W.U. Grad next Sound Tiger?
Thirty teams in the NHL and each has an AHL affiliate to draw talent from as needed. All but two of these AHL clubs have a team in the ECHL providing a similar service. The two exceptions are the Wild’s Houston Aeros and the Islanders' Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
As a result, Coach Brent Thompson has relied heavily on his connections and experience in the ECHL to bring talented prospects up to Bridgeport. ‘Tommer,’ as the players call him, was coach of the 2010-11 ECHL Kelly Cup Champion Alaska Aces and often looks there for talent.
An ever-changing line-up is part and parcel to being a coach in the American League. Bridgeport has already dressed seven different goalies and at least thirty-five skaters (forwards and defensemen), and it is just Ground Hog Day! The next call-up to Bridgeport might well be a hat-trick master from Frost Bite Falls, Minn.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers begin the season each year with a ‘Kick Off Party’ for season ticket holders (why it is not a ‘Puck Drop or Faceoff Party’ bedevils me). Held on the ice at The Webster Bank Arena, it is one of my favorite perks of being a plan holder. The fans gather on the covered ice and renew friendships, exchange off-season experiences and force each other to view summer photos taken. We are hockey-holics and opening night is but a few days away.
The players file in and the process renews itself. Many of the players are returning. Some injured (Mark Katic in a sling after shoulder surgery – Rhett Rakhshani in a knee brace needed from a pre season injury) most healthy, bigger and stronger than last year. New faces appear, many having made cameo appearances last season in Bridgeport after their Junior or NCAA season had ended. New to the group is our coaching staff, Brent Thompson - head coach and Eric Boguniecki who joins Matt Bertani as assistant coach.
I walked over to the coaches table and introduced myself:
“I’m Mike, congratulations on the Kelly Cup Coach.”
“Thanks Mike, good group of kids.” He responded.
“Any coaches do the Kelly, Calder, Stanley, triple crown before?”
“Not sure, do you know?”
“No, but you have a leg up on many and a good looking team this year. Best of luck this season.”
Coach Thompson and Eric Boguniecki have a long history together. They played together in the 1999-2000 season with the now defunct Louisville Panthers of the AHL. Each road the AHL, ECHL and NHL roller coaster for years before turning to coaching. Two years ago ‘Tommer’ hired ‘Bogie” as his assistant coach for the Alaska Aces, winners of last years Kelly Cup. Now they are reunited in pursuit of the Calder Cup.
While their paths have been similar, their playing styles were not. Coach Thompson was a moose of a defenseman who skated the old school way, ‘race to the corner for the puck and arrive in an angry mood.’ Bogie’ at 5ft. and 8 inches, relied on his speed and agility to make it in the NHL. Together again this mixture of styles is working wonders at the Webster Bank Arena. The players are responding well and adapting to whatever changes in lines are needed. This Moose of a coach and his flying squirrel of an assistant might do well with that hat-trick master from Frost Bite Falls and graduate of Wossamatta U. and why not? Everything else has worked.