Life With Riley
Today Blair Riley signed his first NHL contract with the New York Islanders one hundred days after he signed an AHL contract with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Riley was one of the first of many call-ups made by coach Thompson last season. Blair got his call, a PTO – Professional Try-Out, while playing for the Chicago Express in the ECHL on Nov. 25 when BST forward Trevor Frischmon was out injured. He had already impressed coach ‘Tommer’ with his play while with the Las Vegas Wranglers. Most likely in the 2010-11 Kelly Cup playoffs with his 4 goals and an assist in five games played. (Blair Riley/Photo: Pope Steve XXVII)
He made an immediate impression on the fans at the Webster Bank Arena when he dropped his gloves early in his first home game (and the Tigers first in their new third jerseys), at a point in the season where the team just could not buy a win. Riley did not do much in the way of putting points on the board for a while, in fact none of the Tigers did in late 2011. The year ended and the teams’ fortunes changed.
Poulin got crazy hot in the net and was called up. Nilsson stepped in and continued the impressive work being done in the paint, and the team started winning. Throughout the run that brought the Sound Tigers from last to first earning them the division championship, Riley remained a steady contributor. His ability to score (and score often) didn’t surface until later in the season while the team was deep into their ultimate playoff run. When the goals started coming, they came in bunches. Our life with Riley has begun.
He summed it up in his own words during a post-season interview posted by Mike Fornabaio, who covers the Sound Tigers for The Connecticut Post, after the team was eliminated in the playoffs.
“It was obviously not the ending we’d expected. We were a confident group going into the playoff series. To lose out like we did is frustrating. That’s going to stay for a while. After that, we’ll calm down this summer, relax, I think we’ve got to be pretty pleased with how (the season went).” “When I started out, I was kind of feeling my way around,” Riley said. “I think I improved probably in the skating department, keeping up with the pace. Obviously it’s something I’ve got to continue to improve on, as a bigger forward, improve on my quickness, foot-speed. It’ll help me a long way as a player.” “I learned a lot. Penalty kill, defensive zone; finding a defensive role as a checker, as a penalty killer.”
Welcome back Mr. Riley, your presence will be appreciated on opening night when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers raise the banner you fought so hard for from the first night you dropped your gloves.