Former Beaver Valley Nitehawks forward Connor Jones made his NHL debut on Sunday with the New York Islanders, in what was an impressive, if not surreal experience.
“It was unbelievable,” Jones told Newsday following the game. “In warm-ups, you’re out there, seeing all the fans, everybody, just that amount of people watching you — it’s the stuff you only see on TV. I enjoyed it for a little bit, then it was time to get to work.”
Jones signed a two-way (NHL-AHL) deal through the remainder of the season on Feb. 22 and after injury to Islander forward John Tavares, the Bridgeport Sound Tiger centerman was given the call up on Friday.
Jones played on 18 shifts and 11 minutes and 13 seconds in a 4-2 Islanders victory over the Buffalo Sabres, and the 26-year-old Montrose native came very close to registering his first NHL point. Jones appeared to touch the puck to Nick Leddy who then head-manned it to Cal Clutterbuck for the opening goal of the game, but Jones was not awarded an assist on the play. Then the former Quinnipiac University Bobcat almost notched his first NHL goal, but missed the empty net twice in the final minute.
Still Islanders coach Doug Weight said bringing Jones up to the Islanders wasn’t for his prowess around the net, but for his hard-work, his penalty kill and an effective fourth-line ethos.
“He had some energy, just what we thought he’d bring,” Weight said. “He was probably tired, he played a ton for Bridgeport two nights ago, but he looked ready and he did some good things.”
Jones played 56 games with the Sound Tigers this season, recording 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) and a plus-8 rating.
Connor’s parents Terry and Loretta Jones and twin-brother Kellen, who also plays for the Sound Tigers, were in attendance on Sunday.
“You dream about it your whole life and you’re not sure if you’ll get it,” Connor said on the Islanders Twitter site. “The fact that it was today was monumentally special.”
Connor will be in the New York lineup tonight when the Islanders travel to Nashville to take on the Predators.