2016-17 Season in Review
From sensational streaks to milestones and highlight-reel plays, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers' 16th season in the American Hockey League was certainly one for the books. And despite falling short of a berth in the 2017 Calder Cup playoffs, the Sound Tigers enjoyed many successes throughout the season, from both a development and performance standpoint.
Bridgeport completed the 2016-17 season with a record of 44-28-3-1 (92 points), its best finish since 2008-09. In fact, the Sound Tigers amassed more points than any AHL team to ever miss the post-season – a product of the harsh Atlantic Division that saw each of its four playoff teams collect 96 points or more. For comparison, the Syracuse Crunch, which won the North Division, had 90 points.
“Looking back through the year, yeah there were some games where we could have used a win or we blew a game late, but I thought we battled hard all season,” Sound Tigers center Connor Jones said. “I think it's bittersweet. We had an awesome year, but fell short.”
Here are some of the highlights, trends and statistics from the 2016-17 season.
By the Numbers:
2 – Players who appeared in all 76 games for the Sound Tigers. Those included captain Ben Holmstrom and rookie defenseman Devon Toews. For Holmstrom, it was the second straight season he appeared in every regular-season game. He has now played 152 consecutive games, tied with Rockford's Ville Pokka for second on the AHL's ironman list behind Hershey's Travis Boyd (153).
6 – Players who made their professional debuts with the Sound Tigers this season: Jake Bischoff, Justin Danforth, Josh Ho-Sang, Travis St. Denis, John Stevens and Devon Toews.
7 – Players who wore a letter during the 2016-17 season: Ben Holmstrom (C), Steve Bernier (A), Stephen Gionta (A), Bracken Kearns (A), Jon Landry (A), Scott Mayfield (A) and Ryan Pulock (A).
8 – Amount of players who appeared in games for both the Sound Tigers and New York Islanders this season (Stephen Gionta, Jaroslav Halak, Josh Ho-Sang, Connor Jones, Bracken Kearns, Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock).
8 – Longest win streak during the 2016-17 season, which took place from Jan. 15 through Feb. 3. It was one victory behind Bridgeport's franchise record.
12 – Consecutive wins for Jaroslav Halak from Jan. 20 through Feb. 19, setting a franchise record. That passed Anders Nilsson's nine straight victories in 2011-12.
13 – Overtime wins during the 2016-17 season, which led the Eastern Conference and was tied for the league lead overall with the Cleveland Monsters.
17 – Kane Lafranchise's plus-minus rating, which quietly led the team this season. It was an AHL career high for the veteran defenseman and was his best overall as a pro since the 2011-12 campaign with the Alaska Aces (ECHL).
40 – Assists for Devon Toews, which led the Sound Tigers as well as all first-year players and earned the defenseman AHL All-Rookie Team honors.
41 – Players who made at least one appearance for the Sound Tigers in 2016-17.
43 – One-goal games the Sound Tigers played this season, more than any other team. Bridgeport went 26-13-3-1 in one-goal outcomes.
51 – Points Bracken Kearns recorded this season, which led the Sound Tigers in scoring for the second straight year. Kearns also led Bridgeport in goals for second consecutive season (23).
153 – Wins head coach Brent Thompson has collected in four seasons behind the Sound Tigers' bench. He passed Jack Capuano's 133 career victories on Jan. 28, making him the all-time winningest head coach in team history.
Fan Favorite: Rookie forward Josh Ho-Sang quickly became a fan favorite in 2016-17 due to his blistering speed, soft hands and sheer playmaking ability. The Islanders' 28th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft made his professional debut with the Sound Tigers on Oct. 15 and finished the season with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 49 AHL games, including two goals on his 21st birthday (Jan. 22) in a 3-1 victory against the Rochester Americans. In addition, Ho-Sang collected 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and a plus-9 rating in 12 games during the month of February, earning the youngster CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month honors. He also earned his first NHL recall that month (Feb. 28) and made his NHL debut with the Islanders on Mar. 2 against the Dallas Stars. Ho-Sang gathered 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 21 NHL contests.
