If you pass a bus-full of people wearing dentures on I-95 in Connecticut between the New York line and the Rte. 91 connector, it could be a group of seniors on their way to or from one of the states casinos. It could also be the Bridgeport Sound Tigers or another professional hockey team on the way to or from Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena.
The New York Islanders announced today that they have placed goaltender Rick DiPietro on waivers to be sent down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and has no intent of calling him back up to the NHL this season.
Islanders fans very well may be seeing the beginning to the end of the Rick DiPietro era.
This doesn't exactly come to many as a surprise since DiPietro has clearly not played up to the standards of an NHL caliber goaltender. Despite only performing in the back-up role, Rick has earned a 4.09 GAA and a .855 save percentage with an 0-3-0 record (Photo Credit: 5of7/Flickr).
Imagine opening your copy of Newsday one day this summer and reading an article by Arthur Staple reporting that Charles Wang and Colorado Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke had agreed to a swap. All players and coaches associated with the Isles’ would become Avs’, and the Avs’ would wear the Isles orange and blue on Long Island.
As strange as it sounds these changes happen with some regularity in the AHL. This years’ change was a bit unique in that it involved the AHL’s Calder Cup winning Norfolk Admirals.
The Anaheim Ducks and the Tampa Bay Lightning swapped their AHL affiliations in Norfolk (Admirals) and Syracuse (Crunch) respectively. So while the Calder Cup sits in Norfolk, the names of the Admirals’ players engraved on the championship trophy now play their home games in Syracuse.
The New York Islanders have certainly hit a lull this season, having lost seven of their past nine games and being outscored 10-1 in the past two games. Although the forwards and defense are far from perfect and share the blame with the entire team, the goaltending has certainly been an issue (Photo Credit: spotboslow/Flickr).
Teams typically put themselves in a good position to in when they manage to get over 40 shots on net, or close to it, such as in the 3-2 loss to the Sabres (43 shots) and last night's 3-1 loss to the Senators (38 shots).
But that hasn't exactly been the case for the Isles.
What began as a normal weekend for Bridgeport’s Nino Niederreiter, turned into one of the strangest in recent memory for the team. Niederreiter made is usual call to Pete’s Deli & News for a ‘to-go’ order on his way to the arena for the Sound Tigers morning skate before the team left for Providence for the first of three games in three days.
The game in Providence started like any other before getting out of hand with the Bruins scoring the opener after two minutes of play and Matt Donovan answering four minutes later with his eighth of the season. With two minutes and thirty seconds left in the opening period, Matt Watkins was given the whistle on a very questionable hooking call, and the game changed.
The thirty-eight inches of snow deposited in Milford by a blizzard named ‘Nemo’ forced the AHL and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to cancel a weekend of hockey at the Webster Bank Arena. Pay-loaders, bob-cats, backhoes and shovels that were used in late October to remove the sand left on East Broadway by a hurricane named ‘Sandy’ were pressed back into service for snow removal.
Schedules, plans, and lives were put on hold while streets were being cleared, and some of the sand collected in the fall was placed back on the roads so we could return to our normal daily routines. The Sound Tigers returned to their schedule on Tuesday evening when they hosted the conference leading Springfield Falcons after an unprecedented ten-day layoff. The obvious question was, ‘How would the team perform after all that down time?’
The Islanders are just slightly past the quarter mark of the season after playing their 13th game of the year last night against the New York Rangers. They skated to a 4-3 shootout victory to give them a 5-7-1 record.
With 11 points, the Islanders sit 12th in the Eastern Conference; four points out of the eighth placed Rangers and last in the Atlantic Division (Photo Credit: theseoduke/Flickr).
Five of the Islanders top-six forwards have been producing from the start of the year. John Tavares has 16 points in 13 games, trailed by Matt Moulson with 13 and Brad Boyes with 10. Frans Nielsen has quietly put up nine points in the games that have been played, while Michael Grabner has seven.
The Sound Tigers would fall behind again with 26 seconds left in the middle period when the Whale scored a power play goal with Nino Niederreiter on the bench serving the teams ‘too many men on the ice’ penalty. John Persson would tie the game in the final period scoring his fifteenth of the season on Bridgeport’s second and final power play opportunity of the night, setting the stage for Sean Backman’s late game heroics.
Backman’s game has improved noticeably over the last month or so. In the past his time was spent between the hashmarks waiting for an outlet pass and avoiding the dirty areas of the ice, but no longer.
Perhaps over-looked because of his size, 5’10” and 170 pounds, the Isles 2nd round pick in the 2008 draft continues to impress as he has since high school when he was named Minnesota’s ‘Mr. Hockey’. Ness along with Jon Persson and Blair Riley are the only players who have played in each of the teams first 42 games (although a stick to the face cost him a couple of teeth and forced him to wear the ‘bubble mask’ recently).
Selected in the sixth round of the same 2008 draft, again by the Islanders, was another smallish defender (5’8’,175 lbs.) Jared Spurgeon who has already established himself as an NHL’er with the Minnesota Wild. It’s more often than not a matter of being in the right place at the right time that gets your career a jump-start but it is the consistent effort given every shift that gets rewarded.
Several posts yesterday surfaced from from ESPN’s Katie Strang and other respected reporters that Islanders top prospect Nino Niederreiter had asked to be traded. Featured writer Rob McGowan of The Checking Line – Isles Edition offered a well-written account that sheds light on the rumors and misinformation that was being reported. (Dave Csorda captures one of Nino's many celebrations in this photo.)
As a member of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Booster Club (BSTBC) I attended the annual ‘BSTBC Snowflake Dinner’ on Tuesday evening and advised my editor, McGowan that I would ask Nino about the reports that were appearing online. Held this January at The Riverview Bistro, the ‘Snowflake Dinner’ is a very casual opportunity for the fans to get to know and interact with the players on a more personal level, not a night for interviews.
However, given the fact that these reports were nearly as important as news about Subway's eleven-inch foot-long, I asked Nino if the reports were true.