By Mike Miccoli
The New York Islanders have just dropped their sixth straight game. Prior to this past weekend, in which they won two of three games, their AHL affiliate was mired in an identical funk.
The bright spot for Bridgeport in the last two weeks? Top prospect Ryan Strome has been good — really, really good.
Strome has been on a hot streak, registering three goals and six assists in his last six games. Two goals came in the Sound Tigers' 3-2 win over the Hartford Wolfpack on Friday night, while the other was scored against the top-ranked Manchester Monarchs in Sunday’s 3-2 upset.
The points aren’t an anomaly either. Strome, 20, has had seven multi-point games for Bridgeport during his rookie season in the AHL. The Islanders’ fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has been consistently good for a struggling Sound Tigers team. He leads all rookies with 7-18-25 totals in 20 games and is tied for third in points among all AHL players.
Strome will no doubt make an impact on the Islanders once he’s eventually called up to the now-slumping parent club, but it’s best for Strome to stay with Bridgeport to develop a bit more before getting the call to play in Long Island.
"Right now, he's making the adjustment to the American Hockey League very well,” Bridgeport head coach Scott Pellerin told NHL.com. “His hockey sense and his talent are there and it's all the little details that he's putting together. He's bringing up that compete level every shift, and he's being rewarded with quality ice time and is making plays. He's a big part of our team right now for a very young hockey player."
On Monday, Strome was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week.
The Sound Tigers play their next two games in New York, against the Adirondack Phantoms and Utica Comets, and will look to build upon their two wins this weekend.
While their six-game winning streak was snapped in an overtime loss against the Manchester Monarchs, the Springfield Falcons managed to pick up 15 points out of a possible 16 in their last eight games. Even more impressive was the team’s 3-0 shutout win against the Portland Pirates on Saturday. Goaltender Mike McKenna earned his second consecutive shutout and finished the month of November scalding hot with a 1.16 goals-against-average, .950 save percentage and a 4-1 record. McKenna’s 1.45 G.A.A. and .943 save percentage on the season places him on top of the league’s netminders.
Scoring is becoming a major issue for the Portland Pirates, a team that tallied only two goals in their three games this past week. Lucas Lessio and Brett Hextall were the only Pirates to contribute offensively in the team’s three losses, one of which where Portland was shutout. In the Eastern Conference, only the Worcester Sharks have scored fewer goals than the Pirates’ 46 tallies this season. And with the Sharks victors in their last three games, they’re gaining ground in the standings as well, usurping the downward-spiraling Pirates.
Speaking of gaining ground, Providence Bruins forwards Matt Fraser and Nick Johnson both made strides in putting the biscuit in the basket by entering the top ten in goals-scored. Fraser’s 12 puts him tied for fourth in the AHL in scoring, while Johnson’s 10 makes him tied for tenth. Both players’ tallies helped the Bruins finish off a two-game sweep of the Norfolk Admirals this weekend away from Providence. The Bruins also won their third game of the weekend on Sunday against Hershey, rebounding from a mediocre set of games last week.
The Week Ahead
Wednesday, December 4
Bridgeport Sound Tigers @ Adirondack Phantoms (7pm)
Springfield Falcons @ Albany Devils (7pm)
Friday, December 6
Hartford Wolfpack @ Adirondack Phantoms (7pm)
Bridgeport Sound Tigers @ Utica Comets (7pm)
Manchester Monarchs @ Providence Bruins (7:05pm)
Portland Pirates @ Worcester Sharks (7:30pm)
Saturday, December 7
Hershey Bears @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers (7pm)
Manchester Monarchs @ Portland Pirates (7pm)
Providence Bruins @ Worcester Sharks (7pm)
Hartford Wolfpack @ Springfield Falcons (8pm)
Sunday, December 8
Springfield Falcons @ Hartford Wolfpack (3pm)
Worcester Sharks @ Manchester Monarchs (3pm)
Portland Pirates @ Providence Bruins (3:05pm)