appeared to catch the left post with one or both legs, which spun him head-first into the endboards.

Motionless for a while, and tended to by both teams’ traners, doctors and emergency responders, Ness was rolled onto his back and taken off slowly by stretcher.

St. Denis was given a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct.

Hershey took a lead on a goal that was initially waved off, 8:16 into the second. Steven Whitney’s forecheck took the puck away from Seth Helgeson, and Whitney set up Chris McCarthy in the left circle for a shot that beat Christopher Gibson.

Gibson had been jostled in the crease by Nathan Walker. The nearest referee, Conor O’Donnell, waved it off, then consulted with Brandon Blandina and the linesmen. After a short talk, O’Donnell pointed to center ice, ruling that Gibson had a chance to reset.

The Bears made it 2-0 on a Jayson Megna short-handed goal, beating Sebastian Aho up-ice after an Oliver Wahlstrom turnover. But Bellows scored later in the power play, jumping on a loose puck in front of Samsonov with 5:39 left in the second.

As regulation time dwindled, Tyler Lewington was called for tripping Chris Bourque with 3:14 left. On the penalty kill, Hershey defenseman Connor Hobbs blocked two shots painfully, dropping his stick on the second block,

Megna tossed his stick backward to Hobbs, which is against the rules; a stick can only be handed off. Megna received a minor penalty, setting up the two-man advantage on which Bernier tied the game.

Washington called up veteran winger Devante Smith-Pelly on Friday morning after forward T.J. Oshie was injured in the Capitals’ loss to Carolina on Thursday night. The Capitals did send goalie Vitek Vanecek back to the Bears; he backed up Samsonov.

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio


HERSHEY 0 2 0 0 0—2

BRIDEGPORT 0 1 1 0 1—3

First Period — No scoring. Penalties — Whitney, Her (high-sticking), 2:40; Leach, Her (roughing), 16:15; Helgeson, Bpt (interference), 18:38; Walker, Her (boarding), 19:33.

Second Period — 1, Hershey, McCarthy 1 (Whitney, Lewington), 8:16. 2, Hershey, Megna 1, 13:02 (sh). 3, Bridgeport, Bellows 1 (Koivula, Lorito), 14:21 (pp). Penalties — Sgarbossa, Her, double minor (high-sticking), 10:56.

Third Period — 4, Bridgeport, Bernier 1 (Aho, Lorito), 17:52 (pp). Penalties — St. Denis, Bpt, major-game misconduct (boarding), 8:58; Walker, Her (tripping), 11:37; Lewington, Her (tripping), 16:46; Megna, Her (throwing equipment), 17:28.

First overtime — No scoring. Penalties — None.

Second overtime — 5, Bridgeport, Bellows 2 (Wahlstrom, C.Bourque), 13:36 (pp). Penalties — Sgarbossa, Her (tripping), 13:00.

Shots on goal — Hershey 5-9-9-5-3—31. Bridgeport 15-12-8-11-6—52.

Power play opportunities — Hershey 0 of 3, Bridgeport 3 of 8.

Goaltenders — Hershey, Samsonov 0-1-0 (52 shots-49 saves). Bridgeport, Gibson 1-0 (31-29).

Attendance — 4,381. Referees — Blandina, O’Donnell. Linesmen — Tobias, Richetelle.