The Bridgeport Sound Tigers and their fans had little to celebrate on New Years Eve, other than “Thank God that month is over.” Having gone one win in twelve December games, the only bright spot was that the win came against our in-state rival, the Hartford ‘Whale Pack.’ 2012 had to be better, and it has been.
Invited by Rob McGowan, I was given the opportunity to join The Checking Line – Isles Edition as a writer covering The Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Bridgeport has not lost a game since.
First Kevin Poulin goes nuts in the net giving Bridgeport three consecutive shutouts to start the year. One more victory, a shoot out win over the Providence Bruins, and Poulin was on the Island. Anders Nilsson took Poulin's seat on the returning Port Jeff Ferry. Solid in the net, Nilsson added 3 more wins to our current streak of seven. Last in our division at the end of 2011, The Sound Tigers are now just two points out of first.
While a hot goalie (or two) can be a difference maker, you need to score goals to win and goals are coming from all four lines plus the defense. The goals are also coming from some very solid yet undrafted players. Regardless of their contract (ATO, PTO, AHL or NHL) each player is contributing. Nine of the twenty-four goals scored so far this year have been posted by players who went undrafted. In all twelve different players have scored a goal in just seven games.
Of the many thousands of teen age hockey players playing world wide each year, seven to eight thousand 17 year olds will catch the eye of and be evaluated by one of hundreds of talent seeking scouts covering over 300 teams. Talent, growth, potential and character are all being projected for prospects in the OHL, WHL, QMJHL, USHL and more, from prep schools, high schools and the NCAA. Scouting reports come in from Europe as well; from the Swedes, Finns, Czechs, Slovaks and Russians.
A little over two hundred of these young men will be selected in the annual June NHL Entry Level Draft. With luck, 60 or so will make it to the NHL and become 1st or 2nd liners or top six D-men. The undrafted? With commitment and perseverance, they will become 3rd line (The Checking Line) or 4th line (The Heart Line) players. Essential ingredients to a successful organization.