sound tigers NHL veterans help Sound Tigers top Hartford in OT
BRIDGEPORT — Otto Koivula has played with and against some pretty good hockey players, but one of his new Bridgeport Sound Tigers teammates made an impression Saturday.
The New York Islanders sent veteran defenseman Thomas Hickey and veteran winger Andrew Ladd down for a conditioning stint after they lost long stretches to injury this season.
“I was shocked when Ladd came here and started to talk to me. I was, like, sweating,” said Koivula, a rookie forward, just 20. “He’s an NHL player, and it was a fun moment. It was exciting.”
They all contributed to Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime win over the Hartford Wolf Pack at Webster Bank Arena. Ladd and Hickey each scored a goal, and Koivula won it with 6.9 seconds left in overtime.
“We have to win the games this weekend, so it’s huge to have those guys,” Koivula said.
Ladd, 33, hadn’t played since Nov. 13 with a lower-body injury. Hickey, 30, had been out since Dec. 17 with an upper-body injury.
“I think I got better every period. There’s just a little bit of rust that builds up over time,” Hickey said. “I thought I continued to shake it off the further we went. I got my air back, too, by the end of it.”
This was Hickey’s first minor-league game since the Islanders claimed him off waivers from Los Angeles in January 2013. It was Ladd’s first since Dec. 14, 2007, when he scored a goal for the Albany River Rats against the Lowell Devils, two cities no longer in the AHL.
(So Ladd has a two-game AHL goal-scoring streak; only took him 11 years to do it.)
“It takes a little bit just to get the rhythm of the game, get back used to forechecking, D-zone, all that stuff,” said Ladd, a veteran of 934 NHL games.
“It comes back pretty quick, just trying to focus on the details of the game. For me it’s just touch the puck, feel the puck, getting back in the groove, and then conditioning, getting up and down the ice. Hopefully it keeps getting better from here.”
Bridgeport fell behind by a goal in all three periods, and tied it before the period was out three times. Ladd tipped in Yannick Rathgeb’s setup in the first. Josh Ho-Sang, led by Ladd out of the defensive zone, created a breakaway for himself and scored in the second.
And Hickey’s left-point shot through traffic found its way past Brandon Halverson in the third.
“(It was) just good to have their poise. They’re just a calming force on the bench. Their leadership is outstanding,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said.
“Their work ethic was good. They were seamless with the systems, as far as understanding. They’re two really, really smart hockey players. That’s why they’ve been in the NHL as long as they have.”
Attendance was 4,304.
Thompson said earlier in the week that the Sound Tigers would rotate players this weekend, and indeed, every healthy player who sat out Friday’s overtime loss at Lehigh Valley played on Saturday. Kieffer Bellows was a healthy scratch for the first time. Bridgeport also scratched Matt Lorito and John Stevens, two players recently returned from long-term injuries.
Thompson said the staff would discuss the lineup for Sunday’s home game against Charlotte later Saturday.
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SOUND TIGERS 4,
WOLF PACK 3 (OT)
HARTFORD1 1 1 0—3
BRIDGEPORT1 1 1 1—4
First Period — 1, Hartford, Lettieri 14 (Holland, Beleskey), 13:35 (pp). 2, Bridgeport, Ladd 1 (Rathgeb, Wotherspoon), 17:20. Penalties — Burroughs, Bpt (roughing), 13:05; Leedahl, Hfd (high-sticking), 19:44.
Second Period — 3, Hartford, Fogarty 13 (Lindgren, Day), :58. 4, Bridgeport, Ho-Sang 3 (Ladd, Aho), 17:52. Penalties — Koivula, Bpt (interference), :27; St. Denis, Bpt (interference), 4:14; Day, Hfd (tripping), 6:40.
Third Period — 5, Hartford, Gettinger 11 (Lindgren, Gropp), :17. 6, Bridgeport, Hickey 1 (Burroughs, Bernier), 3:30. Penalties — Helgeson, Bpt (cross-checking), 4:01.
Overtime — 7, Bridgeport, Koivula 17 (C.Bourque, Aho), 4:53. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Hartford 3-12-10-4—28. Bridgeport 8-8-7-1—24.
Power play opportunities — Hartford 1 of 4, Bridgeport 0 of 2.
Goaltenders — Hartford, Halverson 2-2-1 (24 shots-20 saves). Bridgeport, Gibson 15-9-4 (28-25).
Attendance — 4,304. Referees — Normandin, Nichol. Linesmen — K.Briganti, Kiriakos.