The most anxious time of the year for me and many hockey fans is waiting for the season to start. Like a child waiting for Santa or a back-seat-brat asking every two minutes “Are we there yet?”, I cant wait. The late June NHL draft and notes from team camps and mini camps does little to satisfy my hunger for hockey.
In late August 2009, with the next season just a flip of the calendar away, I was as anxious as ever. The previous season was a good one for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. A tiebreaker away from being division champions, their 49-23-3-5 record for 106 points was not enough after a disappointing first round ouster in the playoffs.
There are many differences between National League (NHL) and American League (AHL) players. Talent and dedication do not make that list. Perhaps that is why Islanders coach Jack Capuano refers to ‘call-ups’ as American League players and not minor leaguers. It may be because he coached the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, it could be that he himself was successful at the NCAA, ECHL, AHL, and NHL levels. No distinction. When Cappy makes the call to Sound Tigers coach Brent Thompson to fill a need, the Isles will get a talented, dedicated player who fits in seamlessly into the system.
The biggest difference (my opinion) is the fan experience. Parking? Not a problem and free to season ticket holders. Tickets available? Most likely and you can more often than not move to another seat as you wish. Drunken Flyer’s fans in the building? Not in Howard Saffan’s house! Player accessibility? Let’s talk.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers had their streak of minutes played without allowing a goal end Sunday afternoon in the second period of their game against the Providence Bruins. Just over three minutes into the period a shot got past goalie Kevin Poulin stopping the streak at 224 minutes.
Two other streaks, however, continue. The Sound Tigers notched their season best 4th consecutive win with a nice 3-2 shootout victory over the Bruins. Solid in the exhibition period, four Sound Tigers; Sean Backman, Tony Romano, Kael Mouillierat and Scott Howes each scored.
In a 1992 article for The New Yorker, the gifted writer Alec Wilkenson quoted an unnamed goaltender as saying “What other job do you now of where, when you make a mistake, a red light goes on behind you and fifteen thousand people call you a jerk?” Bridgeport Sound Tiger goalie Kevin Poulin is suffering from a rare disorder, an inordinate fear and hatred of red lights.
Poulin has now posted 3 consecutive shutouts, each a 4-0 win for Bridgeport. He has not given up a goal in calendar year 2012, approaching 200 minutes without seeing that hated red light. His first shutout in this impressive streak came on January 2nd, a matinee game at the Webster Bank Arena attended by Garth Show and Charles Wang.
The New York Islanders sent out an official press-release today stating that Russian defensive prospect Anton Klementyev has been suspended by the club for a failure to report to his ECHL assignment to the Idaho Steelheads.
Per the Islanders official press-release:
UNIONDALE, NY (January 7, 2012) – The New York Islanders announced today that defenseman Anton Klementyev has been suspended for failure to report for his ECHL assignment to the Idaho Steelheads. Klementyev began the 2011-12 season with the Islanders American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
It was reported yesterday that Rick DiPietro was being sent home for medical evaluations before the road trip even began as he had sustained yet another injury to add to the many setbacks of his career. Mike Mottau was also returned to Long Island with an upper-body injury. However, the story surrounding DiPietro is that this guy hadn't been playing; he was already on the Injured Reserve.
You have to wonder how a guy like Rick finds a way to injure himself while he is already...well...injured. He wasn't playing in games, although he had been skating on the ice. And according to Art Staple of Newsday, DiPietro wasn't even close to dressing as a back-up for any of the games on this road trip that saw them play Carolina last night, Anaheim on Friday and Phoenix on Saturday.
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.