SOUND TIGERS END ROAD TRIP WITH LOSS IN BINGHAMTON
Fall 2-0 to B-Sens for second time in as many meetings
BINGHAMTON, NY - The American Hockey League's Bridgeport Sound
Tigers, top affiliate of the National Hockey League's New York
Islanders, lost 2-0 on the road to the Binghamton Senators Wednesday
in the final game of a calendar-year-ending stretch of seven straight
road games on which they were 4-2-0-1.
It was the second 2-0 loss in as many trips to Binghamton for the
Sound Tigers, who also fell by the same score last Friday, as well as
their first set of back-to-back losses, coupled with last night's 2-1
overtime loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, since October
11th and 13th when they were beaten by 3-1 by the Philadelphia
Phantoms and 2-1 by the Senators.
Binghamton opened the scoring while the Sound Tigers were on the
game's first power play as Denis Hamel picked off the puck at his own
blue line for a breakaway goal 8:33 into the game. The unassisted
tally was Hamel's team-leading 13th goal of the season, as well as
the Senators' fifth while shorthanded, their second versus the Sound
Tigers, this year.
The Sound Tigers had two apparent goals waived off by Referee Gord
Dwyer who ruled Derek Bekar put the puck into the net with his body
with 7:05 left in the first period and that a Ben Guite shot never
entered goal despite the fact the light was turned on by the goal
judge with just over five minutes left in the middle frame.
The Sound Tigers called a timeout and pulled Netminder Rick DiPietro
with 1:07 left in the game, but Hamel iced the win with an empty-net
goal with one second left to play, his second goal of the game and
14th of the season, off assists from Josh Langfeld and Chris Kelly.
The Sound Tigers had a 14-5 shots on goal advantage in the third
period, but Binghamton Goaltender Ray Emery was equal to the task
The Sound Tigers were 0 for 6 on the power play while Binghamton was
0 for 5 and had a 30-29 overall shots on goal advantage. Emery made
30 saves for his second shutout of the season, both against the Sound
Tigers, while DiPietro stopped 28 shots in a losing effort. Emery was
the first star of the game, Hamel the second, and DiPietro the third.
The Sound Tigers will return home to host the Norfolk Admirals this
Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
No. 10 Streaking, anyone?
It wasn't the kind of start that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers were
looking for. A new coach, Greg Cronin, was in place (Steve Stirling
had gone to the parent Islanders), a bunch of new faces were on the
roster and, hopefully, the same winning attitude was set to propel
the team toward another playoff run. Yet, the first five games of the
season went: tie, loss, loss, tie, loss. The team was having trouble
scoring and the new faces were having trouble getting comfortable
with each other.
Then, it all suddenly clicked.
The Sound Tigers went on a team-record 20-game unbeaten string, going
17-0-3 and winning nine games in a row in the month of November. The
streak was even longer, as Bridgeport went 22 games without a loss in
regulation. It sent the team from a 0-3-2 start to a 22-5-5-1 record
near year's end and a solid hold on first place in the Eastern
Conference's East Division
"We know that coming into every game, that with our defense and our
goaltending, we're going to be in every game," captain Alan Letang
said. "We've gotten here with hard work ... and with the character of
this team, we're going to keep it going."
The previous unbeaten record for the Sound Tigers was a modest 12
games. And even though the steak ended on Dec. 17 with a 3-2 loss
against Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Bridgeport has added four more wins
"I know it's a cliche, but good teams find a way to win and that's
what we're doing," goaltender Wade Dubielewicz said. "It's that
simple. We're going into every game confident that we're going to win
and right now, we're pulling it off."
There you have it, the Top 10 stories for 2003.
Sound Tigers' Ryan Kraft laments missed chances during scoring drought
By MICHAEL FORNABAIO
Here's the kind of season it has been for Bridgeport Sound Tigers
center Ryan Kraft: When he finally broke a career-long goal-scoring
drought Sunday night, all he could think about were his missed
Kraft put the Sound Tigers ahead 4-1 at Hershey with his first goal
since Nov. 1, a goal that ended a string of 22 games without one.
Still, he had other good scoring chances
including one that went off the knob of goalie Tom Lawson's stick
that could have prevented the Bears' comeback to tie the game before
the Sound Tigers won in overtime.
"I think I was a little more upset than anything. There was a lot of
frustration that was bound up, especially when you have that many
chances in a game to score," Kraft said. "I had chances to bury it,
to put Hershey away."
Over a career that has taken him from a storied college hockey
program through the ECHL to the 2001 AHL Rookie of the Year award to
the NHL, Kraft has always been a scorer. Though that part of the game
has deserted him at times this season, he has not shirked his other
"Whether it's defense one day and scoring goals another day, I want
to become the best player I can," said Kraft, 28. "I have to refocus
my mindset to that. And just have fun. It's a game."
The game changed a little this weekend for Kraft, a 5-foot-9, 181-
pound forward. Saturday at Hartford, Bridgeport coach Greg Cronin
moved Kraft to left wing with Eric Manlow and winger Jeff Hamilton,
the league's leading scorer.
