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.
The contest remained in Hershey’s favor until the final three minutes of regulation, despite several golden chances for the Sound Tigers. In addition, the Bears had a handful of opportunities, including a 2-on-1 rush midway through the third that turned into a frightening situation. Former Sound Tigers captain Aaron Ness darted to the crease at full speed and was bumped from behind, which sent him crashing head-first into the end wall. He was removed from the ice with a stretcher and taken to an area hospital for further evaluation.
Bellows Scores Twice in Double-Overtime Thriller
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.
Bridgeport controlled the majority of the opening period and outshot the Bears 15-5, but both goaltenders were strong in the first 20 minutes. McCarthy broke the scoreless deadlock with the first tally of the series at 8:16 of the second. At even strength, Steve Whitney found McCarthy in the left circle and the latter ripped a shot past Gibson’s glove to make it 1-0. The tally was initially waved off and the officials huddled, and debated, if goalie interference was a factor, but the marker ultimately stood.
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.
At 14:21, Otto Koivula found Kieffer Bellows for his first career AHL playoff goal and sliced the Hershey lead 2-1.
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.
Here is the footage of the trip that caused Ness' collision into the boards. Another angle showed he was moving his hands directly after the hit. pic.twitter.com/W6BNrwAUc9
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.
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.
Bernier evened the score with a clutch, 5-on-3 power-play goal at the 17:52 mark when he jammed home a rebound in the crease following Sebastian Aho’s shot. Lorito also earned an assist, his second helper of the night.
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.
GAME ONE TO BRIDGEPORT! Take a 👀 back at the OT winner by Kieffer Bellows! 🚨#SoundUp #SoundTigers pic.twitter.com/5RGqy9ookF
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A scary scene unfolded in Bridgeport Friday night, during the Hershey Bears’ first game of their playoff series against the Sound Tigers. Midway through the third period, defender Aaron Ness crashed headfirst into the end boards after being toppled by Bridgeport’s Travis St. Denis. Ness, who has played 18 games with the Capitals in his career, laid face-down on the ice as he was attended to by medical personnel.
Here is the footage of the trip that caused Ness’ collision into the boards. Another angle showed he was moving his hands directly after the hit. pic.twitter.com/W6BNrwAUc9
As Ness was carried off the ice on a stretcher, his teammates lined up on the ice beside him to show support.
Team worried about their leader and now @TheHersheyBears are without Aaron Ness. @TheSoundTigers fans show a lot of class as they watch. #HBH #HersheyBears #CalderCupPlayoffs @CapsOutsider pic.twitter.com/LV0bMErc2s
According to Zack Fisch, the Bears play-by-play announcer, Ness is awake and responsive and was taken to a hospital for x-rays.
Bears radio play-by-play broadcaster @zackfisch is reporting via Dan Beaker Stuck that everything looks good with Aaron Ness. Thank god he is going to be okay