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Expectations high as Dal Colle starts second season

October 4, 2017 GMT

BRIDGEPORT — The start of this season hasn’t quite gone according to plan. Expectations were higher.

“The defense right now is struggling,” Michael Dal Colle said after Bridgeport Sound Tigers practice, asked what’s wrong with his beloved New England Patriots. “They’re struggling with their communication.”

He’s confident they’ll be all right, but “it’s a big game Thursday night. They can’t go to 2-3.”

It’s a big year for Dal Colle, too, a highly regarded prospect in the New York Islanders organization who’s working toward joining his buddy and former linemate Josh Ho-Sang in the NHL.

His production last year had its ups and downs, but he felt it was a steady year in general. He knew in the spring that this would be an important summer. He’s still listed at last year’s 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, but he said he added about seven pounds of muscle.

“We’ve got really high expectations,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “We’re going to lean on him to create offense.

“He’s going to be a big piece of the team, especially on the offensive side.”

Dal Colle, the fifth pick in the 2014 NHL draft, just missed the AHL’s top 20 in rookie scoring last year. He finished with 41 points, including 15 goals.

“Being around older guys, guys in their 30s with children running around,” Dal Colle said, “it was a way different environment than junior. You’re playing with peers your own age, or even younger in my last year. That’s a big change, but the guys were unbelievable in the room.”

He had a stretch with one goal in 30 games, scratched in the middle of that drought for the only game he missed last year, but he came back with a six-game scoring streak.

Flashes were there. There was a late-season night in Allentown, for instance, where he took it to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, a force, and he picked up a goal and an assist, too.

“A guy coming out of junior, he’d never really had to play that hard, edgier game. The puck just came right to him,” Thompson said.

The two words Thompson comes back to with Dal Colle are “pace” and “assertiveness,” both when he has the puck and when he doesn’t.

“Pace has always been the thing for me,” Dal Colle said. “To be a good player at this level, you can’t take a shift off. If you’re a step behind, you miss maybe the one chance to score that game.”

Actually, add one more Thompson word about Dal Colle: “coachable.” He said Dal Colle is a reliable player in his own zone, and that he has seen improvement from Dal Colle every year since they met.

Thompson liked Dal Colle’s NHL camp, which was cut short by a groin injury. Dal Colle said he’s fine now as the Sound Tigers prepare for Saturday’s season opener at Binghamton.

Veteran forwards Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier cleared waivers on Tuesday to come to Bridgeport and were already in town, taking a skate on their own at Webster Bank Arena after practice.

Bridgeport hadn’t announced it, but the ECHL’s transactions report said Kellen Jones has been sent to Worcester (ECHL). That leaves the Sound Tigers with 16 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies.

Tryout winger Yanick Turcotte tweeted that he had signed with the Sound Tigers, confirming a Quebec Hebdo report.

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