Not all empty-net goals are created equal, and Steve Bernier scored one in the AHL that proves that paying the price in your own end can lead to offensive success.
A common refrain throughout sports is that strong defense lead to good offense, and Steve Bernier was the literal embodiment of that philosophy on Wednesday night.
In the final minute of a tilt between the AHL’s Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack, Bernier found himself out as one of the Bridgeport defenders as Hartford pushed for the game-tying goal. As the puck was worked back to the blueline, a pass came across to Ryan Graves, who had scored earlier in the contest, and he loaded up for a blast from the backend. With Graves winding up for a potentially game-tying blast, the veteran Bernier dove out to block the shot.
He couldn’t have expected his defensive-minded play would end up on the scoresheet.
Graves’ shot barrelled into Bernier’s equipment, but it deflected off of his shinpads with such force that it shot back out the other way. It eluded Wolf Pack captain Mat Bodie at the blueline, and even though Bodie got on his horse to knock the puck away from the empty net, he came up inches short and Bernier’s block found the yawning cage:
— AHL (@TheAHL) November 24, 2016
That’s such an incredibly unlikely turn of events for the Wolf Pack — and such a bizarre goal for Bernier — that you almost can’t help but laugh.
Bernier, 31, has spent his entire campaign in the AHL this season despite an NHL career that has spanned 633 games. He was signed early in the season to a one-year, two-way deal by the New York Islanders, but has yet to come up to the big club and likely won’t make his way up barring a laundry list of injuries thinning out the Islanders’ lineup.
A first-round pick, 16th overall, of the San Jose Sharks in 2003, Bernier scored 16 goals and 32 points in 67 games for the New Jersey Devils in 2015-16. None of those points came directly off of a blocked shot into an empty net.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Get 10 issues of The Hockey News magazine for just $15.99!