In a thrilling battle that took four hours to complete, the Islanders’ AHL affiliate Sound Tigers took game one 3-2 over Hershey in their First Round playoff series.
At 13:36 of the second overtime, the 4,381 Bridgeport faithful roared their approval as New York Islanders 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows found the back of the net. The game-winner was the rookies’ second powerplay goal of the night.
Previous matchups between these two teams have been physical, and the rivalry was on full display in WebsterBank Arena.
During the second with just over nine minutes to go, Hershey’s scoring leader, Mike Sbargossa received a four-minute high sticking penalty as blood streamed from the face of Stephen Gionta.
Seconds later, the Ct. Islanders had possession in the offensive zone. But an Oliver Wahlstrom give-away resulted in an odd-man rush. The Bears scored shorthanded and extended the lead to two.
However, the Sound Tigers salvaged the man advantage.
At 14:21, Otto Koivula found Kieffer Bellows for his first career AHL playoff goal and sliced the Hershey lead 2-1.
Despite dominating the first two periods, Bridgeport found themselves down 2-1 entering the third.
The physicality continued into the third period.
Midway thru, Devon Toews’ fellow Quinnipiac alum, Travis St. Denis chased down a streaking Aaron Ness, making contact from behind. The former Islander crashed awkwardly, headfirst into the boards and lay motionless on the ice for several minutes.
He was stretchered off.
Immediate post-game reports indicated Ness was ‘responsive.’
St. Denis, the SoundTigers fourth highest regular-season scorer, got five-minutes for boarding and a game misconduct.
Bridgeport killed off the ensuing penalty to keep the score 2-1. The Sound Tigers wouldn’t get the equalizer until 17:52 of the third, as Matt Lorito fed Steve Bernier. Surprisingly, like Bellows, it was also Bernier’s first career AHL playoff goal.
At 10:30 of the second overtime, Stephen Gionta laid a massive hit on a Hershey defender. Seth Hegelson and Connor Jones grabbed the turnover and drove the net getting a rise from the crowd.
But, Samsonov was up to the task as he made his 48th stop of the night.
There were no penalties called in the extra sessions until the refs found Sgarbossa again, this time for tripping at 13:00 of OT2. Sgarbossa, though visibly upset, was in a sharing mood as he doused the off ice official with his Gatorade.
Just 1:16 later, Bridgeport would strike again for their third and final powerplay goal of the night.
Chris Bourque fed Oliver Wahlstrom who found Bellows in the slot. Bellows lightning quick release beat Samsonov and gave the SoundTigers the winner; And a one-game lead in this best of seven series.
Bellows earned first star honors.
The news in Islander land keeps getting better.