Sound Tigers make big impact at camp
The annual Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage at the end of Islanders Mini Camp always puts the organization’s top prospects on display for their loyal fan base. Fans just a quick ferry ride across the Long Island Sound have reason to be excited too, because many of these players have worn or will don the Bridgeport Sound Tigers sweater.
Six of the eight goals in the scrimmage came from players who skated with the Sound Tigers last season. The Blue Team led 6-2 following the scrimmage comprised of two 25-minute periods, and held on for a 7-6 victory over the Orange Team following the skills competition which included a shootout, hardest shot competition and team breakaway relay.
Jason Clark and Riley Wetmore each scored twice for the Blue Team, while Islanders 2011 fifth overall pick Ryan Strome posted a goal and two assists and Long Island native Joey Diamond added a goal and an assist for the Blue Team.
Strome made his pro debut in Bridgeport last season following the conclusion of his junior career with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League. The Missisauga, ON native scored two goals and five assists in 10 games with the Sound Tigers last season, but hopes tonight’s performance was just another stepping stone towards making the Islanders come October.
“It’s exciting to be back here, and to continue to learn – you can never learn too much,” Strome said. “I felt like I learned a lot last season in Bridgeport, and I hope I can keep building towards next season.”
Diamond joined the Sound Tigers late last season after finishing has collegiate career at the University of Maine, and notched seven points in 10 games with Bridgeport while skating alongside Strome for much of that time.
“I think we had chemistry in Bridgeport last season, and obviously we continued that tonight in the scrimmage,” Diamond said. “It’s always fun to play with a talented player like Stromer, and it was great to play in front of the Islanders fans.”
Diamond, who signed an entry-level contract with the Islanders late last season, returned to Mini Camp after attending the mid-July summit three years ago as a camp invite.
“I was here after my freshman year in college and it was a great experience for me, growing up an Islanders fan,” Diamond said. “This time was a little more special now that I’m a member of the organization, and I knew what to expect.”
Sound Tigers fans saw Clark register two assists in eight games last season. The Islanders third round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft split time between Bridgeport and Gwinnett (ECHL) last season, but was encouraged by a strong finish to his first pro campaign.
“It’s been awhile, but we talked about putting pucks on the net and keeping it simple,” Clark said. “The first shot bounced in, and I was fortunate enough to convert on a penalty shot which felt really good. I think the meeting coming out of the season was positive because I felt like I did good things when I came back to Bridgeport. I learned a lot going down to the ECHL, and it gave me a boost and more motivation going into this offseason.”
Seventeen players in Thursday night’s Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage played for the Sound Tigers last season. Defenseman Mike Dalhuisen inked an AHL contract with Bridgeport following his career at Quinnipiac University, and won the Hardest Shot Competition with a slap shot registered at 97 mph. Brock Nelson scored in the shootout competition, and Kenny Reiter stopped all 20 shots he faced in 25 minutes of work for the Blue Team. The contributions from players who skated at Webster Bank Arena is something that fans in both Bridgeport and Long Island can should be excited about.
“There’s a ton of young talent here at this camp and a lot of guys that have played in Bridgeport,” Strome said. “We’re all looking to make it here to the Islanders one day and there’s some great competition, so it’s a real exciting time.”