Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Brett Connolly matures at world junior championship

Lightning rookie wing Brett Connolly, going against Finland’s Miro Hovinen in Canada’s world junior championship bronze-medal win, says he loved playing on a checking line, something new for him.

Getty Images

Lightning rookie wing Brett Connolly, going against Finland’s Miro Hovinen in Canada’s world junior championship bronze-medal win, says he loved playing on a checking line, something new for him.

MONTREAL — Lightning rookie Brett Connolly said he learned a lot from his confidence-building experience with Canada at the world junior championship, calling it a time "I'll never forget."

The most memorable moment for Connolly, along with the rest of his country, was the semi­final against Russia on Tuesday. The Canadians made a stunning third-period comeback from 6-1 down before losing 6-5.

"It got out of hand for a bit, but in the second intermission we took a deep breath and said, 'We can either fold up the tent or come out and do something special,' " Connolly said. "And we almost did that. It was a very character effort by all the guys."

It was Connolly's character, more than his five goals in the tournament, that general manager Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher appeared most proud. The 19-year-old wing bounced back after a rocky start to help lead Canada to the bronze medal with a 4-0 win over Finland on Thursday.

Connolly drew criticism for comments he made at the team selection camp, calling it "bittersweet" to go from the NHL to the world juniors. He then was challenged by coaches to give more effort and be more physical, and the assistant captain was put on a checking line.

Connolly ended up loving that role, saying playing against the opposing team's top lines will only help him defensively in the NHL. But it was initially a shock, especially because he is a top-six forward with the Lightning.

"When you go to a tournament like that, coming back from the NHL, you want to be on the first power-play unit, want to be on the first (penalty kill), want to be out there all the time," he said. "That didn't happen from the start. I think for me, once that happened, I checked my ego at the door right away. When I got there at the start … I could have handled it a little better."

Connolly acknowledged that he "wasn't good enough" on the first day of camp and the first few days were difficult. His hit on wing Quinton Howden during an intrasquad game knocked Howden out of the lineup with what was reported to be concussion symptoms.

But Yzerman said Connolly showed maturity and unselfish­ness from then on, "kept his mouth shut" and played his role while under scrutiny. Connolly had six points in five games and asserted himself in a leadership role. He hopes he can carry that over to Tampa Bay, where he jumped right on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Dominic Moore on Saturday night against the Canadiens.

"I thought he showed incredible character," Boucher said. "We heard that when it was 6-1 (Russia), he was the first guy to stand up in the third period, saying it wasn't over. … What I liked was his drive, dedication to doing the details of a winner. That's what we're asking of him."

Connolly entered Saturday with four goals and four assists in 28 NHL games after earning a roster spot out of training camp. Boucher said the Lightning doesn't want to change him or put more pressure on him, "just do what he was already doing before."

Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Brett Connolly matures at world junior championship 01/07/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 7, 2012 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After state, academics will trump athletics for King ace Brian Lee

    Baseballpreps

    TAMPA — Brian Lee can still see himself on the pitcher's mound at Venice High School. Four years ago he was a freshman left-handed reliever just trying to keep King's state championship dreams alive.

    Pitcher Brian Lee participates in a practice at King High in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, May 26, 2017.
  2. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  3. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside

    Outdoors

    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  4. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win

    Blogs

    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  5. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez ready to start a day after closing game

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound to finish Sunday's 15-inning marathon win over the Twins and will start tonight's game against the Rangers.

    The Rays’ Erasmo Ramirez throws 12 pitches in the 15th inning against the Twins to earn the save then says after the game that he’s ready to make his scheduled start against the Rangers: “My arm feels good.”