Big club, big noise

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And so we’re hours away from the first playoff games at Nassau Coliseum since 2007. But there were pro playoff games there since then. We remember. And we laughingly* curse Elmo for them.

Bridgeport’s first two playoff games in that semimagical 2008-09 season were moved across the Sound because Sesame Street Live was booked into the Arena at Harbor Yard. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won them both, the second in overtime. Jon Sim and Joey Mormina scrapped all over the ice.

Andrew MacDonald and Kyle Okposo and Jesse Joensuu were on that Sound Tigers team, Okposo just making a cameo after the NHL season and before going to the World Championship. The Penguins had three guys on that team who are with Pittsburgh, Deryk Engelland and two who’ve yet to play, Dustin Jeffrey (who had three goals in those two games) and Joe Vitale.

It has been a long four years since. Joensuu went away, came back. Okposo and MacDonald established themselves in the Show. They finally got their first NHL playoff games Wednesday. Friday was a lot better for them.

Will be nice to hear that barn rocking at noon.

Down here, the Houston Aeros franchise played its last game, a blowout loss at Grand Rapids in Game 5. After 20 years and two titles in two leagues, the Aeros are off to Iowa. A tip of cap to Houston, a great town and a great market that’s really only gone because the Rockets want them gone. Grand Rapids, not to be lost, finished things by equalling the most decisive winner-take-all game in AHL history; the Griffins are on to Toronto. Texas, meanwhile, gets Oklahoma City, which came back from a rough Game 3 with two decisive wins on the road. An assist and plus-2 for Mark Arcobello.

Nick Drazenovic’s goal 8:06 into overtime eliminated Manchester and sent Springfield on for its first non-qualifying-round series win since 1997. Drazenovic got an assist from Cody Bass, who scored two overtime goals in the first two games of the series. (So take one away: Lake Erie, Peoria (which may vanish as well) and the Albany Devils are the only AHL teams that haven’t won a playoff series since Bridgeport last did in 2003, and they all had later starts.) The Falcons don’t know yet who they’ll play, because one series remains. After the long layoff, Providence kept its season going with a 5-1 win at Hershey in Game 3 of their series. The Bears scored early, but the Bruins kept scoring after that. The Bears get another chance Sunday at 5, or else they’ll play back in Providence on Wednesday, by which time the Western Conference series will be ready to start.

The U.S. opened its play at the Worlds. And it opened slowly. It was down 2-0 after goals 40 seconds apart by 5:38. But it came back with a 5-3 win over Austria. Whew. Erik Johnson had a couple of goals, including the last one; Paul Stastny went 17-8 on draws and was named the Americans’ best player. They’ll play on Sunday against Latvia, which lost 6-0 to Russia (Kirill Petrov had a goal and an assist). Finland bounced back from its German adventure to shut out Slovakia, though just 2-0.

In the other pool, host Sweden and Jhonas Enroth held off the Czechs, outshooting them heavily but winning 2-1. Canada had to come back to beat Denmark 3-1. Norway beat Slovenia.

And former Staples High standout David Speer and Columbia are Ivy League champions for the second time in six years. They’ve got a three-week wait to find out their NCAA-tournament destination. But that’s fine.

*-Not really.

Michael Fornabaio

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