With apologies to that great philosopher Forrest Gump, 'a matinee is like opening a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get.' A 1 o'clock game the same day as the NHL's Winter Classic, I was surprised at the crowd at the walk-up windows and the number of cars in the parking lot. Attendance was announced at 5945 and included Charles Wang and Garth Snow, neither of whom I saw in line for tickets.
Coming off a long road trip of 18 hours on the bus and a disappointing end to 2011( last place in the division with just 2 wins in the last 12 games), the Bridgeport Sound Tigers were about to face the Worcester Sharks (near the top of the division with but 9 losses in 32 games).
They come from towns like Blackie, Alberta, Carp and Porcupine, Ontario in Canada, from U.S. cities like Orange, California, Smithtown, New York and Pittsburgh,PA from Sweden, Finland, Russia and Slovakia. Most of them were drafted at the age of 18 at the annual June NHL draft. Many played their way up to the AHL in the junior leagues of Canada, the NCAA and minor leagues in the U.S.A. or the elite leagues of Europe. Now in their twenties (barely), they are members of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, proud affiliate of the New York Islanders, and a phone call away from realizing their dream - playing in the NHL.
Long bus rides, small crowds and the dreaded three games in three nights are all part of the package for players in the AHL. Last night the Bridgeport Sound Tigers played against the Norfolk Admirals losing another tough game falling 3-2 in a hard fought comeback attempt from a 2-0 deficit.
So once again it's back on the bus for another long ride to Wilkes-Barre Scranton and a 5 o'clock game against another tough opponent. This time, however, there will be an empty seat on the bus.
On the glass, above the glass, in the corners, center ice or behind the nets we all have our preferred seats. Mine has always been high above the glass, even with the goal line in the defense zone. I love watching the defense work and the goalie under siege. Don't talk to me during a five on three. At the Webster Bank Arena, home of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers there are no bad sight lines and seaats in all sections are generally available, so preferred seating is rarely an issue.
This season the Islanders American league team is bursting with talent at the blue line. With four veterans - in the AHL that means you are 25 or older - we have solid protection for the rookies. Dylan Reese and Ty Wishart might already be known to Isles fans and Ben Olson and Steve Oleksy are rocks.
Aaron Ness and Matt Donovan, drafted in '08 as well as Calvin deHann and Anton Klementyev from the class of '09 fill out the roster as BST rookies (though it's hard to think of Klementyev as a rookie - euro rules). Sitting in my preferred seat in section 103 I can see the most talented d-man I have seen since A-Mac (Andrew MacDonald) left the building, and he is not on the ice.
When you think of the New York Islanders and associate the word "injury" to their name, you automatically think of all the man-games lost by this team over the past few years and immediately think of the infamous Rick DiPietro. But right now, the injury bug is starting to bite in places other than the 15-year man's knees.
Brian Rolston was placed on the Injured Reserve retroactive to Dec 15th due to a concussion he sustained during the team's 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars this passed Thursday. He left the game and did not return and has not played since.This has allowed Nino Niederreiter to return to the line-up without their having to be any major changes to the roster.
Other players, like Tim Wallace, have been getting extra playing time as well. Although Wallace has previous NHL experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he really hasn't been all that impressive.
(Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)
Part of the plan for the slow and steady rebuild was to have a talented pool of prospects to develop going forward; some of those prospects would make an impact on the immediate future of the team, while others would eventually follow suit down the line.
Slow and steady.
One of those players that might end up turning into an absolute gem is Anders Lee. Lee was taken in the 6th round by the Islanders in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at 152nd overall. So far in 20 games with Notre Dame, Lee has 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points in 20 games played, placing him second in scoring on the team.
The Islanders, who are boasting the worst offense in the league with only a dismal 59 goals for (the second worst team is the L.A. Kings with 63), were heavily criticized for one specific thing over the past three months; not scoring enough goals. (Shocking, right?)
After being shutout several times this year, the Isles were becoming a one-trick pony; if the line of Moulson-Tavares-Parenteau wasn't scoring, then there wasn't anything to worry about if you were the opposing team. However, the Isles have been on a recent streak after coming away with points in their past six games played.
Matt Moulson scored the first four-goal game of his NHL career Saturday night against the Dallas Stars; it was also the first individual four-goal game of the 2012 season. As a result, the Islanders were able to hold on for a thrilling 5-4 win.
Although the win is what ultimately matters most for the Islanders, who took seven out of eight possibly points on their four-game road trip, Moulson was the recipient of this week's NHL's First Star honors.
With the Islanders searching for ways to improve their hockey club's anemic offense, the organization called upon David Ullstrom from their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Ullstrom had 14 points in 17 games played with the Sound Tigers and was showing that he was ready for a chance to prove himself at the NHL level.
The 6'3 Swedish forward was drafted by the Islanders in the 4th round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at 102nd overall. He weighs in at 198 pounds and is a versatile hockey player, possessing the ability to either play center or wing, although he is a natural center-man. He also has great speed and was clocked as the team's fastest rookie skater durin...