Sound Tigers Focus on Development with Playoff Hopes Gone

By: Drew Casey, Contributor (@drew421)

After winning 12 of 14 games from January 19 to February 28, it appeared that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers were becoming serious contenders in the AHL’s Eastern Conference playoff race. However, the team has lost six of their last seven games, and is now 14 points out of a playoff position. Barring an improbable winning streak to close out the regular season, the team will not qualify for the playoffs.

Currently, the team’s roster is near foreign to me with new players being signed and picked up by the day due to many call-ups by the Islanders and the conclusion of college hockey seasons.

On March 4 as a result of the Andrew MacDonald trade with the Flyers, forward Matt Mangene was assigned to the Sound Tigers. Mangene, a third year pro, registered three goals and three assists with the Adirondack Phantoms earlier in the season and has played in four games for Bridgeport already.

A week later, on March 11, the team signed forward Dimitry Antipin to an amateur tryout contract. Antipin, a Kazakhstan native, scored eight goals and collected three assists in 25 games for the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth this season, and registered an assist in his first professional contest on Sunday against Adirondack.

Last Wednesday at the AHL trade deadline, the team acquired forward Jeremy Langlois from the Springfield Falcons in exchange for defenseman Dallas Jackson. In 53 games with the Sound Tigers this season, Jackson netted three goals and supplied 21 helpers. In only five AHL games with the Falcons, Langlois did not find the back of the net. However, on Sunday afternoon Langlois scored both his first and second career AHL goals, and was named the first star in a 5-4 victory over Adirondack.

On Thursday, the New York Islanders recalled forward Johan Sundstrom on an emergency basis. Sundstrom is still with the Islanders and has played in two games.

Following this call up, the Sound Tigers signed defenseman Guy Leboeuf to an amateur tryout contract on Friday.  Leboeuf, a West Palm Beach, Fla. native, recently completed his senior season at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he collected nine goals and 16 assists in four seasons. Leboeuf arrived in time for Friday night’s game in New Hampshire against the Manchester Monarchs. It was not a great professional debut for Leboeuf as the Sound Tigers lost 7-0 and he skated to a -2 rating.

On Saturday before their game against Worcester, the team released forward Justin Mercier from his professional tryout contract. Mercier only played in four games for Bridgeport and will return to the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. The team was shutout for a second straight game later that night, falling to the Sharks 4-0.

Sunday did not include any player movement or roster transactions, and the team defeated the Adirondack Phantoms in a wild 5-4 affair at Webster Bank Arena that featured a bit of everything.

On Monday, the team announced that forwards Riley Wetmore and Adam Brace had been recalled from the Stockton Thunder. Additionally, forwards Joey Diamond and Alan Quine had been reassigned to the team’s California ECHL affiliate.

Today, the Sound Tigers continued to change up their roster. The team signed forward Jesse Root to an amateur tryout contract. Root recently completed his career at Yale University. In 122 games with the Bulldogs, Root scored 35 goals and registered 57 assists. Bridgeport also announced that forward Matthew Pistilli has been released from his professional tryout contract. Pistilli netted a goal and collected three assists in 14 games with the Sound Tigers.

Essentially, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are a completely new team. With the playoffs out of reach, I believe that the Islanders organization has adapted an excellent strategy in which they can evaluate talent. I expect their to be tons of intensity on the ice as the Sound Tigers wrap up their season and players try to make a good impression in the hopes of gaining an AHL contract for next season.

The team is now 27-29-2-4 and travels to Hartford tomorrow night for a 7:00 faceoff with the Wolf Pack. They return home this weekend and host St. Johns on Saturday night and Portland on Sunday afternoon.