Bridgeport Sound Tigers Season Ends: Strome with a taste, Nelson, Nino, Donovan complete training?

A healthy reset? - Mike Stobe

A season that started with such promise ended six points short of the playoffs.

The New York Islanders' AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers season ended Sunday in a 4-1 home win over the Portland Pirates.

After a hot start to the season, they fell essentially six points short of the playoffs. (Bridgeport finished with 76 points. Last playoff seeds Manchester and Hershey each had 81.) As it turns out, every team in their division but the Northeast champ Springfield Falcons fell short of the postseason.

Is this finish a major setback after they began the season 11-5? Yes and no. For one, that early season lineup was a lockout lineup, buoyed by Travis Hamonic, David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas and eventual Bridgeport captain Colin McDonald. All of those current Islanders disappeared once the NHL sorted out its dirty business.

But the Sound Tigers also started to come back down to earth well before the NHL lockout ended. Part of that was foreseeable given their goal and shot differential during those first 16 games. Essentially, they weren't blowing teams out nor dominating; instead, they won a lot of close games, which is indicative of a team more likely to finish around shootout-aided .500, which is where they landed after 76 games.

Nonetheless, no doubt losing the NHLers hurt, as did the early loss of Kirill Kabanov and Calvin De Haan to injury. Kabanov returned from a serious skate cut but still has a ways to go. De Haan was lost for the season with yet another shoulder surgery.

In his post-game blog post, Michael Fornabaio of the Connecticut Post has a season summation from coach Scott Pellerin:

"At times, with our inconsistency and youth, we weren’t able to put teams away, to get on the roll we needed to get in the playoffs."

Plenty more notes in that one, as well as notes on a UMass-Lowell connection on yesterday's winning goal. Look for his traditional season wrap tomorrow. Here is the final Bridgeport player stats table.

As for the season as a whole and what it means for our Islanders-oriented lens:

Future Promotions?
  • Brock Nelson led the team in points with 52, and his 25th goal yesterday broke the Bridgeport rookie record previously held by Rhett Rakhshani.
  • Matt Donovan put up a team-high +14 and logged 48 points to tie Justin Schultz among AHL defensemen -- in roughly half the games.
  • Nino Niederreiter, who started off on fire, finished with 28 goals and 50 points in 74 games. Islanders fans' cries for his recall slowed down as he did (and as the NHL club surged), but he needs to earn a spot next year. He had a team-high 230 shots, a good sign.
  • Ryan Strome had two goals and seven points in his 10-game trial after his junior season ended. By the end he, Nelson and Niederreiter formed a line of players who should compete for jobs in camp next fall.
Other Candidates
  • John Persson quietly had 17 goals in his first pro season. Johan Sundstrom impressed but missed a middle chunk of the season with what sounded like a concussion-type of issue.
  • Aaron Ness and Jon Landry -- who was in NHL camp before the Islanders scored on waivers -- are also in the mix of hopefuls. Ty Wishart seems destined for the role he played this year.
  • After a season virtually lost to mystery, Anders Nilsson finally identified his health deficiency and a way to address it. He started twice on the final weekend and reports were he felt himself again. If he can get another crack at things while feeling 100% healthy, the Isles will get a better sense of his chances of becoming the proverbial "goalie of the future."
  • In his demotion, Rick DiPietro played in 18 games and had a 2.93 GAA, but a team-low .893 save percentage. Since that's always a hot-button topic, I'm just going to leave that there.
Down the Road
  • Highly anticipated Islanders draft picks Scott Mayfield and Andrey Pedan also made their pro debuts on ATO's at the end of the season and will begin their ELC's in 2013-14.
  • There is also the group of collegiates the Isles added last week, with defenseman Mike Dalhuisen and forwards Greg Miller, Riley Wetmore, and Joey Diamond on an NHL deal. Those four and the other newcomers mentioned above represent an infusion for 2013-14.
  • Among players not yet mentioned here, Mike Halmo, Marc Cantin and Jason Clark are also on contracts (NHL two-way deals) that continue at least into 2013-14.

Though our focus here will be on what we expect is an Islanders playoff appearance, it's hard not to look at the progress of this year's Islanders club and also note a promising pool of reinforcement candidates down on the farm. And chances are, a few of those farmhands will get recalls this week to be around the big club as it heads into the playoff season.

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