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 old saying goes as follows: "defense wins championships." The New York Islanders have learned in recent years that they have not had enough defense. No Islanders team has averaged less than three goals against per game since the 2007-2008 season, and if that team had allowed three more goals, it would have been exactly three goals against per game.
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.
The Sound Tigers, like every team in the AHL, started the season with an unexpected wealth of talent. Niedereitter, Ullstrom and Cizikas, whom most had expected to be in the NHL, were back in Bridgeport along with prospects Brock Nelson, Johan Sundstrom, John Persson and Kirill Kabanov. Scoring goals should not prove a problem.
In net, both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson were still on the roster, while most had expected one to get called up to serve as Nabokov’s back up on the Isles. Poulin and Nilsson had each earned ‘AHL Goalie Of The Month’ awards during the teams Division Championship season and there was doubtfully no more promising tender tandem in the league. No problem.
Prior to the NHL lockout, the New York Islanders announced that the team will be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn once the lease with Nassau County expires in 2015. Although this was good news for the local fans, this situation also provided a lot of work for team owner Charles Wang and General Manager Garth Snow (Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr).
The Islanders need to be a team ready to compete by the time they enter their new home. A new arena means a new identity, and it cannot be the one that this team has maintained for the last few years.
With the NHL in a lockout that important part of the AHL experience was gone and it was missed. Hockey wasn’t the same. But the NHL is back and hockey is once again whole. Some five or six Sound Tigers will be called-up in the next few days to begin the abbreviated 2012 -2013 season, others will be called as needed over the next few months.
My friends are now asking me “How are the Sound Tigers going to be after they lose all those players to the Islanders?” My honest response is “They are a better team now than the club that started the season.”
Many NHL fans were clamoring for both Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman to be locked in a room without the option of leaving until a new CBA deal was agreed upon. That is basically what took place last night.
Several months later, a 16-hour negotiating process that ended around 5 AM Sunday morning resulted in a new CBA that is in the process of being ironed out on paper. The deal is a 10-year agreement with an opt-out clause that is available at eight years (Photo credit: shot7photos/Flickr).
You would think that the transition from the NHL to the AHL would be an easy one for a player, especially one with previous AHL experience. This has not been the case for Islanders D-man Travis Hamonic who has often appeared frustrated with the game.
Hamonic’s numbers from his brief 19 games with the Sound Tigers in 2010 (2 goals and 5 assists) nearly match his 19 game total this year (3 goals and 6 assists) but his 135 games played in the NHL in the interim gave him a taste of the game he is more comfortable playing. ‘Hammer’ needs more speed and pace to the game and you can sense his frustration nightly.
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.