For most of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers roster, this was just another game in just another disappointing season. However, for two young members on the AHL affiliate to the New York Islanders squad, this was much more than just another night on the ice.
At only 21 years old, Stephon Williams already has quite an impressive resume. The fresh-out-of-college goalie led Minnesota State to its second straight WCHA conference championship and the top seed in the NCAA tournament. His 1.65 goals against average was second-best in the nation, earning him the title of WCHA Goaltending Champion, and a spot on the WCHA Second All-Star Team. But now, Williams can add a prestigious bullet point to his stacked resume: starting goalie for a professional hockey team.
Williams, who was just signed to a two year, entry level contract with the Islanders just two days ago, got the nod to start between the pipes for the Sound Tigers, the team he will stay with for the remainder of the season on an amateur tryout contract.
But Williams was playing like he was already signed to a full contract. As far as the fans could tell, Williams showed no signs of nervousness, coolly saving every shot the visiting Syracuse Crunch sent his way throughout the first two periods, before the Crunch finally capitalized on a scoring chance 3:50 into the final period. Not long after, the visitors struck again, tying it up 7:30 into the third period, and shaking the rookie up a bit in the process.
Williams wasn’t going to let a couple of mistakes spoil his professional debut, though. Despite the fact that he was still playing college hockey just last month, Williams still showed resilience in what was a tough transition, performing strong in the cage to preserve a 3-2 Sound Tigers win and earn his first career win in his first career start, saving 30 of 32 shots.
“Naturally, it’s a lot more competitive, the guys are rougher, but I think I was ready for it. I’m just glad I was able to prove that I belong on this team.”
Right wing Colin Markison also made his pro debut tonight. Straight from the University of Vermont to Bridgeport, the twenty-two year old signed an amateur tryout contract with the Sound Tigers in late March. His first appearance was two minutes into the first period, but it was short-lived, as he was taken out after just two minutes of playing time. Markison had multiple short stints on the ice, performing mostly as an enforcer with limited contact with the puck, but he showed the same hustle and relaxed attitude seen in Williams.
While playoffs are out of the question for the Sound Tigers, their late season additions could prove to be fruitful assets in the future.