Thirty teams in the NHL and each has an AHL affiliate to draw talent from as needed. All but two of these AHL clubs has a team in the ECHL providing a similar service. The two expectations are the Wild’s- Houston Aeros and the Islanders- Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
As a result, Coach Brent Thompson has relied heavily on his connections and experience in the ECHL to bring talented prospects up to Bridgeport. ‘Tommer’, as the players call him, was coach of the 2010-11 ECHL Kelly Cup Champion Alaska Aces and often looks there for talent.
An ever-changing line-up is part and parcel to being a coach in the American League. Bridgeport has already dressed seven different goalies and at least thirty-five skaters (forwards and defensemen), and it is just Ground Hog Day! The next call-up to Bridgeport might well be a hat-trick master from Frost Bite Falls, Minn.
No team in professional hockey (NHL or AHL) has a better record in 2012 than the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Eleven games played, 22 points available and 21 points taken. While all players have contributed, Casey Cizikas numbers are awe-inspiring. The Sound Tigers lone representative at this years AHL All- Star Classic has 8 goals, 10 assists for 18 points in calendar year 2012. For a full season in the AHL those numbers project to 56 goals, 70 assists and 126 points. Decent digits for a 20-year-old 4th round Islanders draft pick. Nice job Garth!
How many goaltenders will we see in an Isles uniform by the end of the season? That was a question that a few of my readers asked me before the start of the year. Last year the Islanders featured Dwayne Roloson, Rick DiPietro, Kevin Poulin, Mikko Koskinen, Al Montoya and Nathan Lawson. And oh yeah, they also tried to claim Evgeni Nabokov off waivers to only say, "No thanks" before joining the roster this year.
That's a total of six goalies (with a 7th one that rang off the post) that dressed for the New York Islanders in 2011. The count now is at five for this year between DiPietro, Montoya, Nabokov, Poulin and Anders Nilsson, who earned his first NHL start against the Pittsburgh Penguins the day that Sidney Crosby returned to action.
Koskinen has been playing for KalPa in the Finnish Elite League as John Link explains to us in his latest prospect report since there has been a crowd in the crease for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Both Poulin and Nilsson had been playing so well that there was simply not enough room for Koskinen, choosing him to opt for overseas play.
On this edition of the prospect report I will take a look at two Islanders goaltending prospects in the Islanders system and see where they could fit in with the team in the future. I will look at Mikko Koskinen and Cody Rosen, two goaltender prospects that are fighting for a spot in an already crowded Islanders crease.
Mikko Koskinen is a goalie prospect most Islanders fan are familiar with because he has already made his Islanders debut last season. He was drafted in the 2nd round (31st Overall) in the 2009 entry draft. The big Finnish goalie (6’-7” tall) is currently playing in the Finnish Elite League for KalPa. He was assigned to the league after the start of the current season when it was decided that having three goaltenders in Bridgeport was not a good plan for their development. His stats so far this season aren’t bad as he has currently played in 15 games, winning 8 of them with a 1.92 goals against average. These are very good stat for playing in a very good European league.
It is difficult to explain how after a loss I was so upbeat leaving the arena. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers needed a win to match the franchise record 9 game win streak set in February 2002 and matched in November 2003. We lost. It was not because we had taken a very good St. Johns Icecaps team (with a ridiculous 15-2-2-1 road record) to a shoot out. We lost. It was not because we had played 60 minutes of solid hockey, because we didn’t. And we lost. It was all about the fan experience at The Webster Bank Arena.
The New York Islanders have 34 games remaining on the season, having surpassed the mid-point of the season a few games ago. They currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference and ten points out of the last and final playoff spot, trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils.
With the second half of the year already seven games in, the Isles find themselves in a tight spot. There is still hope that they can compete for a late season rush, hoping to charge their way into the playoffs. However, losing both games to the Leafs this week, only earning one out of possible four points, has hurt their chances drastically. But if the Islanders commit to another second half-season in which they suddenly play their best hockey in the final stages of the year, they might just meet my prediction of falling just short of the post-season between the 9th and 11th spots.
Earlier this week I took a look at the team's forwards and how they have produced so far while considering where they might fit in the team's future.
For any team to be successful there must be contributions by everyone and The Bridgeport Sound Tigers recent winning streak of eight games proves just that. During their eifght game run (one short of the franchise record) thirteen different players have scored a goal (fourteen if you count Scott Howes shootout goal).
Thirteen different players in eight games - impressive. By comparison, the Islanders have seen 17 players score in 46 games and two Sound Tigers (Ullstrom and Reese) are among the seventeen. With everyone contributing it is probably a disservice to select three stars but as that is the tradition I humbly offer mine.
The season for the New York Islanders is more than halfway over, having completed Game 46 of the 82-game season last night with a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime. The win has brought the Isles to a 19-21-6 record putting them eight points out of a playoff spot behind the Washington Capitals sitting in the final, eigth spot.
As John Madonia pointed out in his post-game wrap up, these next two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs are crucial for the Islanders. For the first time in a few years, Islanders fans are able to find themselves in a position where they can start looking at the standings and sharing concerns about the success of other teams in their Conference. Two wins against the Leafs would hypothetically put the Isles at only four points out of the playoffs and see them with a .500 record.
The Isles are not in last in the Eastern Conference; they are currently out of the draft lottery; and John Tavares has emerged as an elite talent in the NHL. Part of the rebuild requires looking for signs of progress in all areas. Although those signs that are mentioned above don't necessarily amount to the hopes and dreams of most Islanders fans, they are still important. Slow and steady as she goes.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers and their fans had little to celebrate on New Years Eve, other than “Thank God that month is over”. Having gone one win in twelve December games, the only bright spot was that the win came against our in-state rival, the Hartford ‘Whale Pack’. 2012 had to be better, and it has been.
Invited by Rob McGowan, I was given the opportunity to join The Checking Line – Isles Edition as a writer covering The Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Bridgeport has not lost a game since.
Bridgeport, like too many cities in the northeast, is struggling through bad economic times. Closed businesses and empty buildings dot the landscape. Well-intentioned projects are started and then abandoned due to a lack of funding, often leaving acres of property empty and unused.
The Webster Bank Arena is an oasis in the downtown Bridgeport area. Hosting a wide variety of events, it has thrived for ten years now. The arena is the home of The Bridgeport Sound Tigers and it is a Sound Tiger who is responsible for a number of recent thefts at the arena.