The move netted Kraft a bunch of scoring chances and, finally, an
unassisted goal Sunday. That snapped one of the most puzzling
stretches of Kraft's career. A 16-game goal drought last year had
been Kraft's longest.
"I can't even explain it. I've always been accustomed to putting
numbers up," said Kraft, who was the AHL's third-leading scorer in
2000-01, when he had 38 goals and 50 assists for Kentucky.
"I had to shift my focus to contributing other ways. Now I'm with
Hammy and Manlow; I can shift my focus back to creating offense."
Even before this week, Kraft was around the net, getting chances.
Cronin, who tracks scoring chances off game videotapes, had noted
that for about the last 10 games.
"(He had been) generating chances off the forecheck, passing the
puck, or being directly responsible for a shot on net," Cronin
said. "He's got quick hands, he's a good skater, he's strong on his
Despite his troubles scoring
he shot wide in the closing seconds of regulation Tuesday night in
Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a game the Sound Tigers lost in overtime
Kraft was still fourth on the team with 11 assists going into
Wednesday night's game in Binghamton, N.Y.
Points have always been a part of Kraft's game. He scored a point a
game over four years at the University of Minnesota.
An eighth-round pick of San Jose in the 1995 draft, Kraft began his
career with the Sharks' ECHL affiliate in Richmond, Va. Playing for
coach Mark Kaufman, Kraft said, made for his most enjoyable two years
in the game.
After struggling through a senior season in which the Gophers
finished under .500 for the first time in years, Kraft had no
confidence, he said. Kaufman rebuilt it.
"(Going to the Coast) was the best thing that ever happened to me,"
Kraft said. "That would have been a tough transition for me, going
right to the American League, and I think San Jose knew that. It took
me five years before I got my first NHL game, but it was a good
stepping-stone for me."
It began a progression that led to Kraft's NHL debut, Nov. 23, 2002,
at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, taking his first faceoff against
Penguins center/owner/legend/franchise savior Mario Lemieux.
When Kraft became a free agent this summer, he saw the Sound Tigers'
parent club, the New York Islanders, as his best chance to eventually
get another chance in the NHL.
"Obviously," he added, "I haven't done the things I need to do to get
One of the team's quartet of alternate captains, Kraft has been
responsible defensively, killed penalties and worked both up front
and on the point on the power play.
Goals have been one of the few problems. Sunday's, at least, broke
"I'm not going to be satisfied. I need to keep going," Kraft said.
B-Sens back in a groove
Emery blanks Bridgeport for second time in six days
BY SCOTT LAUBER
Press & Sun-Bulletin
BINGHAMTON -- If the Binghamton Senators can somehow bottle the last
18 days of 2003, they just may find themselves drinking from some
champagne bottles in 2004.
Revived winger Denis Hamel, unable to buy a goal for six weeks,
picked up two Wednesday night, and goalie Ray Emery authored another
brilliant shutout, as the Senators prepared to welcome a New Year
with their third win in four games and their second 2-0 victory in
six nights over the once-red-hot Bridgeport Sound Tigers before
another sold-out Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena crowd.
Sound your noisemakers, Binghamton. The Senators have their groove
"It's definitely a flip from November when we were losing games,
that's for sure," Emery said after turning aside 29 shots for his
second straight home-ice shutout and his third straight victory. "Now
we need to keep going and playing consistent like this."
Winners of just one of eight games from Nov. 23 through Dec. 12, the
Senators were sinking like the Titanic in the AHL's East Division.
But a team-wide commitment to defensive-zone coverage, 23 straight
penalty kills and 104 Emery saves in 107 shots since he returned from
an 11-day NHL call-up have the Senators playing better than when they
opened the season with five straight wins.
Hamel, whose season has paralleled the team's, busted a streak of 15
games without a goal last Sunday in Philadelphia and scored the
prettiest of his team-high 14 by breaking in short-handed and ripping
a shot over Bridgeport goalie Rick DiPietro's glove at 8:33 of the
"Once every 25 games you might get a (short-handed) breakaway like
that, so I just tried to make a good shot," Hamel said.
All of a sudden, it's that simple for Hamel and the Senators. Break
in on DiPietro -- starting his second (and final) game for Bridgeport
after asking the New York Islanders for an AHL conditioning stint
earlier this week -- and make a perfect shot.
And all of a sudden, shots that had been beating Emery, like center
Ben Guite's blast from the left circle five minutes into the second
period, are hitting the post. Guite insisted the puck hit the bar
inside the net and bounced out, but referee Gordon Dwyer disagreed
and waved off the would-be equalizer.
Like captain Chris Kelly six days earlier, Hamel scored an empty-
netter with one second left for the Senators, who've handed the Sound
Tigers' three of their six losses.
"When they're winning, players always say they're confident, but if
you do things right, you should be confident," coach John Paddock
said. "Right now, we're doing things right. What that translates to
(in 2004), who knows, but I like how we're playing."