The Sound Tigers earned the third best record in the AHL’s Eastern Conference and won a fierce battle for the Northeast Division during the regular season, going 41-26-3-6 on the year (that last number is shootout losses). All that gives them a date with their in-state rival and Ranger farm team, the CT Whale in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The series starts tonight in Bridgeport at 7pm and continues on Saturday with Game 2.
Each series The first round is a best-of-five.
The solid season the Sound Tigers completed, specifically a red-hot second half, can be attributed to two main factors. The first is the depth of prospects in this organization. While the big club is still lacking in some departments, there is clearly help on the way. One defense, in goal and at forward the Sound Tigers have solid players all around. There is youth at every position. The problem is of course that the Islanders needs are a bit more specific, as the biggest organizational needs are a big, tough defender and a scoring winger, something I’m sure the team will be addressing in June’s draft.
The other credit goes to coach Brent Thompson who came all the way from Anchorage, Alaska to lead the team and has them singing his praises in a lengthy article on the team website.
“Coach Thompson has really brought the expectation of being at your best everyday, every time you step on the ice…that’s the reason why we are in the situation we are right now, “ said Rhett Rakhshani, who led the Sound Tigers with 49 points in 49 games this season. “He doesn’t let us take shortcuts, he doesn’t take shortcuts either and he leads by example…it definitely funnels down to us.”
Take it with a grain of salt because we’ll never expect a player to say bad things about their coach of course, but the coach has his players playing hard and — most importantly — getting results. The Sound Tigers were in a three-way dead heat for the division title two months back. Since then, they took care of business and won the division going away, by seven points over the Whale.
We usually defer to Mike Fornabaio of the CT Post on Sound Tiger updates and news and that’s still the case. You should certainly check out his coverage. He wrote yesterday that it looked like Brock Nelson and John Persson would start in Game 1 for the Sound Tigers, solid experience for two Islanders draft picks.
A final sidenote… One of the neat things about the AHL is that you can watch the games online, much like with NHL GameCenter Live. That comes at a price of course, but it may be worth watching if you’re interested in scouting some of the Islanders’ prospects. I imagine we’ll be seeing a few of them on the Island next year, specifically Kevin Poulin or some of the defensemen (more on that topic later in the off-season).