Sound Tigers Evicted From Arena
(Pope Steve XXLVII)
The players have not been allowed on the ice at the Webster Bank Arena since their loss to the Norfolk Admirals on Sunday, March 11. They have been allowed to remove equipment and personal belongings from the locker room but they are not permitted to use the ice, whether for practice or conditioning. Still in contention to win the divisional title and thus a third seed in the playoffs, the Sound Tigers need their ice time.
Fortunately two excellent local facilities (Bridgeport’s ‘Wonderland Of Ice’ and Shelton’s ‘Sports Center of Connecticut’) are available to satisfy the need for ice time but something else will be missing. When finally allowed to return to home ice at the arena on the 25th of March, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers logo will not be at center ice.
For the next several days the Webster Bank Arena will be hosting the men’s College Insider Tournament (CIT) and the NCAA’s Women’s Basketball first and second rounds. The sounds of skates streaking across the ice and suddenly shaving it to an instant stop will be replaced by the annoying sound of sneakers squeaking on a hardwood floor. The crisp crack of a well placed tape-to-tape cross ice pass replaced by the dull thump of a bouncing ball and the exciting echo of a puck hitting the post replaced by the thud of a ball hitting the front of the rim.
Once the squeaks, thumps and thuds of basketball have ended, hockey will return to the arena, but not Sound Tigers hockey. For the third time in four seasons, the arena will play host to the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey East Regional Quarterfinals. All advertising on the dashboards surrounding the ice will be replaced by the logos of the NCAA and the four teams selected to compete. The ice will undergo a similar transformation. Advertising and the Sound Tigers logo will be scraped away and the surface repainted to meet NCAA standards.
(Tyler McNeely/Pope Steve XXLVII)
The winning team from the NCAA's March 24, Regional Finals will advance to the Frozen Four in Tampa. Players from losing teams, having finished their season, will be free to sign and play with AHL teams and compete at that level for the remainder of the season. In March of 2011, Tyler McNeely was one of eleven players who, having finished his college/junior career, joined the Sound Tigers on an ATO (Amateur Try Out).
It did not take long for this graduate of Northeastern U. to impress. In his ten game tryout with the Sound Tiger's last year,Tyler posted 5 goals and 6 assists while playing to a plus 9. His hard work resulted in the signing of his first professional contract on April 20, 2011. While his stats this season have been pedistrian (7 goals, 11 assists and a +11 in 57 games), his talent, heart and effort are irreplacable.There will be changes, not all of them wanted, coming soon for the Sound Tigers.
New players will be showing up for tryouts, former Tiger's David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas will return. Given a heavy road schedule combined with Hartford's long home stand, it is doubtful Bridgeport will be in first place when they return on March, 25. The final push for the playoff's will begin in earnest as players grow their beards and intensity wraps every faceoff and every chase to the corner for the puck.
Changes are coming, but there is one change that is long overdue. The arena, the team and it's faithful need a new banner hanging over suite 417. This is the best team I have seen in years and is worthy of being honered with a Divisional Championship banner. The schedule after the team returns is in our favor with 9 of the last 11 games being played at home. The line chemistry we enjoyed in January and February will be in place. No excuses. This will be a banner year.