sound tigers Vande Sompel playing all-around game
BRIDGEPORT — In junior hockey, Mitch Vande Sompel played some forward when his team visited Belleville, Ontario. He was at his usual position, defense, on Saturday when his Bridgeport Sound Tigers visited Belleville. And Saturday night, he snuck in a little goaltending.
Vande Sompel kicked a rebound try out of the crease with 3:45 left in regulation, preserving a 2-1 win.
“It was just everything in a bit of a panic,” Vande Sompel said. “You’re going down. It’s do whatever you can to keep the puck out of the net. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you what happened.”
His recollection matched the video, though. Bridgeport goalie Christopher Gibson stopped Jack Rodewald on a two-on-one, but trailer Nick Paul put a backhand shot off the top of Gibson’s left pad.
Vande Sompel, skating into the goal crease, dropped to his right knee.
“I saw the puck looked like it was going in our net. I kind of slid back,” Vande Sompel said. “I kind of tried to stick my (left) foot out and luckily got a piece of it and kept it out.”
Bridgeport’s other two goalies, Gibson and Jeremy Smith, combined to stop 53 of 55 shots as the Sound Tigers swept their two-game visit to Canada. They beat Laval 2-1 in a shootout on Friday.
Bridgeport’s team save percentage went up 10 points, from .871 (28th in the 31-team league) to .881 (23rd).
“Both our goalies did a great job,” said Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson, who won his 200th game as Sound Tigers coach at Belleville. “Big saves at the right times, controlling rebounds.
“Our defense, I don’t think we gave up a lot. Especially at Laval, I don’t think we gave up a lot in terms of chances against. I thought we were a bit sloppy at times in Belleville. Overall, when the game got tight, we had to buckle down, I thought the guys did a good job going back to the structure and relying on each other.”
Vande Sompel scored Bridgeport’s first goal Saturday and got an assist on the game-winner when Scott Eansor tipped home his shot.
With its deeper group of forwards this season, the Sound Tigers have often used four forwards and one defenseman on each power-play unit, which has often left Vande Sompel out this season. Still, he has five even-strength points to go with four on the power play.
Saturday’s was his first goal since opening night.
“There’s going to be times when you’re frustrated. Those are things you can’t really get worried about,” Vande Sompel said. “You put your head down and work, and points will come.
“At the same time, we haven’t lost in regulation in eight games. You can’t be frustrated. It’s great to be around here. Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s in a good mood. It’s fun to come to the rink right now.”
Vande Sompel said he has been working on pretty much everything in his game in his second pro season, though he mentioned working on his intensity level and his 200-foot game.
“He’s playing good hockey. The focus for him is just making sure his focus is on defending and making that his priority, because to get to the NHL, everybody has to defend a heck of a lot better,” Thompson said.
“He has the assets on the offensive side. He can skate really well. He’s got points, and he’s not even playing on the PP at this point — he will be on it at some point — but he’s still getting points, which shows the offensive instincts.”
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