Greedy NHL owners and players be damned, there is hockey in North America. And we're gonna watch it and write about it.
The Sound Tigers skated to a 6-4 victory in their season opener tonight in Hartford against the Baby Rangers/CT Whale. It was at times a dominating performance and, later in the night, it got frustrating. The latter you might expect from a young team and one composed of NHLers, aspiring NHLers, and a couple of career AHLers, none of whom have played together a whole lot.
Things started off with some tough luck for the Sound Tigers. They dominated the second half of the first period with the vast majority of the play in the offensive zone. The first half of the period was blacked out for me, as the video stream had some issues -- but the Sound Tigers were down 2-0 after the period despite the solid play. The first tally was early in the period on a Whale powerplay and the second was a penalty shot goal from the Whale's Kyle Jean.
It was a horrendous call to award the penalty shot there, as Jean was hooked from behind on a breakaway by Matt Donovan. Jean got off a very clean shot and the play was allowed to continue for a few moments before anything was called. Donovan clearly hooked, but it was of the two-minute variety and not a full-on redo of the breakaway Jean already had an excellent attempt at converting.
If the first period was frustrating, the second was anything but. Bridgeport cashed in big time with five goals in the frame. Casey Cizikas redirected a Travis Hamonic shot from the point to gets things started, and the flood gates really opened from there.
One of the highlights of the night was Kirill Kabanov's slick feed to Nino Niederreiter on a 2-on-1. Kabanov made a quick deke and held the puck long enough so that Niederreiter had a mostly empty net to dunk the punk into. Kabanov certainly has quick feet and quick hands, and showed it on that play.
The rest of the period was a barrage of goals. Casey Cizikas rifled home a shot from the point, Brock Nelson found a wide rebound for his first pro goal, and John Persson closed out the period to make it 5-2.
After a sixth goal from DeFazio a minute into the third, things got a bit unraveled for the Sound Tigers. The team took two penalties in the first three minutes of the period and then second led directly to a power play goal for the Whale from Mike Vernace. Assistant captain Travis Hamonic (and really he's the captain even if not explicitly labeled as such, isn't he?) took a two and ten for unsportsmanlike conduct, talking back to the referee after Vernace's goal. Of course there's no telling what was said and it could have been a poor call by the ref, but it's not a good situation for Hamonic to get the team into.
The Whale would score on the ensuing power play to make it 6-4, but wouldn't get any closer. Calvin de Haan -- he sure can skate well in open ice -- took a delay of game with about two minutes to go, putting the puck over the glass, but the score would still hold.
The big stat lines of the night were Niederrieter with a three point night (1G, 2A), Hamonic with three assists and Cizikas with two goals. Kevin Poulin made 27 saves.
...David Ullstrom tried at least two Kyle Okposo toe drags that I saw. Much quicker, but not very effective... Former Isle and current Whale Micheal Haley had a solid fight with Blair Riley. The bout was pretty even but Haley landed more punches. The refs intervened before anyone made a takedown...
STREAMIN'It was an interesting game to watch via the online feed provided by the AHL. The league makes all of its games available online and this weekend the first two Sound Tiger games were free; meant to get all of us hockey addicts a fix and, well, it might just work.
It's an interesting watch. The stream is the feed straight from the arena's jumbotron, overlayed with the radio feed of either team (and that works quite well, as the radio is just ahead of the action, so you hear "De Haan shoots," as soon as he does so). So you get it all during stoppages -- the kiss cam, the nightly dance contest, and random commercial interjections to remind you that it isn't just a powerplay, it's a SuperCuts power play. But the best part? No commercials or TV timeouts. Just straight hockey. And the kiss cam. Sure beats a thousand scrap metal and gold buying commericals.
NEXT UPThe Sound Tigers are headed home for a 7pm game tomorrow against Providence... I can't say that I'll have a detailed recap of every game but the way things are right now, I'm going to try to as often as possible.