HERSHEY, PA - The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (36-20-5-2), proud AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, ended their five-game road trip with a 5-1 loss to the Hershey Bears (35-22-3-4) at Giant Center on Saturday.
Steve Bernier matched a career high with his 21st goal of the season early in the second period, while Riley Barber had two goals for the Bears and Mike Sgarbossa finished the night with a game-high four points (one goal, three assists). It dropped the Sound Tigers to 3-2-0-0, both on the road trip, and against Hershey this season.
With the loss, the Sound Tigers’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot remained at 19 with 13 games left in the regular season.
Hershey jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with a pair of first-period tallies from Garrett Pilon and Aaron Ness. Pilon struck first at the 9:31 mark when he forced home a rebound directly in front of the net for his ninth goal of the season, and second in as many nights. Ryan Sproul created the opportunity with a sharp-angle shot that hit the outside of the net, but redirected back to the bottom of the right circle. Shane Gersich gathered the rebound and fired it back in front where Pilon capitalized following a pad save from Christopher Gibson.
Ness added his third power-play goal of the season at the 18:31 mark, taking advantage of a slashing penalty against John Stevens in the closing minutes. Jusso Ikonen directed a cross-ice pass to the top of the left circle, where Ness reached back and wristed a shot through traffic and past Gibson’s glove to make it 2-0.
The middle frame wasn’t much different, as the Bears scored three more times and extended their lead to 5-1. Barber’s first of two goals came just 93 seconds in following a too-many-men on the ice penalty against Bridgeport. Ness settled Sgarbossa’s pass above the left circle and guided a cross-ice feed to Barber, where he ripped a pin-point shot off the post and in for his 30th goal – the first 30-goal season of his five-year pro career.
Barber’s second tally of the night, which came just 3:15 later, occurred on a 2-on-1 rush directly at Gibson. Sgarbossa moved down the left wing and opened up space before sending a back-door pass to Barber for his tap-in goal at 4:48 of the second period.
Sandwiched between Barber’s two goals was Bernier’s team-leading 21st goal of the season for the Sound Tigers, which came at the 3:17 mark. John Stevens entered the Hershey zone and directed a pass to Travis St. Denis on the left wing. He proceeded to cut though the circle and drifted towards the net before filtering a pass to the crease, where Bernier bumped it in. His 21 goals tie a career high – set just last season with Bridgeport.
Sgarbossa capped the scoring less than six minutes later with his 27th goal of the season for the 5-1 final. Just past the halfway mark, Liam O’Brien advanced the puck to Barber down the right wing and made an unselfish play rather than shooting for the hat trick. Barber waited for Kyle Burroughs to slide past before he threaded the needle on pass to the doorstep, where Sgarbossa pounded it home at 10:22.
Hershey outshot Bridgeport 8-7 in a tighter third period, but neither team found the back of the net again.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play and 5-for-7 on the penalty kill, while Hershey outshot Bridgeport 28-19 overall. Gibson (18-10-4) made 23 saves on 28 shots and saw his seven-game win streak come to an end.
The contest also included two fights, beginning with Yanick Rathgeb’s first AHL tilt against Shane Gersich at 5:43 of the second period, and ending with Burroughs’ bout against Nathan Walker at 11:41 of the third.
Next Time Out: The Sound Tigers return to Webster Bank Arena tomorrow night for a 5 p.m. matchup against the Springfield Thunderbirds, which opens an eight-game homestand. It’s “Hockey and Hops 2,” featuring a pre-game craft beer tasting event starting at 2:30 p.m. The contest will air across the Sound Tigers Radio Network, and may be viewed live via AHLTV . Pre-game coverage will begin at 4:45 p.m.