Sound Tigers banking on money goalies

by Rick Cohen || AHL On The Beat Archive

When Scott Munroe signed with the New York Islanders last summer, he knew that playing time was going to be at a premium. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers had AHL All-Rookie goaltender Nathan Lawson already in place.

However, the platoon hasn’t affected Munroe at all.

Together, Munroe and Lawson have combined to allow the second-fewest goals of any team in the Atlantic Division. Both goaltenders have a goals-against average in the top 15 in the league and each has had multiple 40-save games. Together the two men have combined to create one of the top goaltending tandems in the American Hockey League.

A mainstay in the net for Bridgeport last season, Lawson earned AHL All-Rookie team honors in 2008-09. He played in 31 games for the Sound Tigers last season, posting a 2.16 GAA and two shutouts.

While Lawson had become accustomed to splitting time, Munroe was a workhorse the last four years with the Philadelphia Phantoms. He played in 56 games for the Phantoms last season and played in a total of 76 games the two years before that. But to Munroe that has been the easiest part of his adjustment to life in Bridgeport.

“It’s been a change since I was with Philadelphia my whole career,” Munroe said. “The biggest difference was that it was a whole new group of players and coaches to get to know. Everything was new.”

With as close knit as the goaltending brethren is, it’s no surprise that Munroe credits Lawson as one of the Sound Tigers who have helped his transition to life in Bridgeport.

“Nathan is easy to get along with,” Munroe said. “He had a great year last year so I knew when I came here that playing time was going to be at a premium. I think we have one of the best goaltending tandems in the league. We’ve definitely been able to steal a few games.”

“They have different personalities and I think that helps them get along,” Sound Tigers head coach Jack Capuano said. “They support each other.”

With the condensed schedule of the American Hockey League, having two quality goaltenders is essential. Capuano has played his two goaltenders in a nearly split rotation.

“The rotation wasn’t a set thing going into the season,” Capuano said. “It’s based on merit and both guys have earned it with their work ethic and hard work in practice.”

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“Having two good goalies is crucial in this league,” Munroe said. “The schedule is grueling and you never know what can happen so staying sharp is key.”

Munroe has had three games in which he made at least 40 saves. On Nov. 13, he celebrated a homecoming of sorts as he made 49 saves against his old team, the Adirondack Phantoms. He helped the Sound Tigers earn one point in that game, as Bridgeport lost in a shootout. Munroe also made 41 saves in a shootout win at Abbotsford on Nov. 21, and followed that game with a 39-save shutout win over Lowell on Nov. 27.

Munroe played some of his best hockey during December, when he went 3-1-1 with a 1.92 GAA. Munroe’s busiest night was on Dec. 18 in Providence when he made 41 saves in a 3-1 Sound Tigers win. He followed that up with a 2-0 shutout of Springfield on Dec. 20 in which he stopped 22 Falcons shots. After that 63-save weekend, Munroe earned Reebok/AHL Player of the Week honors, becoming the first Sound Tiger to win the award since the end of the 2007-08 season.

“The game at Providence was a solid performance for me,” Munroe said. “Of course, it was nice to have a big game in Adirondack against my old team.”

Lawson’s biggest performance was a 47-save outing in the first game of Bridgeport’s Abbotsford trip on Nov. 20. On Dec. 15, he made 26 saves in a shutout of Portland at Harbor Yard. Lawson stopped 39 Wolf Pack shots in a 3-2 shootout victory over Hartford at home on the day after Christmas.

“Scott and Nathan have been the backbone of our team,” Capuano said. “When you have as a young team as we do having solid goaltending is even more important.”

As the second half of the season begins, Munroe is looking forward to making a playoff push with the Sound Tigers.

“When you play as many one-goal games as we have early in the season, it bodes well for later in the season. The games get tighter late in the season and in the playoffs.”

Scoring some more goals would be a luxury Lawson and Munroe might appreciate but don’t necessarily expect.

“Obviously we’d like to score a few more goals for them,” Capuano said. “But with as young a team as we have I don’t think we are going to score seven goals most nights.”

In the tightly packed Atlantic Division, the playoff race is almost assured to go down to the season’s final weekend. With two solid goaltenders in the fold, the Sound Tigers should be in the middle of the race right to the end.