After a successful 2-0-0-0 weekend to begin the 2012-13 American Hockey League season, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers play just one game this weekend, a Saturday road tilt against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The contest should be a good early test for the Sound Tigers, who face a squad that has averaged 104 points per season since 2005-06. For forwards Colin McDonald and Brandon DeFazio, the game is doubly important: It marks the first time they will face their former team.
McDonald played 68 games last season for the Penguins, leading the team with 35 assists and finishing third in scoring with 49 points. The 6’2, 217-pound forward is eager to visit his old stomping grounds.
“It’s the first time in my career where I’ll be playing against the team I played for the previous year,” McDonald, a six-year AHL veteran, said. “Of course I’m hoping to play well and hoping the team can get a win. It’ll be exciting to go back. They have great fans and a great group of guys. I’m still close with a lot of them. It should be a fun night.”
The Penguins are 0-1-0-0 after their opening night 2-1 loss at Binghamton on Oct. 13. Saturday’s game will be their home opener, something McDonald knows will have the Penguins ready for battle.
“They’re going to be ready to play,” McDonald said. “Obviously they know that me and Faz (Brandon DeFazio) will be in their building. It’s their home opener, so they’re definitely looking to make sure we don’t walk out of there with two points.”
DeFazio played his entire AHL career with the Penguins prior to last Friday’s Sound Tigers’ season-opener. The Oakville, ON native skated in two games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2010-11 and spent the entire 2011-12 season with them, registering 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in 66 games. DeFazio acknowledges the significance of going against his former team, but wants to treat them with the same intensity as any other opponent.
“Obviously it’s an important game to me,” DeFazio said. “Anytime you face your old teammates and your old friends, people you spent time with, it’s important to show your best. But I’m just going to take it like another game for now and prepare like normal.”
DeFazio, who racked up 104 penalty minutes as a gritty forward last season, knows as well as anybody how prepared Penguins Head Coach John Hines will have his team on Saturday.
“They’re going to be ready,” DeFazio said. “They’re a good, disciplined, hard-working team. Looking at them over the years, even before my time there, that’s what you expect from them. It’s their season opener. They get good crowds there and I’m sure they’re going to be excited to play. This is a big opportunity against a good hockey team. We’ve got a good team here as well, so that’ll make for a good game.”
The Penguins have 10 new players on their roster, but McDonald believes that his familiarity with their 15 returning players, as well the coaching staff, can give the Sound Tigers an edge.
“We’re looking for any advantage that we can get in any game,” McDonald said. “We have two guys who know their system pretty well, so I think it will help. There shouldn’t be many surprises but you still have to play the game and execute the game plan.”
DeFazio is also looking forward to the trip so he can share the best of Wilkes-Barre with his new teammates.
“We’ll probably hit up a few restaurants that me and Mac enjoyed,” DeFazio said. “We’ve got some good friends there who we’re looking forward to seeing around town. But this is a business trip and we’ve got a job to do.”
The puck will drop between the Sound Tigers and Penguins at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Follow @TheSoundTigers for live updates and check NewYorkIslanders.com for a full recap and highlights.