Sound Tigers confident in defensive depth
BRIDGEPORT — In 24 hours this weekend, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers lost two defensemen, Kyle Burroughs to injury and Adam Pelech to their parent club, the New York Islanders.
Bridgeport had six defensemen, the usual minimum, on the ice for Monday’s practice at Webster Bank Arena. It will surely bring at least one or two in by its next game, Friday at Syracuse.
But the six that remained have the confidence of their coach.
“I’ve felt comfortable with the group we’ve had all year,” Brent Thompson said. “The guys out and in the lineup, I don’t care. They made the team. They earned the right to be here in this locker room.”
And the two of those six who had been used the lightest, Patrick Cullity and Loic Leduc, earned praise from Thompson as two of few bright spots in Saturday’s 7-1 loss to league-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“Being an older guy, you kind of get used to waiting for your chance,” said Cullity, 29.
“Sitting is tough sometimes, but it’s nice to get some games under me. I felt a bit more confident than I did my first game in Hershey.”
Saturday was only Cullity’s second game out of Bridgeport’s first 10, and only the third for Leduc.
Leduc led the Sound Tigers with five shots on goal, which was a stunner: With urging from the coaching staff, that was the most he’d ever put on net in 99 pro games, his most in almost four years, since he was an 18-year-old in junior hockey in Quebec.
“I’ve got a pretty long stick and a good shot,” the 6-foot-7 Leduc said. “I’ve got to use it.”
Thompson wants Leduc to keep it simple on offense, and he loves Cullity’s hard-nosed edge on defense.
“I know what I’m going to get,” Thompson said of Cullity.
Keeping that consistency may be a smidgen easier because they were here last year, contributors to Bridgeport’s playoff team. But they still had to find ways to stay sharp.
“It’s staying consistent in practice, in game-like situations,” Cullity said.
Leduc credited the coaching staff, keeping him working.
“The coaches have done a great job, and Zack (Yannes), our strength and conditioning coach,” Leduc said.
“I’ve got to be fresh and stay focused.”
After Travis Hamonic suffered an upper-body injury Saturday night that will keep him out 4-6 weeks, Bridgeport took the unusual step Saturday of sitting Pelech in the third period. That the Penguins quickly turned a 6-1 lead into 7-1, no doubt, helped make the unusual decision more straightforward.
“For sure it was tough for us, but we’ve got to work hard. We play them again in two weeks,” Leduc said.
Both the Islanders and Sound Tigers will be on the road this upcoming weekend, so rosters could remain in flux with both teams looking for depth. Bridgeport has four defensemen under contract playing with Missouri (ECHL).
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