The latest Bridgeport Sound Tigers winning streak ended at seven yesterday in what Brent Thompson called an uncharacteristically lackluster effort.
More on that below -- the division title magic number is three -- but one notable development from a prospect point of view was that newly signed Brock Nelson made his pro debut, playing at center.
June 1 is the deadline for non-NCAA, non-"defected" 2010 draft picks to sign, but the Islanders don't have any of those who face that threat, as Nino Niederreiter, Kirill Kabanov and Nelson are already signed and Jason Clark and the distinguished Cody Rosen are still in school. (Overager Tony DeHart's rights were allowed to lapse last summer.)
So that means Kirill Petrov is probably the next contract target to watch (other than undrafted college free agents and such who we don't know the Isles are targeting until the news release comes down and sends us scrambling to hockeydb.com).
If you weren't aware, KHL contracts run through April 30 -- even if a team is eliminated well before then -- so because KHL is greatest league make glorious great hockey tradition of mother Russia, we'll find out about Petrov's plans ... later. Most do not get the special Radulov treatment.
The junior kids Kabanov and Ryan Strome are doing nice things in the playoffs, but we'll get to all of that after the Bridgeport rundown below.
Sunday, April 1: Bridgeport 3, Manchester (Kings) 2 (OT)
Trent Hunter returned (as a visitor) to Bridgeport for the first time since 2002-03 and even scored, but Rhett Rakhshani scored the winner on the powerplay in OT. Kevin Poulin made 33 saves. Matt Donovan scored on a nice 2-on-1 backhand in his final game before being recalled. [BST | Soundin' Off | Video highlights]
Wednesday, April 4: Bridgeport 3, Springfield 2
In their first game without Matt Donovan (recalled), Bridgeport clinched a playoff berth and Poulin made another 33 saves. David Ullstrom kept rolling by scoring the winner with under five minutes to play. Newcomer John Persson scored his third. [BST | Soundin' Off: Thompson calls it Step 1. | Video highlights]
Friday, April 6: Bridgeport 3, Syracuse 1
Stop me if you've heard this: Poulin stopped 33 and David Ullstrom scored. (Twice, actually). That gives Ullstrom 24 goals in just 38 games -- absurd, really, an absurdity matched by his 21% shooting percentage.
This one got rough, with Pat Maroon banging Trevor Frischmon from behind, eliciting a fighting response [video of hit and quick fight] from Ty Wishart. Maroon wasn't even penalized on the initial hit. Tony Romano continued his "why aren't I on the Clear Day list" push with his 11th goal of the season. This win improved the Sound Tigers to 24-8-2-2 at home this season. [BST | Soundin' Off: Poulin was huge again. | Video highlights]
Mike Halmo got into a fight in his first pro game. Post-game interview here.
Saturday, April 7: Providence (Bruins) 4, Bridgeport 2
The win streak -- as well as seven at home -- came to an end. Worse, Ullstrom left the game with an upper body injury (shoulder? or head?) as did Jon Landry, though Thompson didn't think either was too serious. Sean Backman scored on a deflection from Tomas Marcinko and Calvin de Haan, while Persson added another, his fourth goal in 10 games since coming over from the WHL.
Michael Fornabaio's recap explains how Justin DiBenedetto got involved in a mixup with the Bruins goalie -- and a fight, getting slapped with an instigator. Coming with under five minutes left, he probably faces a suspension. [BST | Soundin' Off]
Other Notes: Nelson is wearing #29 like in college, and Anders Nilsson is expected to resume skating Monday.
With NCAA over, Europe winding down -- historically and cruelly, for Mikko Koskinen -- we're down to who's left in CHL playoffs:
The Lone Kirill: Kirill Kabanov is off to a nice start in the playoffs, notching a goal and three assists the other night and adding two more assists in Shawinigan's 7-2 win last night.
Ryan Strome scored in Niagara's 2-1 win Friday night, and they're back in action again today.
We'll continue the drill Mark began last week...
Linked at the end of last week, here's a Hockey's Future interview with Andrei Pedan on his NHL goals, and a hint of contract talks to come.
And what kind of year has it been for the Russian-born Pedan? Well, last season he had 51 GP for Guelph and put up 2 goals, 10 assists, 89 PIM and a minus-11 with 8 assists in 6 playoff games, which no doubt bumped his draft stock up a bit.
This year has seen progress, with 10 goals and 30 assists, plus 152 PIM (he talks in that interview that the refs must look for him, but either way you'd like to see that number come back down a bit). He won't be eligible for the AHL next season (unless that NHL-CHL agreement changes drastically), so look for one more year in juniors and hopefully an appearance on Russia's WJC team after being left off this past winter.