SOUND TIGERS ‘Intensity’ earning Kubiak his place in lineup
BRIDGEPORT — A month ago it was him getting sent to the ECHL, an extra forward in need of playing time.
Jeff Kubiak came back to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers a week later, and he has seized a spot in the lineup as things have come together for Bridgeport, carrying a five-game winning streak into Wednesday morning’s game at Hartford.
“The fact that he’s moving his feet, the fact he’s physical, he’s reliable defensively, has a good stick, those are things he’s always done,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said, “but he’s doing it with a little bit more edge, a little more intensity.”
Kubiak, 24, in his second pro season out of Cornell, has picked up time on the penalty kill. He has a point in four games in a row, and he’s contributing to goals even when he’s not showing up on the scoresheet.
With a 6-foot-3, 212-pound frame, Kubiak can influence the play in front of the net with or without the puck.
He said he worked a lot over the summer on his mobility.
“I did a lot of different things this summer to work on that, and in turn to kind of help with my first three steps, a little more explosiveness,” Kubiak said. “If there’s one thing to work on, it’s skating. It doesn’t come naturally to me.”
Kubiak played seven games for Bridgeport last season on an AHL contract, his rookie year out of Cornell.
“(Cornell) is a well-known hockey program, a lot of history. That was one thing that was cool about it, and the hockey was great,” Kubiak said.
He’d joined the Sound Tigers on an amateur tryout the spring before after finishing his senior year, practicing and traveling but not playing.
Most of his rookie season was spent with the Worcester Railers of the ECHL, playing 59 games and another six in the playoffs. He got into three games there this season after Bridgeport sent him down on Oct. 12.
Kubiak returned to Bridgeport’s lineup on Oct. 21 — replacing Otto Koivula, who has since become a frequent linemate and another key piece of Bridgeport’s recent success — and hasn’t been scratched since.
“The physicality is what’s separating him. He’s winning little battles and using his body more,” Thompson said. “He’s always had the smarts and the stick, and been good on faceoffs, but now he’s added those intangibles.
“It’s a huge asset for us. You need the heavy body, and he’s done a good job taking advantage of that.”
Heading on a three-game road trip that includes two games in Canada on the weekend, Bridgeport sent forward Ryan Hitchcock to Worcester. The Railers play four home games in five days beginning Wednesday morning.
Bridgeport won’t have forward Steve Bernier on Wednesday or on Friday in Laval, and defenseman Kyle Burroughs will miss Wednesday’s game. They received suspensions from the AHL for incidents in Saturday’s game against Providence.
Burroughs got one game for high-sticking Cameron Hughes in front of the Bridgeport net midway through the third period. He wasn’t penalized at the time. Bernier, who had a point in each of the past six games, got two games for a check on Trent Frederic late in regulation time, a hit for which he received a charging major.
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