Despite the six goals… See, let’s start here. Since that overtime debacle in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving weekend, the Sound Tigers have killed eight of the last nine five-on-threes against them, which is all the more remarkable considering they were only 12-for-22 to start the season.
Yeah, Mike Zigomanis shot wide twice. Yes, Keith Aucoin missed the net as well. Sure, Lowell passed up scoring opportunities. OK, Krys Kolanos broke his stick on a one-timer. Maybe Paul Healey cleared the puck himself once. The Sound Tigers didn’t allow Lowell a shot on goal on that 62-second, two-man disadvantage.
Wade Dubielewicz didn’t have to be great, but he was, anyway. And now he might be great backing up Garth Snow for a while, depending on how bad Rick DiPietro is hurt.
No word on what’ll happen with the Sound Tigers’ goalie situation in the meantime, but Dubielewicz gets a well-earned promotion. So does Jeff Hamilton, who doesn’t know how not to score.
Robert Nilsson says he’s healthy again, and darned if he doesn’t look better than that. The past few games, he has been making plays that make clear why he was a No. 1 pick. It’s like the game is slowing down for him. He’s putting passes on people’s tape, and they’re burying chances.
The Sound Tigers have now defeated Lowell four times by a combined 20-3, with no game closer than three goals. The last time Bridgeport won 6-0 was April 4, 2004, against Albany. They’re 4-0-0-1 in their last five, which prevented the team’s third consecutive losing month, which would have been a franchise first. (That’s so long as you think of the shootout loss as a tie in the 7-7-0-1 month.)
This is starting to feel like hockey again, isn’t it?
Quickie rundown: First goal was a nice play by Sean Bergenheim in the neutral zone to give Nilsson the puck in stride. Nilsson drove to the net against Donny Grover, plucked up last week from the Danbury Trashers. He backed him all the way in, drew Johnny Boychuk over with him, then slipped a pass to the oncoming Travis Brigley for a goal.
Second was a lot of that Matt Koalska-Masi Marjamaki-David Masse line. Marjamaki gave a nice touch pass to Koalska, who skated wide around the defender, drove back to the net, then finished off a mad scramble with a delayed penalty upcoming.
And then the power play. Hamilton took the pass from Rob Collins on the left half-wall, skated up, skated down, then gave to Nilsson. Nilsson came around the net and threaded it back to Hamilton for a one-timer and a 10-game Hamilton scoring streak.
(This calls for a table!)
Longest Sound Tigers scoring streaks
Second period was Lowell-heavy, with help from a couple of power plays, but the Lock Monsters continued to miss the net a ton. Dubielewicz made a nice stop on Danny Richmond (sing along: Son of former Nighthawk Steve) early in the period, stopped a Johnny Boychuk one-timer in the middle.
The third was similar for a while, but then it was all Sound Tigers at the end. Brigley got his second on the rebound of Chris Thompson’s turnaround shot in the slot on the rebound of Ryan Caldwell’s point shot. Koalska got a step on Richmond and potted the breakaway for his second of the game 2:18 later.
And then after Stephen Peat got his stick up a few times and tried to get Allan Rourke ticked off, Dave Karpa got ticked off for him and shoved Peat a little. Peat got himself 14 minutes, and Bergenheim’s nifty deflection of a Caldwell shot finished the job.
Impressive win to finish up an impressive little streak here. But it’s going to be a very, very interesting week ahead…
Rourke (A)-Karpa (A)
F: Skladany-Aucoin (A)-Kolanos
(Newbie Kolanos didn’t have a nameplate on his jersey in warmup, by the way, but the equipment staff got it stitched up for the game.)
(Koalska might have had a hat trick, incidentally, if he had shot at the end of the second period instead of trying to pass on a two-on-oh. Oh well.)
BTW, the U.S. junior national team’s road to the world championship goes through the Czechs, the Russians, and then probably the Canadians again after tonight’s 3-2 loss, an affair that got a little nasty at the end as Canada scored the game-winner into an empty net (a tie would have done the U.S. no good). After that blown lead to the Swiss the other night, the Baby Amerks have their work cut out for them.
SO WHAT the heck kind of year was this? On the ice, a lot like MASH: injured patients and doctors trying to keep their sense of humor. Off the ice, the team got a local president with established business ties. It hasn’t translated to the stands yet. Wednesday night’s crowd was a good start, and Sunday’s wasn’t bad, either. We’ll see where it goes.
The second half of last season was turbulent, no doubt. The revolving door of players because of injuries and exiles and reassignments made it even weirder. The kids came in and played some fun hockey; it’s funny to see none of them here, though, isn’t it?
Greg Cronin left for Northeastern, and at last, after a couple of hiccups, this became Dave Baseggio’s team. When he’s had close to a full group, they’ve played well. They’re starting to become consistent, and they’re piecing things together.
Jeff Camelio and Garrett Timms moved up; Paul Camelio and John Sullo moved in. Chris Campoli went up, and a bunch of people moved on. A slew of new faces have made this a different team but still a good one to be around just about every day.
The lockout finally ended, even though the CBA is still under wraps. The zero-tolerance obstruction crackdown began, and sometimes it even continues. There’s no more red line, which doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it might, and there’s still a shootout, which bothers me even more than it did in theory.
There are still races to negate icings, the most exciting play in hockey when it works (see MARJAMAKI, Masi, Dec. 23). Guys still go to the scorer’s table to give away assists to the right person. Guys are starting to learn how to hit again under these new rules, although there are times the standards seem so inconsistent as to ruin the evening. And like one Sound Tiger said recently, if someone gets called for holding for a battle in front of the net, in double overtime of a Game 7, it’s going to (bleep) a lot of people off.
There’s a lot to be angry about, there’s a lot to love, and on balance, it’s still a pretty darn good game. We’ll see what it looks like in 2006.
IN MEMORIAM: Bud Poile, Louis Sutter, Leo Labine, Red Horner, John D’Amico, Alex Shibicky, Gilles Marotte, John McMullen, Kyle Schultz, Dutch Hiller, Phyllis Gretzky, and of course Rich Maturo.
IN CLOSING, I beg of you, go here once more. It’s the famous tirade of then-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Michel Therrien, after a blown-lead 4-2 loss to Hershey on Jan. 28. It’ll be worth a look next year, the year after and every year until time ends, but we’ve got to read about the Arena Bar and Grille and John Travolta once more this year, right?
Happy New Year, and may Dick Clark bring you whatever you wished for. (Cue Bandstand theme)