Numbers don’t lie, but Terry still puts Islanders first

Photo: Bridgeport Islanders

📝 Alan Fuehring | AHL On The Beat

Chris Terry has accumulated 595 points in his American Hockey League career.

One more, and he’ll pass Trent Whitfield for sole possession of 50th place in league history.

But the only figure Terry is focused on right now is 18, the number of games left in the Bridgeport Islanders’ regular season.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Terry laughed when asked about how far he’s climbed up the AHL’s statistical ladder. “Honestly, I’ll look back at the end of my career and find out all of that. I think winning and playing the best to your ability within your role is what it’s all about. Points and records and stats kind of take care of themselves.”

It’s exactly the mindset that Bridgeport head coach Brent Thompson and the Islanders (21-24-5-4, .472) need as they look to leap over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (23-23-3-4, .500) for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. There are seven weeks remaining in Bridgeport’s regular season, which concludes Apr. 23.

Results have been trending upward, as the Islanders have won three of their last four games to draw within a whisker of the cutoff. Thompson connected Terry on a line with another veteran, Andy Andreoff, and 20-year-old New York Islanders prospect Simon Holmstrom near the end of February, and the trio combined for 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in those three wins.

One play in particular this past weekend showed how dangerous the Islanders can be, as they earned a critical 4-2 victory against the Penguins on Saturday. Holmstrom led Terry into open ice for a 2-on-1 rush midway through the first period and Terry found Andreoff in stride for a one-time finish. It was Terry’s 595th AHL point and his 10th during a recent six-game scoring streak. It also pushed Andreoff’s point streak at home to nine games (eight goals, five assists), the AHL’s third-longest active streak.

But who did they praise afterwards?

Holmstrom – who extended his career high in assists (17) and points (24) during his third pro season.

“It’s the trait of a good leader – don’t take the credit but go out there and play the game the right way and good things will happen, put the team first,” Thompson said. “It is exactly what you get with Chris and so many of our veterans. Seth (Helgeson), Andy (Andreoff), Cole Bardreau. I could go on.”

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Terry, a five-time AHL All-Star now in his 13th professional season, has changed his mindset over the years. He wishes a few things were clearer at the start of his journey that he knows now.

The biggest one?

“That I didn’t need X amount of points to be called up,” said Terry, who played 152 NHL games with Carolina and Montreal from 2013-17. “It’s so hard to understand when you’re younger. I couldn’t understand that for many of those early years, I was always near the top of the team in scoring, and not getting a call-up.

“Now that I’m older, I realize it’s all about the role that needs to be called up, the role they need you to play,” he continued. “Look throughout the NHL, the guys that maybe get under 30 points a season, the amount of money they make because of what they bring to the table that has nothing to do with scoring. It’s about everything else they bring to the team.”

Roles differ, but Terry knows that his leans heavy on the offensive side, at 5-on-5 and on the power play. It goes hand-in-hand with scoring, which is how he’s recorded 252 career AHL goals (39th all-time) and currently leads the Islanders in goals (19) and points (43) through 45 appearances.

He won the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL’s scoring champion in 2017-18, putting up 71 points (32 goals, 39 assists) in 62 games with Laval.

“At the end of the day, winning a championship is what we all want,” Terry said. “But that’s a general answer. You need to break that down. Right now, we’re in the battle of our lives to get into the playoffs. So that’s all I’m looking at.

“How can we get into playoffs?” he asked. “Well, we win, right? And I think it correlates to this question ― what can each person to do help this team win? For me, a lot of nights it’s offensive threats, whether I score or not, it’s being a threat and continuing momentum.”

The Islanders are gearing up for their sixth three-in-three series of the season this weekend, and the playoff push doesn’t get any easier with matchups against the Hershey Bears and division-leading Providence Bruins. Bridgeport also has two games remaining against the Penguins and three against the eighth-place Lehigh Valley Phantoms (18-23-7-3, .451) in April, which could be extremely meaningful.

So while Terry continues to rack up points and will soon become the 48th player to reach 600 in AHL history, all he’s focused on right now is winning down the stretch.

“I think the biggest message is desperation. We don’t have games to throw away. There’s no other team that works harder in practice, has worked harder in practice, and I think it’s starting to show. Let’s hold ourselves accountable to play at the ability we’re capable of.”