Twarynski back in AHL after quick detour

Photo: Mike Zitek

Patrick Williams, Features Writer

Carsen Twarynski wanted back in.

After a career-best 17-goal season and a trip to the Calder Cup Finals, it would have seemed a given for Twarynski to secure another AHL opportunity.

Instead, that chance never came. The months passed by, and Twarynski kept waiting. By the end of September, he could not sit by any longer and he joined the Vienna Capitals of the ICE Hockey League.

After five AHL seasons – three with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and two as a Seattle Kraken prospect in Charlotte and Coachella Valley – and at 25 years old, Twarynski found himself having to make the move to Europe.

“It was tough,” Twarynski said of his summer. “I thought that Europe could be in play in a handful of years, but for it to happen that early really was a little unexpected. That could have made the transition a little more difficult.

“I was surprised. I thought I had probably the best season pro I’ve had in terms of consistency and stats and opportunity that I was given in Coachella.”

On the ice, Twarynski continued to produce and provided 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 27 games with Vienna. But he wanted to be back in North America, though he admitted to having misgivings about leaving a team midseason.

Meanwhile the Bridgeport Islanders had their own issues to sort out. Veteran forward Tanner Fritz left the team in December to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. Someone capable of producing 15-20 goals in a full AHL season would certainly fit a need for Bridgeport, especially with the club stuck at 31st in the AHL scoring just 2.40 goals per game.

So with Bridgeport having a roster opening, the two sides found a fit. Twarynski signed a contract with Bridgeport on Jan. 8 that will take him through the rest of this season.

Coming back to North America is an opportunity “to be where I think I belong,” Twarynski explained.

To be sure, there is plenty of work to do for the Islanders. The standings say as much. Last overall with a record of 10-21-4-0 entering Monday’s matinee against Hershey, Bridgeport has a 16-point gap to close to reach the Atlantic Division playoff line. All but eight of Bridgeport’s remaining games this season are within the division, creating plenty of head-to-head opportunities to cut through the standings.

Twarynski, who played 22 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers after they took him in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft, believes that he can be part of the solution.

For one, he has been through the rigors of Calder Cup Playoff action, helping the Firebirds to within one goal of a championship last June. For a Bridgeport team that is trying to instill a winning feeling, the lessons that Twarynski can bring are invaluable.

“You learn a lot,” Twarynski said of last postseason’s run in Coachella Valley. “It’s a lot of playoff experience. Something I take away from that was the camaraderie within our team. The players, coaching staff, everyone involved, it was a very fun atmosphere to be at the rink every day. And when you go through those types of moments, those connections and those relationships only get stronger.

“Just going the distance, going through all those battles, all the travel… It’s a lot that I’m thankful for. It definitely brings guys closer together.”

Twarynski fits on the Bridgeport roster as someone who can connect its older and younger sides, able to speak up and add a vocal presence to the dressing room.

“I think I’ve grown in terms of being more of a vocal guy and a leader,” Twarynski explained. “I’m hoping to bring some depth and some energy. I’m a big guy. I’m physical. I’ve got a good shot. I can play up and down the lineup. I’m hoping to bring some depth to this team, bring some good spirits, some good energy, and help them play well.

“I’m excited and ready to get back home.”