Whether it's with a complete lineup, or with a half dozen of their top scorers playing for the Islanders, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers have found a way to win throughout the 2008-09 season. Following a 2-1 win over the Lowell Devils on Tuesday, the Sound Tigers have moved back into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference standings with 14 regular-season games remaining. They lead the Hershey Bears by one point in the standings.
Bridgeport jumped out of the gates quickly, roaring to the top of the standings. But during a rough stretch in January and February, the Sound Tigers went 6-8-2, and dropped as low as fourth place in the competitive East Division.
"Honestly, I don't even look at the standings," said Sound Tigers Head Coach Jack Capuano. "That may sound crazy, but we just take it day by day. We work daily on development and the structure of our system. We believe that work ethic dictates the scoreboard. You just try to stay positive and committed to playing for one another."
Following their slip in the standings, the Sound Tigers showed resilience, even in the face of adversity. With the Islanders lineup riddled with injuries, the Sound Tigers have had to send many of their top players to Long Island. A total of 15 players who began the season in Bridgeport have seen time with the Islanders.
While playing between two different leagues—and at times playing as many as five games in five days—may seem disruptive or exhausting, players have reacted well to the moves.
"When you get to play in the best league in the world and against the best players, you take what you experience in the NHL back to the AHL," said Kurtis McLean, who has played in four games with the Islanders, and is second in scoring on Bridgeport. "Playing with the best players and getting a taste of it makes you a better player. You're excited to share what you've learned with your teammates."
As young players—such as Jesse Joensuu
, Mike Iggulden, McLean and Joel Rechlicz—have been thrust into action on the big stage, it has enabled other players to do the same in Bridgeport. Players such as goaltender Kris Mayotte and forward Junior Lessard have played key roles in recent wins for the Sound Tigers.
Although players have had to take on new responsibilities, the team has stuck to the system that has worked so effectively for the Sound Tigers all season long
"Obviously some things you have to tweak when your lineup changes so often," said Capuano. "You just have to simplify the system. Guys have come up and grasped the system and fit in just fine. We've had high character guys."
The Sound Tigers will try to extend their current four-game winning streak when they take to the road this weekend to face Springfield (Friday), Hartford (Saturday) and second-place Hershey (Sunday). Click here
to visit the Sound Tigers official site.
Check out who is on the Sound Tigers' playoff roster here