So long, old friend: Jewel of the Southern Tier


Your franchise once played in New Haven. Your building is of the era and the style of (“our beloved concrete monsters”), and at least before the renovations kinda looked like a smaller version of, the New Haven Coliseum. The soft spot in my heart for you was probably life-threatening.

That was always a fun trip, to hang out with people like Grady Whittenburg, Scott Lauber, Kate Krenzer and Mike Sharp over the years, and I’m sad that I haven’t made it since 2008. I have no reason to doubt Tom Mitchell when he says you’ll have a team next year, so, you know, hope to see you again. But after tonight, odds are good that Bridgeport and the Binghamton Senators, your team of 15 years, won’t meet again. So we took a look back in print today, and here just as we sent off the Pacific Division teams on the schedule two years ago…

TEN MEMORIES (not counting Peter Smrek shooting the puck through the net, or either of John Paddock’s successful challenges of the legality of a stick, or Dieter Kochan’s team-record-in-a-shutout 45 saves in a 2005 game up there, because I ran out of room; sorry, John, Dieter and Peter):

Oct. 11, 2002: Game 81 (or 101 with playoffs) for Bridgeport; Game 1 for the B-Sens. Memorable doubly: After Alan Letang tied it in the last minute of the second period at BCVMA, Bridgeport didn’t get another shot on Ray Emery, the first of two times a Sound Tigers team has failed to record one in a period; and overtime (as well as part of the third) was played in a hazy fog hovering over the ice, in which the Sound Tigers couldn’t find the puck in overtime. Brian Pothier wrapped it home for a 5-4 win.

Feb. 23, 2003: Godard. Bonvie. Don’t really need to tell you more, right?

Cheating: The 2003 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The first two games are, in memory, two of the most intense hockey games I’ve ever seen, and I was glad to hear Steve Stirling say he remembered the same thing; Binghamton won the first in overtime with Steve Valiquette in net for Bridgeport, then came from behind to win the second late against Rick DiPietro, who’d been up with the Islanders until just before the series. DiPietro shut out the Sens in Game 3, and Trent Hunter won Game 4 late. But then Ray Emery shut out Bridgeport in Game 5, Binghamton won Game 6 at Bridgeport 2-1 on May 5, and — stop me if you’ve heard this one here before — the Sound Tigers have not played in May ever since.

Feb. 26, 2006: “It’s easy to play when you’re down 6-1,” Dave Baseggio said after his team lost 6-5 at home. Afterward, I dropped by downstairs to say hi to Hunter, who was in town to sign autographs, and on the way back upstairs, an usher tried to kick me and three other reporters out. If it seems overly personal, just wait: I’ve mentioned before how the accident and the head injury left me without much memory of March and April 2006? This is the last game I actually remember. Funny stuff.

Oct. 8, 2006: The first game for Sound Tigers head coach Dan Marshall, who nearly dodged both Chris Elsberry and me and got to the bus. We tracked him down, though, after Blake Comeau became the first Sound Tiger to notch four assists in a game and Bridgeport won 5-3. What I remember most — and again, these are the hazy months — is that almost every shift produced a different line combination.

Nov. 30, 2007: The Legend of Joey MacDonald. It’d been a long time since I watched this one. A classic. Danny Bois took exception to MacDonald’s actions (the video just misses it, but you can see MacDonald’s stick retreating), and away they went. Of course that was just the first of three for Little Mac. (The Tyler Bouck fight doesn’t appear to be on YouTube, sadly. Or maybe not sadly, ’cause cripes, those uniforms. But we digress.)

Nov. 1, 2008: The Jack Hillen Game. It’d been a really nice day, not knowing yet that it’d be one of the last road trips we’d make; stayed over after a game the night before, got to hang out a bit with old friends over a nice meal, then watched yet another 6-5 Binghamton-Bridgeport game. But should it have been 6-5? Jack Hillen on a breakaway put one apparently off the right post with 9.3 seconds left. The goal judge flipped the light for a split-second, then shook his head ‘no.’ Hillen (who’d scored his first pro goal earlier) celebrated, perhaps more deliberately than spontaneously. Referee Andy Thiessen — Jeff Glass, talking to then-P&SB beat writer Mike Sharp, called him a “ref with an ego” — let the goal stand. That’s the only Bridgeport game Thiessen ever worked.

Jan. 17, 2009: Think this is the first game at Binghamton that I missed. I missed this. Mitch Fritz-Jeremy Yablonski in an all-timer. Darn it. Bridgeport won 3-1 in one of the few games that year that didn’t end 6-5. (I exaggerate only a little: Three of eight games between the teams that year ended in 6-5 Bridgeport victories. The Sound Tigers have played 1,272 regular-season and playoff games, 73 of them against Binghamton. Only 12 games have ended 6-5. Five of them were against Binghamton.) (Binghamton’s goal scorer that night: One Matt Carkner. Playing almost exclusively in the NHL after that, his next AHL goal was with Bridgeport in 2015. And as Carkner remembered yesterday morning, the backup goalie to Nate Lawson? Leni DiCostanzo.)

April 2, 2011: Tyler McNeely, ATO out of Northeastern, scores two goals and comes up big on a six-on-three penalty kill in the closing seconds to preserve a 4-3 Bridgeport road win. But a Cody Bass hit — called a tripping minor — knocks Mark Wotton out of the game early on; it’s the last game the captain ever plays.

March 22, 2015: The Rat Trick: Kael Mouillierat scores on the lacrosse-style high wrap seconds into the game, proving one last time where that team was strongest. It begins a 7-1 blowout (sorry, Pete Mannino, who’ll play only three more pro games) at Webster Bank Arena that ends a franchise-record eight-game home losing streak.

Michael Fornabaio