The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are hoping that the addition of some new talent and a new head coach will improve last year’s sixth place finish in the East Division of the AHL’s Eastern Conference (37-38-4-1). Dave Baseggio, who was promoted to head coach last June, hopes to guide the Sound Tigers to a more successful season. He is joined in this effort by assistant coaches Pat Bingham and Lane Lambert.
Two skaters who played in Bridgeport last year are members of the New York Islanders at the beginning of the 2005-06 season. One is 21-year-old defenseman Chris Campoli, who last year accumulated 49 points (15 goals, 34 assists) in 79 games for the Sound Tigers. He is joined in New York by forward Eric Godard. Last year Godard garnered 18 points and 295 PIM in 75 games.
As of Oct. 8, 2005, Bridgeport had 13 returnees and 11 new Sound Tigers on the team.
Returning forwards include Sean Bergenheim, Steve Regier, and Matt Koalska. Bergenheim, who was a very late cut from the Islanders in preseason, is a smooth skater, with excellent touch, and great moves. Last year he played 61 games in Bridgeport, scoring 15 goals and gathering 29 total points. It is expected that if he performs well for the Sound Tigers, that he will be called up to the NHL during the season.
Twenty-one year-old Regier, a forward with a tall but thin frame (6’5, 195), played in 75 games last year, accumulating 22 total points, +6. Although Regier is not afraid of physical play, he needs more bulk to best serve Bridgeport and his professional career. Koalska, a playmaker, appeared in 60 games for Bridgeport last year. If he can stay healthy this year, great things are expected of him. He has wonderful vision on the ice and great passing skills. Bridgeport is counting on being able to use his abilities to recover from the team’s disappointing performance last year.
Veteran forwards that are also returning this year are Cole Jarrett, Justin Papineau, Kevin Colley, and Rob Collins. Papineau can create offensive excitement. After playing in the NHL in 2003-04, he spent the lockout year playing for the Sound Tigers. In 59 games, he tallied 33 points. Bridgeport will look to Papineau to consistently maintain his high level of play. Colley, who begins his third year as a Sound Tiger, has been chosen captain of the team. A gritty small physical player (5’10, 175), Colley often takes penalties (212 PIM in 59 games last year), however, Bridgeport is also looking for Colley to contribute his considerable offensive skills to the team. The Sound Tigers are also looking to the diminutive Collins (5’10, 174) to continue his offensive prowess. Last year, the 27-year-old Collins accumulated 62 points in 78 games.
Seven forwards that are new to Bridgeport will suit up in a Sound Tigers uniform this year. Rookies Jeremy Colliton, Masi Marjamaki, Luciano Aquino, and Evgeny Tunik are joined by veterans Wyatt Smith, Travis Brigley, Chris Thompson, and Dave Masse. Colliton, who spent the last four seasons playing junior hockey for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League, was drafted by the Islanders 58th overall in the 2003 entry draft. In his last year in junior hockey, Colliton scored 16 goals and garnered 46 total points in 41 games. A strong skater with good hands, the Sound Tigers are looking to Colliton for continued production at this level.
Marjamaki, the Islanders’ fifth round pick (144 overall) in the 2005 entry draft also comes to Bridgeport from the WHL. Last year at Moose Jaw, Marjamaki garnered 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 51 games. A gritty player, he has a strong work ethic and growing scoring skills. Seventh round selection in this years’ draft, Luciano Aquino, tore up the Ontario Hockey League last year. In his first year in the OHL, Aquino accumulated 71 points (25 goals, 46 assists) in 65 games as a member of the Brampton Battalion.
Tunik, who just signed with Bridgeport this past week, was the Islanders second round pick, 53th overall, in the 2003 entry draft. The 20-year-old forward has a great shot and soft hands. The Sound Tigers will be working with Tunik on team skills and strengthening his skating.
Wyatt Smith, who last year played for the Milwaukee Admirals, was signed by Bridgeport as a free agent, and has been chosen to a be an alternate captain of the Sound Tigers. Last year, the 28-year-old Smith totalled 47 points in 69 games.
Although David Masse is only 22 years old, he has been in the AHL for most of the last two seasons. A prolific scorer in junior, his future is dependent upon posting some of the same numbers at this level.
The Sound Tigers currently are carrying seven defensemen on their roster. The two new additions, Allan Rourke and Paul Flache, join returning players Ryan Caldwell, Jody Robinson, Vince Macri, Bruno Gervais, and Joel Bouchard. Rourke, who played for the Lowell Lock Monsters last year, was signed by Bridgeport as a free agent, and has been chosen as an alternate captain of the Sound Tigers.
Caldwell, the Islanders seventh round pick in the 2000 entry draft, played 73 games for the Sound Tigers last year. Although his -16 was not impressive, he did show good passing skills, garnering 21 points. Bridgeport is, however, looking for Caldwell to improve his work in his own zone, or he will not continue to be an asset to the team.
Last year, former Brown University star Vince Macri, split his time between the Sound Tigers and the Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL. Very good in his own zone, the big, physical defenseman (6’3, 210) is also an offensive threat. Bruno Gervais had a very successful first season in the AHL in 2004-05. The Islanders’ sixth round pick in 2003 accumulated 30 total points in 76 games for Bridgeport last year. He has great skills and the Sound Tigers are looking for lots of offensive production this year.
The Sound Tigers have two goalies on their roster. Former University of Denver goalie Wade Dubielewicz starts his third year in goal for Bridgeport. Last year, in 43 games, Dubielewicz had a .911 save percentage and a 2.67 GAA. Newcomer Chris Madden played in Providence (AHL) and Long Beach (ECHL) during 2004-05. Signed by Bridgeport as a free agent, in Madden’s 13 games in Providence, he gave up just 19 goals for a 1.85 GAA and .933 save percentage, and was between the pipes for two shutouts.
The Sound Tigers have nowhere to go but up. The core of the team is solid and, if their play in the first three regular season games this past week is any indication, they are an improved team. Although Bridgeport has a shot to make the playoffs, contending for the Calder Cup will likely remain elusive for the foreseeable future.
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