Zolnierczyk Playing Key Role For Bridgeport, Waiting For His Chance

Thursday, December 11, 2014
Harry Zolnierczyk makes his first trip back to Wilkes-Barre Friday when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers come to town.
Fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night will get to see an old friend when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers take to the ice to face-off against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. It will be former Penguin and current Sound Tigers forward Harry Zolnierczyk's first time back in Wilkes-Barre since signing with the New York Islanders as a free agent over the summer.

"We were kind of discussing my best options to play in the NHL, ultimately, and we thought the Islanders was the best fit for me," Zolnierczyk said in his decision to sign with the Islanders. "Unfortunately, I didn't make it right out of camp and now I'm just trying to work everyday and get myself back up to the NHL. All you can do is control your game down here right now and basically work hard and wait for your opportunity."

Zolnierczyk found himself in a similar situation in Wilkes-Barre last season, starting the season in the AHL with the Penguins. Zolnierczyk actually made his WBS Penguins regular season debut in the Pens' 2013-14 season opener in Bridgeport, where Zolnierczyk tallied two goals in a 5-2 win on October 5th, 2013.

In his first nine games with the Penguins, Zolnierczyk - who came to the Penguins organization labeled as a bottom six energy guy - tallied seven goals.

"I think early on it was important to start kind of proving that I had more to my game than just being an energy guy running around," Zolnierczyk said, adding, "I think I've started to develop a little bit of that."

Zolnierczyk saw some NHL time in Pittsburgh last season, spending 13 games with the NHL club, mostly in December, tallying two goals and an even plus/minus rating. While with the Penguins, he made his mark at the AHL level, helping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to its second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance - a memory that still remains fond to Zolnierczyk to this day.

"That was my first professional playoff run," Zolniercayk recalled of last spring. "I hadn't been in the playoffs in awhile since college. It was nice to kind of get back into that feeling. Siller's [Zach Sill] goal to push us to Game Six there."

"I had a great time in Wilkes and up in Pitt. Lot of great guys down in Wilkes and I miss them this year. It was a great season. A lot of great guys. I saw the Sammy [Samuelsson] trade, hopefully that will be a great opportunity for him," Zolnierczyk said, mentioning he still talks to current Penguins forward and close friend Bobby Farnham on an almost daily basis. On Friday night, they'll be lining up on the opposite sides of the ice.

Despite not making the NHL roster with the Islanders out of camp, Zolnierczyk is putting up solid numbers with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season, leading the team in scoring with 21 points (9G-12A) in 24 games along with former St. John's IceCaps forward Kael Mouillierat. Harry Z is playing in all situations, including both special teams units as well as late in periods or in crucial moments late in one-goal games.

"I've definitely been given a good role and it's allowing my game to develop even more," Zolnierczyk said. "Just trying to keep proving myself that I'm ready for the next step."

For now, Zolnierczyk still brings the hard work mentality he had while with the Penguins last season, hoping that all of his hard work will pay off with a chance to play in the NHL again.

"That's the plan," Zolnierczyk said. "We have a great team down here. Obviously, if the team is doing well that helps. People are coming to watch and you want to be noticeable. For me, I think I need to keep proving myself day in and day out that I can be a consistent player at the next level. I just want to keep going. Keep working hard and ultimately wait for that chance, wherever it may be."


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