The New York Islanders made the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season and a week ago, as a prelude to the beginning of their first round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team called up several players. The players called up to the big club were Matt Donovan, Calvin De Haan, Brock Nelson, Aaron Ness, Anders Nilsson, John Persson, Ryan Strome and Johan Sundstrom.
In the last twelve games the Sound Tigers have scored more than three goals only three times, each time they came away winners losing the other nine, but there is hope here as well. The franchise record 0 for 41 power play slide ended on Tuesday, Nino Neiderreiter is out of his mini slump and the UPS (Ullstrom, Persson, Sundstrom) or ‘Swedish line’ is back.
The goal tending tandem of Ken Reiter and Rick DiPietro could be as good as the team has had all year. The defense is playing better than they have all season and there is every reason to hope that the offense will regain their swag. Missing from it all will be the teams’ heart.
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 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.
A streak is not a streak until it reaches two games and the Sound Tigers have just suffered their first losing streak of the season, this one a three gamer. Last seasons’ Division Championship winner endured two such three gamers, a four, a five and a six game swoon before they captured the title.
Though still ahead of last year’s pace (20 pts. after 17 games vs. 18 in 2011) this recent streak has caught the attention of the otherwise idle Isles organization brass.
When the Bridgeport Sound Tigers left home for this seasons first three-in-three, 3 games in 3 nights, last Friday the weather forecast was front-page news. Hurricane Sandy was heading for the New York City metro area and was promising to be the most recent ‘Storm Of The Century’.
Alternately called ‘The Perfect Storm’ or ‘Frankenmonster’ by the media, it was obvious that Sandy would wreak havoc along the Milford beaches where many of the Sound Tigers take residence during the hockey season.
Rather than change hotels each night for a Worcester-Springfield-Worcester series, the team checked into a hotel in Springfield for three nights, opting to bus the 50 miles between venues. Three nights became five nights of concern for the players, few of which have ever seen a hurricane.
Before the first puck was dropped this year there were a few questions about the Bridgeport Sound Tigers chances of repeating as division champions. The biggest question being, who is going to do the scoring?
Of the top thirteen scoring forwards from last season only David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas returned. Free agents Brandon DeFazio and Colin McDonald, acquired from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penquins, and Matt Watkins from the Portland Pirates will provide a solid veteran presence that can be counted on to put up some big numbers, but what about the kids?
The boys are back in town and sales will soon increase at Chipotles, Mr. Macs Canteen and dozens of restaurants in the area as the players prepare for the upcoming season.
It will not be long before locals can expect a Swedish flag flying outside a home rented by John Persson, Johan Sundstrom, David Ullstrom and Anders Nillson while larea chefs cringe as Ullstrom adds ketchup to the marinara sauce they spent hours preparing.