You’d usually call whatever unit has Chris Bourque as a team’s top power-play unit, but it has been the other one doing damage lately. At least one of Steve Bernier, Michael Dal Colle or Josh Ho-Sang has a point on nine of Bridgeport’s 11 power-play goals this year, including the three five-on-threes, after a 2-for-5 in tonight’s win.
“Bernier’s kind of our power play,” said Ho-Sang, who shot the puck tonight, which let Dal Colle score on a rebound, and who scored himself off a Dal Colle shot he’d set up. “Bernier’s amazing in front of the net. He has that presence that teams have to watch for. We just try to get it there, and he makes stuff happen.”
Dal Colle thought he’d scored earlier (more in a minute) but did jump on that rebound with Bernier working at the front. (Oh, and Bridgeport is requesting a scoring change on the second goal yesterday, which would read Bernier (St. Denis, Ho-Sang) when approved.)
“We use me in the middle really well, I think,” Dal Colle said. “Those guys really use me to take the pressure off. I’m just the central point of that power play, let the guys on the side do their thing, and I think we’ve got the best net-front guy in the league in Bernie.”
The other unit normally has Bourque, Tanner Fritz, Kieffer Bellows: all of whom have been snakebitten, on scoring slides of one kind or another. These things do tend to go in cycles, but Bernier’s unit has picked up the slack.
Ho-Sang was noticeable the past two nights in assorted and mostly positive ways. “Like everyone else, the effort level, the play away from the puck has been stronger,” Brent Thompson said. “Obviously his tracking, he’s done a good job tracking and been responsible. Thus, he’s getting rewarded offensively by playing harder.”
Where did it come from? Ho-Sang said his play the past two nights was “just an apology to the coaches and the organization.” He said he felt the New York Post story earlier in the week didn’t reflect the way he said what he said. “I felt really bad about it.”
He said he has been working with the coaches on how to get more ice time and put himself in better position to succeed. “Tommer’s been outstanding with me this year. I want everyone to know that, and Bogy (Eric Boguniecki), Carks (Matt Carkner), they’ve all been great with me this year. There’s nothing I want more than for our team to win. That’s the bottom line.”
And though the goals have come on the power play, the Red Line* was generally good at even strength the past two nights. “Mike and I have always played well together,” Ho-Sang said. “The first time I got called up (to the NHL), I was playing, it was me, Mike and (Josh) Winquist. Jonesy (Connor Jones) fills that role perfectly. He keeps Mike and I in check,” he laughed, “makes sure we don’t run away from the D-zone. He’s also great offensively too, a lot better than people realize.”
Ho-Sang’s professional-career high for shots on goal: Four, which he accumulated three times in the AHL and once in the NHL in his rookie year. He’d had 11 in 10 games coming in, three in the season opener, which until this weekend might’ve been his best game. What he said about tonight’s three is in the gamer.
Two goals disallowed in four minutes for a team that was stopped 40 times last night: Got to be a great feeling. But Dal Colle scored 25 seconds after the second, which helped. He was sure both were in, but both were disallowed after video review, Mike Sislo’s (off a rush and a nifty pass from Travis St. Denis, which hadn’t been called a goal initially) and Dal Colle’s (which had).
“It must’ve been conclusive that it didn’t,” said Dal Colle, who’d taken a pass from Mitch Vande Sompel above the left circle, stepped up and fired. “It was a good play. I work on that a lot in practice, just getting it off quick on my strong side. It was a good release. … I don’t know how it came out like that if it hit the bar.”
(And even if not… well, the near referee’s pointing “good” presumably ends the play, but St. Denis did put the puck in after it hit whichever bar it hit.)
Sislo returned to the lineup with a strong game. “I thought he was great,” Thompson said. “He was moving his feet. He was more physically engaged. Shooting the puck, making plays, he looked confident. It’s a step in the right direction for him and the team, I think. Guys who come into the lineup have got to be ready and buy into what we’re trying to do.”
The list of Sound Tigers with three or more points in their first Bridgeport games is a fascinating one. There are Blake Comeau (0-4-4) and Jeff Tambellini (2-1-3), who did it with an asterisk; they’d played in the playoffs the year before. There’s Mike Sillinger (0-3-3), on conditioning. There’s C.J. Stretch (0-3-3), who was traded away by year’s end. And now there’s Tom Kuhnhackl, 2-1-3 tonight. “I met most of the guys in training camp, so it was nice to have familiar faces. Everybody welcomed me,” Kuhnhackl said.
Kuhnhackl showed up to the wire, blowing by a defenseman to score the last goal of the night with 7:11 left.
“The effort was outstanding,” Thompson said. “Obviously you see he’s got skills, NHL caliber, NHL level. He’s got a nice presence in the room. Right from our captain, Ben Holmstrom, to Kuhnhackl, who just got here, there’s a presence, leadership: It’s a great asset to have.”
How long is he here? Guess we’ll see. He said he hadn’t heard anything about what comes next.
Edit: Got hung up on the offense and whatnot, but Jeremy Smith was solid as well. Made a few big saves to make it easy on Bridgeport.
On rotating veterans: “We want everyone to stay sharp,” Thompson said, “and realize that every single player on this roster has a value to the team and the organization.”
Prescout. First point in five games for Ryan Haggerty. No Kevin Czuczman, hopefully just a no-three-in-three night off.
Sacred Heart led early again at Bentley but lost in overtime.
More tomorrow, an hour earlier than it’ll feel (I think).
*-Totally not their real nickname, but they wear red in practice, and if Thompson called Jones-Jones-JHolmstrom the Green Line a couple of years ago, I’ll go with this for now