The last time a playoff series ended here, it ended in overtime. The Konstantin Koltsov Game. Neutral-zone turnover, quick transition, overtime winner.
Here, neutral-zone turnover, two guys go for a change, and here comes Brian Pinho the other way.
Bridgeport’s Game 4 winner, it took a bunch of replays and a little conversation to discern, took a little luck. Matt Lorito’s shot ticked off Tyler Lewington’s stick and changed direction just enough on Vitek Vanecek. Tonight, Pinho’s shot ticked off the stick of Grant Hutton, reaching around and nearly getting enough of Pinho or even of the shot. But it changed direction.
The Bears celebrated. The Sound Tigers were stunned.
“We play to win. There’s no prizes for second, third, fourth,” Brent Thompson said. “It’s really disappointing. I’m obviously proud of how hard our guys competed, proud of how relentless we were through the whole series, but at the end of the day, we didn’t do enough.”
They actually took a lead tonight with the clock running. Two of them, actually. The Bears bounced back this time, twice. Any number of chances either way could’ve ended things early.
“It’s just tough to put into words right now. It’s tough,” Chris Bourque said. “It’s such a resilient group all year. It was a blast to be part of. There are a lot of great young hockey players in this room, and the older group of veterans, it was so much fun to come to the rink every day to play for these coaches. It was awesome. It’s just really too bad that it’s over.”
They will take Sunday off, and Monday will be exit meetings.
Sixteen years without a playoff-series win, extending their own AHL record. It’s somewhat mind-boggling. We wrote last year about the myriad ways it hasn’t happened. Add one more way to the list. (The annual what-the-heck playoff explainer will be coming soon. Probably Monday.)
Presumably a few guys head up to join the Islanders. We’ll see.
Awesome to see Aaron Ness upright, let alone playing tonight. “Hit my neck and head a little bit,” he understated. (It didn’t feel right last weekend to run the pre-series feature I wrote on him; remind me to put it up for you guys in a few days.) But good to see him again. On the play: “It’s a tough play. Obviously I know (Travis St. Denis) is not trying to maliciously do anything there. It’s just one of those tough bounces. Hockey’s a fast game. It is what it is. Thank God that I’m OK. … I just want to thank, too, all the staff, everyone here, everyone in the ambulance, at the hospital. Everyone was first-class. I owe them a lot.”
Coincidentally, St. Denis was banged up early in overtime and wasn’t around for the end, which led to some different lines in overtime, including one of the few times both Bourques were on together. Chris nearly found a rebound of a Ryan shot. “It’s tough. That’s how playoffs are. Five games, three overtime games, we won two out of three and couldn’t get that last one,” Chris said. “Bounce here, bounce there, it’s probably a different outcome.”
Stephen Gionta led Bridgeport’s handshake line. When it was over, a bunch of Bridgeport players made a point to give him a hug. The same thing happened in the room. He was emotional, like a lot of them were, obviously, but I wondered if I should read into it that this might be it. He paused. “I’m not a hundred percent yet,” he said.
Steve Bernier took the handshake line left-handed after landing on his right hand a shift earlier.
Elsewhere, Milwaukee forced a Game 5 against Iowa with an overtime win last night. The deciding game is Monday. Colorado is up on Bakersfield at this writing; an Eagles win forces a Game 5 on Sunday; there’s already one Game 5 on Sunday, Chicago-Grand Rapids.
And this goes for you guys, too:
Eighteen years, you guys. Where the time goes.
This has been a kinda tumultuous year for me, and just thanks for, you know, putting up with me. And following along.
— Michael Fornabaio (@fornabaioctp) April 28, 2019
More Monday, unless warranted.