The Hershey Bears continued their improbable run on Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory over Bridgeport. The Sound Tigers now face a do or die Game 4 at the Giant Center.
In January, the Bears were dead last in the AHL’s Atlantic Division. On Thursday they can move on to the second round of the AHL playoffs, if they’re able to come away with a win over the New York Islanders‘ AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson elected not to shake up his lineup Tuesday night. And to be fair, the options are limited.
Captain Ben Holmstrom sustained a head injury in the Tigers last regular season game. Veteran Mike Sislo, who with Matt Lorito was signed by Lou for moments just like this, will likely not be able to play in this series.
Scott Eansor, supplanted by Jeff Kubiak earlier in the year, has not dressed. Bobo Carpenter unlike fellow recent additions, Oliver Wahlstrom and Grant Hutton, has not earned a steady assignment.
Travis St. Denis returned from his suspension and replaced John Stevens. Chris Gibson was back in net for Jeremy Stevens.
Hershey came out flying, outshooting the Lil’ Islanders 18-4 in the first period.
The Bears struck first when the rugged Liam O’Brien drove to the net and lifted a backhand over a sliding Chris Gibson. Riley Barber and Mike Sgarbossa each picked up an assist on the goal, for their series-leading third point.
All of Bridgeport’s scoring came in the first. Josh Ho-Sang netted career playoff goal number one as he raced to recover a neutral zone chip from Oliver Wahlstrom. Ho-Sang, as he occasionally does, reminded us what could be.
Bridgeport responded well in both the second and third periods.
But the hero would be Hershey Defensemen Ryan Sproul. At 2:50 of the third Sproul slapped one past a partially screened Gibson for the Bears game-winner.
Both team’s goaltenders were excellent. Hershey’s netminding, like in Game 2, was just a little bit better.
Ilya Samsonov was nearly perfect (26 saves). Throughout the series, Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have turned away 114 of 118 SoundTiger shots.
The Sound Tigers powerplay, so potent in their Game 1 victory was silent (0 for 3).
If the Sound Tigers prevail in Game 4, the deciding game will be played at WebsterBank Arena on Saturday.
Aaron Ness did not play. There was no update as to his status for Game 4.