SOUND TIGERS Sound Tigers hoping for Aho’s return

January 18, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — Cue the “no excuses” protests, but the first major lull in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ season coincides with when its roster was first really smacked with injuries and call-ups.

One of the biggest blows came Jan. 4 in Syracuse, when Sebastian Aho took a Brady Brassart elbow up high. He missed the third period that night and the next five games; Bridgeport is 1-5 in those six games.

Aho returned to practice Friday at the Wonderland of Ice, and even if the second-year defenseman might not play the two home games this weekend, he’s closer to getting back.

“Fun. It’s tough when you can’t practice with the boys,” Aho said. “It kind of affects your life off the rink, too. You don’t talk as much with the guys. You’re by yourself. It’s fun to be back out there.”

Aho had 24 points in 34 games before the injury, which came one day after he was chosen for the second year in a row to compete in the AHL All-Star Classic. He’s hoping he’ll be ready to go for the first time.

“It’s a huge honor, especially since I couldn’t go last year,” said Aho, who was on recall to the New York Islanders at this time last season. “It’s going to be fun to actually get there, see how it is and meet all the guys. It’s a big honor, and I’m happy about it.”

Bridgeport has had six players initially selected for the past four all-star events. Only one of them actually made it: Ryan Pulock was hurt twice (once the night before), Joe Whitney broke his leg, and Aho and Tanner Fritz were up in the NHL last year. Only Toews in 2017 actually got there.

Aho has a week to get ready before this year’s event in Springfield, Mass., Jan. 27-28. Bridgeport has four games in the meantime.

The Sound Tigers could use him.

“Not having Aho in the lineup: puck-moving, his offensive instincts, his mobility, that’s a huge void,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said.

“The fact he took that hard hit, the league never penalized their guy, and he’s out well over 10 days, that definitely affected us. It was an opportunity for some other guys to come in and play.”

Thompson might sound a little galled because two of his players have been suspended for checks to the head in the past month. Steve Bernier remains out, serving the third and final game of his suspension Saturday.

But Bridgeport may be getting a little healthier. Aho, Jeff Kubiak and Mike Sislo all skated Friday. John Stevens, coming back from an offseason lower-body injury, continues to practice. And the Islanders assigned forward Matt Lorito, who has missed the first half with a lower-body injury, to Bridgeport on Friday.

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