BRIDGEPORT, CT – Simon Holmstrom scored his fifth goal in seven games to force overtime on Saturday night, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (19-29-5-2), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, suffered a 5-4 shootout loss to the Hershey Bears (33-17-3-3) in front of 5,026 fans at Webster Bank Arena.
Holmstrom’s game-tying goal came with just 2:22 left in the third period, while Matt Lorito, Oliver Wahlstrom and Colin McDonald all recorded power-play goals. Bridgeport was a perfect 3-for-3 on the power play and scored at least three goals on the man advantage for the first time this season.
Parker Wotherspoon added a season-high three assists in the setback.
It didn’t take long for the rivals to make Saturday’s game a physical one. Just 2:14 in, Wotherspoon took a heavy hit in the left corner on his own zone and the Kyle Burroughs quickly came to his defense, dropping the gloves with Colby Williams. Kale Kessy also received a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct following the play and the Sound Tigers cashed in on the early chance.
Lorito netted his ninth goal of the season at the 3:55 mark thanks to a beneficial deflection. Wotherspoon’s slap shot bounced off the body of goaltender Vitek Vanecek and Lorito pocketed the rebound to give Bridgeport an early 1-0 lead.
The Sound Tigers struck for a second time on the man advantage at 10:52 with Martin Fehervary in the box for tripping. Josh Ho-Sang played the puck up top for Sebastian Aho, who delivered a pass to the left circle. Wahlstrom waited for it and sent a missile past Vanecek for his seventh goal of the season.
The Bears responded late in the first period to cut their deficit back to one. Alex Alexeyev fired a shot towards Christopher Gibson from the parameter and it dropped down at the side of the crease where Brian Pinho flipped home the rebound for his first of two goals on the night at 15:19.
Shortly after the tally, tempers flared yet again and Seth Helgeson and Liam O’Brien gave the fans a show by exchanging blows in the final four minutes of the frame. The fight came several seconds after the puck went out of play and both were given a game misconduct for fighting during a stoppage.
Hershey opened up a two-goal lead with the only three tallies in the second period, building a 4-2 advantage after 40 minutes. The period had been moving along rapidly with both teams gaining chances, but not scoring, until Garrett Pilon fired a stellar wrist shot from the high slot past Gibson to tie the game at 2-2. It was Pilon’s 17th goal of the season at 15:22, which also came on the power play.
Almost exactly two minutes later, the Bears earned their first lead on another juicy rebound. Pinho picked up the garbage on an initial shot that fell near the doorstep for his second goal of the night at 17:23.
Hershey defenseman Christian Djoos set up a net front scramble that Brett Leason poked home to extend the visitor’s lead less than a minute later. It gave the Bears four consecutive goals entering the final frame.
Bridgeport needed an early answer in third and got it just 4:02 in when McDonald scored his fourth goal of the season in his 900th professional game. Fehervary was called for hooking at the 2:11 mark and on the ensuring power play, Wotherspoon drove a shot towards the net that McDonald redirected past Vanecek’s glove to make it 4-3.
The Bears held Bridgeport in check until the final stages of regulation when the Sound Tigers’ youngest player came in clutch. Holmstrom registered his eighth goal of the season with just 2:22 to play, tying the game at four with a low wrist shot from the left circle. Wotherspoon had another assist for his second career three-point effort.
Overtime did not disappoint as the Sound Tigers looked to secure the win in their 10th game beyond regulation this season. Vanecek made a few highly-athletic toe saves as the Sound Tigers kept peppering the net with shots. However, the game remained tied and headed to a shootout where Phillipe Maillet and Christian Djoos each scored for Hershey, and Wahlstrom had the only shootout goal for the Sound Tigers.
Bridgeport finished the game 1-for-2 on the penalty kill and was outshot 33-31. Gibson (6-7-5) made 28 saves, while Vanecek (15-10-1) turned aside 27 shots for Hershey.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers conclude a three-game homestand tomorrow afternoon with a 3 p.m. matchup against the Hartford Wolf Pack at Webster Bank Arena. It’s Hockey Weekend in Connecticut, featuring a bobblehead of veteran forward Steve Bernier to the first 2,500 fans, courtesy of Newtown Savings Bank. Click here for more information. Fans can follow all of the live action of the Sound Tigers Radio Network and AHLTV, beginning with the pregame show at 2:45 p.m. ET.