FROM THE CREASE with BRUCE BERLET

bruce mug shot 1BY: Bruce Berlet

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers will have a familiar look to Connecticut hockey fans behind the bench this season.

West Haven native Eric Boguniecki was named a Sound Tigers assistant coach on Tuesday under former Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman Brent Thompson.

Boguniecki, 36, begins his coaching career after completing his playing career following the 2009-10 season with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL, where Thompson was coach. The two also played together in the Florida Panthers’ organization for two seasons (1999-2001), and in 2005, Boguniecki had a two-game conditioning assignment in the AHL with Peoria, where Thompson was in his first season as an assistant.

Boguniecki’s addition completes the Sound Tigers staff that also includes Matt Bertani, who returns for his fourth season as an assistant.

A 13-year veteran, including 48 games with the Sound Tigers in 2006-07, Boguniecki was named the AHL’s MVP in 2001-02, when he set career highs with 38 goals and 46 assists for the Worcester IceCats and became the only American-born player to receive the Les Cunningham Award since Eddie Olson in 1953. He followed that with his best NHL season, recording 22 goals and 27 assists as a member of the St. Louis Blues in 2002-03.

Boguniecki had 155 goals and 188 assists in 351 AHL games with Louisville, Worcester, Peoria, Syracuse, Bridgeport and Iowa and was an AHL All-Star in 2000, 2001 and 2002, when he was named to the AHL All-Star First Team. An eighth-round pick by St. Louis in 1993, Boguniecki had 34 goals and 42 assists in 178 NHL games with Florida, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders, the Sound Tigers’ parent club.

The gritty, 5-foot-8, 195-pound Boguniecki played four years at the University of New Hampshire, where his teammates included former Wolf Pack forward/defenseman Todd Hall, who played with Thompson in the first two seasons of the franchise (1997-98 and 1998-99). Bogie began his pro career in 1997-98 with the IHL’s Fort Wayne Komets and ECHL’s Dayton Bombers before having a breakout season in 1999-2000, when he had 33 goals and 42 assists in 57 games with the AHL’s Louisville Panthers and also was scoreless in his first four NHL games with Florida.

Boguniecki had signed a free-agent deal with Panthers on July 7, 1999 but played only the four games with the Panthers before returning to St. Louis in a trade for Andrej Podkonicky. On Dec. 9, 2005, Boguniecki was traded Pittsburgh and had six goals and 10 assists in 38 games before being signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent on Aug. 22, 2006. But he played only six games for their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, before being traded to the Islanders for defenseman Ryan Caldwell on Oct. 25, 2006. He was scoreless in 11 games with the Islanders before returning “home” to play for the Sound Tigers, getting 23 goals and 32 assists in 48 games.

In 2007-08, Boguniecki played for ERC Ingolstadt in the German Elite League and then signed a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks on July 22, 2008. That season, he had 18 goals and 16 assists in 69 games with the Iowa Chops before joining Thompson in Alaska for the 2009-10 season, when he finished his playing career with 19 goals and 28 assists in 51 games.

Boguniecki lived on Cape Cod for awhile and had also been in Connecticut in his first year of retirement, attending some Sound Tigers games while coaching in the Wonderland Wizards Youth Hockey Association in Bridgeport.

Welcome back, Bogie, and look forward to seeing you at the XL Center in Hartford and Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. Now just remember to keep that fiery temper in check behind the bench. Then again, you might have to calm down your boss, Brent, who has been known to get overly excited at times.

FORMER WOLF PACK DEFENSEMAN NAMED CRUNCH ASSISTANT

Former Wolf Pack defenseman Marty Wilford and Brad Lauer were named assistant coaches to Crunch coach Mark Holick.

Wilford, 34, enters the coaching ranks after a 14-year playing career, most recently with Fassa HC in Italy, where he led all team defensemen in scoring with 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) in 39 games.

A native of Cobourg, Ont., Wilford was a sixth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1995. He had 47 goals and 228 assists in 539 AHL games with the Wolf Pack, Norfolk, St. John’s (Maple Leafs), Milwaukee, Manchester and Iowa (Stars) from 2000-07. He had two assists in nine regular-season games with the Wolf Pack in 2002 and then added three goals, including two overtime winners, and three assists in 10 playoff games.

Lauer, 44, spent the last two seasons as an assistant with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, helping lead the club to a 44-32-6 record and 94 points to secure a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference during the 2009-10 season. He previously spent two seasons as an assistant with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals from 2007-09. He helped the Admirals to a West Division title in the 2008-09 season after the club had a 49-22-3-6 record, which tied for the AHL lead with 107 points.

Lauer’s coaching career began with a five-year stint in the Western Hockey League as an assistant with the Kootenay Ice from 2002-07. During his time with the Ice, the Ice had more than 100 points twice and won 40 games three times.

Lauer played in parts of 16 professional seasons from 1986-2002, including 323 NHL games with the Islanders, Senators, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins. He also played with the Springfield Indians (1988-90) and Capital District Islanders (1990-91) in the AHL. A native of Humboldt, Sask., Lauer was a second-round pick of the Islanders in 1985.

AHL ADDS TWO TO FRONT OFFICE

Joe Banach and Kristen Krasinskas have been named marketing services coordinators for the AHL and are responsible for executing the league’s marketing initiatives and providing support to the marketing department.

A 2011 graduate of Springfield College with a degree in sports management, Banach recently served as an intern for Kroenke Sports Enterprises in Denver, assisting the organization’s marketing staff with sponsorship proposals and the implementation of in-game sponsorship elements. Banach previously interned in the AHL office and with the NBA Development League’s Springfield Armor and the Connecticut Defenders of the Eastern Baseball League.

Krasinskas is also a former AHL intern and sports management major at Springfield College. She has spent the two years as a member of the school’s athletic department event staff, responsible for game-day needs, including operations, ticket sales, hospitality and promotions. She also was a field marketing representative for the Dew Tour in Boston, working for the Chicago-based company AlliSports.

Welcome aboard, Joe and Kristen, and look forward to seeing you at a Whale game.

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