BERGY - COLLITON - NILSSON REUNITED
by Chris Botta
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers had their one and only full practice today in preparation for their first round playoff series against Wilkes Barre/Scranton which begins tomorrow. There were 12 new faces -- no, that isn't a typo -- but no one was complaining.
Especially not first-year head coach Dave Baseggio.
"There was a lot of talent there, no doubt," Baseggio said this afternoon on the bus ride to Pennsylvania, where Game 1 is Thursday night. "I would be concerned about having twelve new players except for one thing: just about all of them have at one time been Sound Tigers. They know our system. They have played in the Islanders' system, which is consistent with ours. Everyone is comfortable with each other, so the transition is not as big an obstacle."
The two completely new faces are Jeff Tambellini and Denis Grebeshkov, first-tier American Hockey League players from their days in the Kings system with Manchester. The arriving players for today's practice in Bridgeport were the following:
Forwards -- Sean Bergenheim, Jeremy Colliton, Masi Marjamaki, Robert Nilsson, Steve Regier, Tambellini
Defensemen -- Bruno Gervais, Grebeshkov, Cole Jarrett and Allan Rourke
The Sound Tigers also announced the signing of right wing Blake Comeau, the Islanders' second round pick in 2004, to an amateur tryout contract. The Islanders reassigned forward Luch Aquino, one of the top scorers in the Ontario Hockey League this season, to the Sound Tigers.
Baseggio confirmed the following for Islanders fans:
1. Comeau will make his Sound Tigers debut in Game 1 vs. the Penguins. "He made a big impression on us starting with the first day of camp in Nova Scotia and had a great season in the Western Hockey League," said Baseggio. "Blake deserves to be here."
2. The first line of Sean Bergenheim-Jeremy Colliton-Robert Nilsson, Baseggio's best line this season, will be reunited for the AHL playoffs. "That was an easy decision," said the coach.
3. Tambellini, who had 56 points (25 goals) in 56 games earlier this season with Manchester, will likely play left wing on a line centered by Rob Collins.
4. Expect Bruno Gervais to be paired with Cole Jarrett, and Grebeshkov to partner with Tomi Pettinen.
The Sound Tigers currently have 26 players in their travelling party. Ryan O'Marra, the Islanders' first round pick last summer who has played so well in his first weeks as a pro in Bridgeport, will miss Game One with an eye injury. On defense, Rourke has not fully recovered from his groin injury and will also be sidelined for Thursday's game.
Those setbacks aside, Baseggio and assistant coaches Lane Lambert and Pat Bingham were satisfied with today's practice. 'It was lively, fast, crisp," said the head coach. "I think having everyone back together, plus the arrival of talented kids like Jeff, Denis and Comeau really added some excitement for all of us."
Baseggio also credited Islanders head coach Brad Shaw for his work in the transition between the Islanders and the Sound Tigers. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the work Brad has put in," Baseggio said. "His communication with me has been awesome. He understands how important this playoff experience is for so many of the Islanders' top prospects."
All Sound Tigers games are web-cast live at www.soundtigers.com. Fans can also watch all AHL games live on the Internet via the B2 Networks pay per view.
Sound Tigers playoff tickets cost as little as $11 for children and $16 for adults and can be purchased at Bridgeport's Arena at Harbor Yard box office, by calling 203-368-1000 or on-line at http://www.ticketmaster.com/artist/1022079 Tigers Playoff Gift Packs -- which include four tickets, an autographed puck and four SportsCenter of CT activity passes -- are also on sale for as little as $69.