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Bridgeport’s smaller players making big impact

by John Kaywood | AHL On The Beat

It was by no means official, however for years, enjoying professional hockey appeared to come back with a peak requirement.

The recreation has modified over the previous decade and a trio of Sound Tigers – Connor Jones(5’9), Travis St. Denis(5’7) and Stephen Gionta (5’7) – live proof. All three are 5’9 and below, however they don’t let their peak outline their recreation.

“You look at the game now and everyone can skate and move pretty well, whether you’re 5’6 or 6’6,” Jones stated. “I’m a pretty big believer in size doesn’t matter as long as you work hard and you can out-battle anybody.”

Jones has a career-high eight targets throughout his fourth season within the AHL and is a staple on Bridgeport’s penalty kill resulting from his work ethic and motor. St. Denis, Jones’ former faculty teammate at Quinnipiac University, can also be having a breakout 12 months, main the Sound Tigers in targets (23) and factors (44). Both are career-highs and double his output from final season.

St. Denis’ largest recreation got here final month, because the Trail, B.C, native had a five-point efficiency (3G, 2A) on March 15 in opposition to the Rochester Americans – one among simply 5 Sound Tigers to ever document that many factors in a single contest.

For St. Denis, hockey sense can beat out dimension.

“I think it’s all about finding those quiet areas where not many teams defend,” St. Denis stated. “Couple that hockey IQ and always thinking out there is huge for success.”

And simply because Jones, Gionta and St. Denis are on the small aspect doesn’t imply they play that approach. All three nonetheless play bodily video games and even when they don’t produce highlight-reel hits, aren’t afraid to battle.

Gionta, the veteran of the group with 296 NHL video games, seen the turning level when the AHL and NHL started to have a good enjoying area for the smaller skater.

“Since the lockout they kind of changed the rules to allow hockey to become more of a speed game,” Gionta stated. “It helps tremendously. I can use skating as an advantage to getting in and out of there versus the bigger bodies.”

One person who has been the usual bearer for these shorter hockey players, who dominated in opposition to the larger our bodies for years, is Martin St. Louis. Listed at 5’eight, 180 lbs., St. Louis scored 1,033 factors within the NHL, gained two scoring titles, an MVP award, and a Stanley Cup.

“I wore number 26 in juniors and college pretty much because of him,” St. Denis stated. “He worked hard every single night and was a key factor on every team he played for.”

Gionta echoed the identical sentiments about St. Louis, but additionally had others in thoughts.

“It was always great watching Muggsy Bogues dunk the basketball at 5-foot-3,” Gionta stated. “Also growing up, I was watching Theo Fleury and my brother (Brian), my brother being one of those guys that has paved the way for smaller players.”

As a matter of truth rising up, hockey was not the one sport that Gionta and Jones participated in.

“I was a baseball player growing up and I had a chance to play in college,” Jones stated. “Some days I think about batting leadoff and playing second base, but things have definitely worked out for the best.”

The message to children on the market who’re uncertain if they need to give hockey a shot is an easy one.

“The way the game is today, more smaller guys are making the next level,” St. Denis stated. “The first thing obviously is you got to have fun. Growing up as kids you just have fun out there and enjoy it.”

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