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SOUND TIGERS All-star Donovan aiming to get back to NHL

January 31, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — After two years playing hockey in Sweden, former Bridgeport Sound Tigers defenseman Matt Donovan came back across the Atlantic in the summer with a goal.

“It was kind of a give-it-one-more-shot kind of thing,” Donovan said of signing with the Milwaukee Admirals, whom he represented as an AHL all-star this week.

“I wasn’t ready to give up the dream of playing in the NHL again. I still think I’m capable of that and making another step to get there.”

If he hasn’t gotten there yet, he has made himself an option.

Donovan was among the AHL’s top-scoring defensemen when he signed a two-year contract with the Nashville Predators, Milwaukee’s parent team, in November. He has remained with the Admirals.

“Signing with Nashville was a ‘they’ve always liked me’ kind of thing,” Donovan said. “They’ve always had interest in me. They stepped up to the plate and put down some numbers. We jumped at it and figured it was going to be the best opportunity for me to showcase my skills and what I can do.

“Nashville has a bunch of offensive defensemen, so we knew they liked offensive defensemen. So here we are.”

Donovan has 10 goals for the Admirals midway through the season, fourth among AHL defensemen. Seven of those have come on the power play, second behind Rochester’s Zach Redmond’s nine.

In Monday’s All-Star Classic, a three-on-three tournament among the league’s four divisions, he scored a nifty goal on a breakaway, shooting between his legs, then nearly did it again soon after.

His Admirals sit fourth in the Central Division, and he’s enjoying his time in Milwaukee under the Admirals’ new coach, Karl Taylor, who’d been an assistant with the Texas Stars.

“It’s his first head coaching AHL job. He’s been great,” Donovan said, “a really good coach with good assistants. The owners are awesome. We get treated really well.”

The Donovans are living right outside the city. Dean, almost 3, is in school part-time, and Hallie is due with their second child in about a month and a half.

Even in the all-star event, he’s still wearing the No. 46 that landed on his back (it was, at the time, the lowest number no Sound Tiger had ever worn) when he arrived in Bridgeport for the last few games of 2010-11.

He was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team the next season, and his 119 points over parts of four seasons in Bridgeport are second among defensemen in team history, four behind former teammate Aaron Ness. He played 67 games for the New York Islanders, becoming the first born-and-trained Oklahoman to make it to the NHL.

“I talked about the coaching staff in Milwaukee: We had great coaches (in Bridgeport). Tommer’s still there. Bogy was awesome,” Donovan said, referring to head coach Brent Thompson and assistant Eric Boguniecki.

“I love those guys. I mean, every guy that plays for those guys loves them. Leni was there — is he up now?” Equipment manager Leni DiCostanzo is, indeed, on the Islanders’ staff now. “Leni, yeah, they were great. They helped me get to the NHL. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

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