Fellow First Rounder: Another first-round pick from 2014, rookie winger Michael Dal Colle played all but one game for the Sound Tigers this season, finishing fourth on the team with 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists). He scored his first professional goal, which stood as the game-winner on Oct. 21 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and registered a career-high three points (one goal, two assists) on Feb. 17 against the Rochester Americans. Here's how Dal Colle, the youngest Sound Tiger for the majority of the season (20 years old), described his play in 2016-17:
“I think personally I made a lot of positive strides in my game on and off the ice. There's a great group of guys in the room and I think it helped me adjust quick. Overall, it was definitely a positive year.”
Powering Past Adversity: Third-year defenseman Ryan Pulock had as much of a roller-coaster season as anyone on the team. He began the year with the Sound Tigers but was recalled to the Islanders before November and played one game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 21. Unfortunately, the 15th overall pick in 2013 suffered a foot injury that night, which sidelined him until Dec. 2 when he returned with Bridgeport. Pulock went on to finish second in Sound Tigers' scoring with a career-best 46 points (15 goals, 31 assists) and a plus-10 rating in 55 games – fewer games played than anyone in the top six on the team. In addition, Pulock led AHL defensemen in game-winning goals (six), ranked eighth among defensemen in points (46) and led the Sound Tigers in power-play points (22).
Keeping Up with the Jones's: Twin brothers Kellen and Connor Jones have played on the same team, if not the same line, for most of their careers. From four years at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. to time with the Oklahoma City Barons and Bakersfield Condors, they have virtually been inseparable. In 2016-17, the brothers added Bridgeport to that list, where they played for the majority of the season together. In fact, Kellen played 58 games with the Sound Tigers, marking his first full season in the AHL, while Connor made 58 appearances with Bridgeport and four more with the Islanders. Connor received his first NHL recall on Apr. 1 and debuted with the Islanders in a 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Apr. 2.
Golden Goalie: The Sound Tigers saw four netminders take the crease during the 2016-17 season, and although Stephon Williams and Eamon McAdam received nearly 66-percent of the starts, Jaroslav Halak and Christopher Gibson garnered most of the attention. Gibson began the season 6-0-0 through seven appearances before a lower-body injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year. On the flip side, Halak arrived in Bridgeport just after New Years and quickly helped the Sound Tigers improve from nine points outside of a playoff spot to in the post-season hunt. Overall, the 2015 NHL All-Star logged a 17-7-3 record with a 2.15 goals-against-average, .925 save percentage and two shutouts with Bridgeport, finishing fifth among all AHL goaltender. In addition, Halak won a franchise-record 12 straight games from Jan. 20 through Feb. 19.
The Other One: Well documented through the season, rookie defenseman Devon Toews is not related to Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. However, his steady play was just as impressive, helping him to one of the best rookie performances the Sound Tigers have seen in a while. The 23-year-old blue-liner led all AHL rookies with 40 assists and added five goals for 45 points, tied for ninth among league defenseman in 76 appearances. In addition, Toews represented Bridgeport at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic in Allentown, Penn., and won the league's fastest skater event at the skills competition with a blistering lap of 13.478 seconds, the second quickest time in the event's history. The Quinnipiac University product also received AHL All-Rookie Team honors on Apr. 5.
READ: Devon Toews; No Relation
Sound Tigers Record vs. Opponents in 2016-17:
Lehigh Valley: 5-2-1-0
About the Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Founded in 2001, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Hockey Club is the top minor league affiliate of the New York Islanders. Don't miss your chance to take part in the family fun entertainment happening every home game at Webster Bank Arena. For further information on ticket or sponsorship opportunities, call our office at (203) 345-2300 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep up with the latest Sound Tigers news on Facebook and on Twitter. For more team information, log on to soundtigers.com.