by Kimber Auerbach
Skating with a fog-covered face shield at the Sound Tigers morning skate before their trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for Game One of their seven-game series against the Penguins, Bruno Gervais is staying after practice to work with assistant coach Lane Lambert.
In his second season with the Sound Tigers, it isn’t as if he hasn’t had enough ice time to stay after practice and continue to work. Gervais has played for the Sound Tigers in 55 games this season collecting 16 goals and 25 assists while also playing for the Sound Tigers’ NHL affiliate, the New York Islanders, in 27 games recording three goals and four assists.
“He has great talent and ability. To work with all of those pieces he brings, it was only a matter of time until he made the NHL,” Lambert said. “He stays after almost every practice to work on things and tries to absorb as much he can like a sponge.”
Gervais says the experience of playing for both the Sound Tigers and the Islanders is one he would not trade.
“This season has been full of ups and downs, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them,” Gervais said. “We had a slow start in Bridgeport but then we got things going and when we started playing really well, I was sent up to the Islanders.”
With the Islanders clinging to their playoff hopes when Gervais arrived on Long Island, he made it a point to transfer his work ethic over from Bridgeport to the big club.
“I’ve learned a whole lot from guys like Joel Bouchard, (Islanders head coach) Brad Shaw and (Islanders assistant) Dan Bylsma, like how to play the game, see the game, think during the game, what to look for, getting to know your players and opposing players,” Gervais said.
When Islanders playoff hopes were mathematically eliminated by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gervais and his teammates, many of whom were brought up from the Sound Tigers, took full opportunity of their chance to compete in the NHL everyday.
“Personally I couldn’t show up to a game with a bad attitude just because weren’t going to make the playoffs,” Gervais said. “I looked at it as, I’m in the NHL and every game is an opportunity to showcase my talents with my teammates and to learn more about the league.”
Over the course of the season, 21 players wore both the Sound Tigers and Islanders jerseys. One of those players, Ryan Caldwell, got the call from the Islanders to come and play in his first NHL game and felt no added pressure since most of his Sound Tigers teammates made up most of the Islanders line-up.
“It was good playing my first game with the Islanders and being paired with Bruno,” Caldwell said. “We played together before and having played with him for about three years now, it has made it easier. If you have a partner out there that you’ve played with before, it makes you more comfortable playing the same game, just with better players.”
Gervais, who became a mainstay on the Islanders blue line throughout the latter course of the season, has made sure his priorities are straight and not let the success of being in the NHL go to his head.
“The most important thing is I want to have my name on the Calder Cup and then down the road the Stanley Cup,” Gervais said. “I come in every day and work hard and want to be remembered as a player who gave his all, no matter the score…a winner.”
With the playoffs underway, and all the ice time that Gervais has logged this season, the hope is that he can lead the Sound Tigers deep into the playoffs.
“I couldn’t sleep (last) night, it was almost like the first day of school all over again,” Gervais said. “It’s really exciting around playoff time, and now with all these new guys here, we have to make it work quickly. We can’t afford to take two or three games to get used to each other.”