Playoff History: 2002 Eastern Conference Semifinals

Paul and I were talking the other day and inadvertently realized that the Sound Tigers are 3-0 in playoff series against Canadian teams and 1-7 against everybody else. (Well, Paul realized the 3-0 thing. I realized the other thing and he told me to be quiet.)

That the three Canadian series all came in the same (really good) year: Ehhh, immaterial. Look what happened when they had to play a road game in the U.S.

The 2001-02 Canadian Division was really remarkable, four playoff teams separated by two points, one of them (champion Quebec) taken out by one of the other (Hamilton), and that one taken out by Bridgeport after the Sound Tigers had taken out the other two. One of them was the St. John’s Maple Leafs, who moved to Toronto in 2004-05 to become the Marlies.

That was quite a series, most of the way to the closest-fought sweep I’ve ever seen.

Game 1 at Bridgeport, April 26, 2002: Bridgeport 4, St. John’s 2. Juraj Kolnik scored the game-winner short-handed with 6.0 seconds left in the second, Dave Roche scored two power-play goals, and the Sound Tigers killed off a Branislav Mezei major in the third period to win it.

Game 2 at Bridgeport, April 27, 2002: Bridgeport 2, St. John’s 1 (OT). Raffi Torres scored through a screen 7:44 into overtime off Justin Mapletoft’s pass. Kolnik scored early, but Rick DiPietro made big saves on the power play to preserve the lead until a Craig Mills deflection tied it in the third.

Game 3 at St. John’s, April 29, 2002: Bridgeport 3, St. John’s 2 (2OT). Kolnik’s first shot was blocked, but it came right back to Kolnik to snap it past Sebastien Centomo’s glove at 38:36 of overtime, 11:40 p.m. Newfoundland time, ending what’s still the longest game in Sound Tigers history. “It was time. I was very tired,” Kolnik quipped on the bike afterward. Bridgeport outshot the Leafs 54-40. Mapletoft tied it with 5:36 left in regulation, deflecting in Chris Armstrong’s shot.

Game 4 at St. John’s, May 1, 2002: Bridgeport 7, St. John’s 2. Three third-period goals put it away. “The first three games, especially, they could’ve gone either way,” said Jason Krog, who notched the only hat trick yet in Sound Tigers playoff history. “We’re fortunate to get out with a sweep.” Most memorable about the night was the sellout crowd’s ovation for their team, particularly for impending free-agent captain Nathan Dempsey.

Bridgeport eventually managed to fly home and went on to a seven-game win over Hamilton, then a five-game loss to Chicago, and they’ve won precisely no best-of-7 series since.

Michael Fornabaio