Puck drop on Long Island, where the Isles were facing the Winnipeg Jets, was followed shortly thereafter in Worcester, Mass. when the same ritual was performed to start the Sound Tigers vs. Sharks contest. Isles fans would get to see Anders Lee play his first game as a professional (historic in that it marked the first time all members of an Isles draft class, 2009, ‘made it’) while Sound Tigers fans would watch top prospect Ryan Strome (2011) make his pro debut. Neither would disappoint.
DeSimone approached the net on DiPietro’s paddle side patiently waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger. Not known for his patience and the consummate risk taker, DiPietro used his paddle to swat the puck harmlessly to the far-side wall before the trigger could be pulled allowing the team to maintain it’s one goal advantage.
It was another difficult weekend for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers but a weekend that gives the team and its fans hope. A weekend where the team faced two division leaders both fighting for conference Championship honors while the Tigers would just like to be invited to the dance.
Connecticut Post writer Mike Fornabaio described Sunday’s game as “… just another day at the office for Rick DiPietro in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ net.” DiPietro led his smiling teammates off the ice after registering his first shutout in Bridgeport since Dec. 4, 2002. (A 1-0 victory over the Providence Bruins, goal by Trent Hunter)
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 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.
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.
Day one of training camp for The New York Islanders has been completed as plenty of familiar faces took to the ice today to either look to impress the coaching staff, or get back into game shape.
However, one player who was not at camp was defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.
Visnovsky has made it clear that he wants to remain with his team in the KHL, which is unsettling for Isles fans as well as his teammates. Arthur Staple of Newsday's recent report from camp today had quotes from some of the Islanders, including general manager Garth Snow, that indicated their displeasure with his actions (Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flick).
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.”