SOUND TIGERS Koivula moves to center

November 28, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — At least Otto Koivula had a little bit of notice before Bridgeport Sound Tigers coach Brent Thompson put him at center on Saturday night in Hartford.

“We actually talked about it before the Hartford game, in the morning,” Koivula said. “Tommer talked with me, ‘have you ever played centerman?’ ‘Maybe a few games.’ He said he would like to use me at centerman at some point.

“I wasn’t sure it was going to happen (that) game.”

Koivula, who had played both left and right wings for Bridgeport over the first 20 games, moved to the middle for the third period of Saturday’s 3-1 loss at the XL Center, and he stayed at center, between Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, for Sunday’s 4-3 win over Springfield.

He remained there for Tuesday’s practice before Bridgeport visits Springfield on Wednesday night.

“When things weren’t exactly going the way we wanted as far as generating offense, we weren’t winning faceoffs at that time, I thought it was the right time to move him to the middle,” Thompson said. “We needed a big, heavy guy (Koivula is 6-foot-5, 190 pounds) in the middle. He came in and did a good job. The project is going to continue.”

Koivula said he had played a little at center back home in Finland before signing with the New York Islanders and coming over this season at 20 years old.

Stress “a little.”

“I played like three games, four games (for Ilves in Finland’s top league) at centerman. In junior, I played maybe 10 games at centerman,” Koivula said. “So it’s new for me.”

He said he has enjoyed it so far, and playing with Dal Colle and Ho-Sang has been fun.

“(Playing center) is more defense. It’s more skating,” Koivula said. “I like it. I have to skate all the time. For sure, some (defensive)-zone details I have to learn.”

Connor Jones had usually filled that spot between Dal Colle and Ho-Sang through the first quarter of the season, a defensively reliable, experienced centerman, a leader for the youngsters.

Thompson said he’s not worried about putting Koivula there instead, watching the North-American rookie’s confidence grow, and seeing the way he plays in the defensive end.

“With DC (Dal Colle) back, DC’s really reliable. He plays a 200-foot game. He’s smart,” Thompson said. “And Josh is taking steps in the right direction. As a line, I’m confident in those guys.

“Especially, I’ve been really impressed with Otto as far as his down-low play, his awareness defensively, his play away from the puck. I think that’s what inspired me to put him in the middle, because he was winning wall battles. He was strong on the puck. He wasn’t throwing things away, where early in the year he looked a bit cautious, playing safe, wasn’t confident.”

After a quiet first month, Koivula was a force for a couple of weeks, recording seven points in five games. He had two assists on the power play Sunday.

“I think that’s where I’m good at, PP,” Koivula said. “It’s good to score some goals and get some apples (assists).”

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