Sound Tigers - Can They Repeat?

 

The 2012-13 season is now ten days old and it has been kind to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Three regulation wins in three games played is only one win away from the best season start the franchise has ever had.

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?

Kirill Kabanov, Brock Nelson, Johan Sundstrom, John Persson and Mike Halmo are all rookies and wily veteran Nino Niederreiter, with 64 games in the NHL, is just six weeks into his twentieth year. The answer appears to be scoring by committee.

Three games in and sixteen different players have posted either a goal or an assist and two of last years biggest stars Ullstrom, who led last years team in goals scored 24 in just 40 games played, and Matt Donovan, who led all AHL rookie defensemen in points last season with 45, have been relatively quiet.  All four lines are producing and the talent at defense is an embarrassment of riches.

The lockout forced return of Travis Hamonic and the trade deadline acquisitions of tough vet Nathan McIver and youngster Marc Cantin from the Providence Bruins only adds to an already deep pool of talented blue liners. They will join Donovan, Aaron Ness, Calvin de Haan, Jon Landry and veteran leader Ty Wishart to keep the puck from getting close to the net protected by one of the top goalie tandems in the AHL.

Sound Tigers third-year pro goalie Kevin Poulin recorded three consecutive shutouts last season and set a team record 221:54 minutes without giving up a goal in January 2012 earning him the AHL’s goalie of the month award. His partner in the pipes, Anders Nilsson would win the same award the following month and post nine consecutive wins, another Sound Tiger record.

The only remaining question for Sound Tiger fans was how would new head coach Scott Pellerin handle this abundance of talent. As Connecticut Post writer Michael Fornabaio points out in a recent article it appears he will be a no nonsense coach that demands effort and rewards commitment. “Everybody has to be accountable.” Is what he is quoted as saying after sitting Matt Donovan for the Tigers home opener, and an eye opener for every player on the team.

Donovan’s response from the same article says it all. “I want to play like I did when I was playing my best hockey last year and obviously, I didn’t play like that Friday. There’s a new coach. Everybody’s got a clean slate. (It’s as if) last year pretty much didn’t happen.”

 But it did happen and the team won their first banner in ten years. The final question is can they repeat?

 

-Mike Flannery

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