Jones ‘grow­ing into a great leader’

The Norwalk Hour - - SPORTS - By Michael Forn­abaio mforn­abaio@ct­; @forn­abaioctp; blog.ct­­abaio

BRIDGE­PORT — From a try­out in train­ing camp three years ago to a spot be­tween two of the New York Is­landers’ top prospects now, Con­nor Jones has grown into one of the Bridge­port Sound Tigers’ main­stays at cen­ter.

“I think Jonesy’s been pro­gres­sively grow­ing into a great leader,” Bridge­port coach Brent Thomp­son said. “His at­ti­tude, his en­ergy, his prac­tice habits, he ap­proaches every day like a pro. He’s very de­tai­lo­ri­ented, and he’s pas­sion­ate about the team.”

Jones, 28, has cracked the fran­chise’s top 20 with 190 games played for Bridge­port. No one has played more for the Sound Tigers af­ter first ar­riv­ing on a pro try­out, which he did to start 2015-16 be­fore earn­ing an AHL con­tract.

Over the past two sea­sons and the first 13 games of this year, the Sound Tigers are 87-65-9-4, but when Jones is out of the lineup, they’re 9-16-1-0.

And this sea­son, most of the time, he has been be­tween Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, and though the Sound Tigers’ two lead­ing scor­ers have done a lot of their of­fen­sive dam­age on the power play, they’ve had ef­fec­tive even­strength time to­gether, too.

“Jonesy’s re­ally the leader of that line, re­ally guides us, teaches us when we need to be taught,” HoSang said Wed­nes­day. “He’s re­ally good at work­ing with Mike and I.”

Dal Colle missed two games, but the trio was re­united a week ago in Spring­field. They were ef­fec­tive to­gether that night in a 3-2 loss, but Bridge­port has won three in a row go­ing into home games Satur­day against Providence and Sun­day against league-lead­ing Char­lotte.

“We get along re­ally well off the ice, and on the ice, we’ve got good chem­istry,” said Jones, who played a lot with Ho-Sang in the sec­ond half of last sea­son.

“I try to get those guys the puck as much as I can, you know? Any­time Sanger has the puck on his stick, he’s a threat to make a great play. D.C.’s just play­ing awe­some: Both of them are play­ing great right now.”

Jones, a prod­uct of Quin­nip­iac, re­turned to Bridge­port on an AHL con­tract in 2016-17 and signed an NHL deal that Fe­bru­ary. He played last year un­der an NHL deal and came back on an­other AHL deal this sea­son.

Thomp­son said Jones has grown into a re­li­able de­fen­sive player and penalty killer, im­prov­ing on face­offs, and a player with “bite” to his game.

“Com­ing in on a PTO, Tom­mer (Thomp­son) be­lieved in me and wanted me to play my game,” Jones said. “I worked as hard as I could into that check­ing role, to be hard to play against, to so­lid­ify a role for this team.

“I’ve al­ways tried to do any­thing I can to help the team, whether it’s score a goal, have a hit, or even fight. It’s been a good fit with Tom­mer. He’s a no-BS type of guy, and I re­ally like that. I want to work hard, and I want to win.”

Miss­ing this year, though, is Jones’ twin brother, Kellen, who’s play­ing this sea­son in Vaster­vik, Swe­den. They’d played sep­a­rately for the first time in 2015-16 but were re­united here the next sea­son, usu­ally with Kellen on Con­nor’s left wing; Kellen was up and down last year be­tween the Sound Tigers and their ECHL af­fil­i­ate in Worces­ter, Mass.

“It’s been weird. We ob­vi­ously miss each other as friends and broth­ers, but I’m happy for his op­por­tu­nity in Europe,” Con­nor Jones said.

“It’s weird with the time change and stuff, but we talk all the time, and I’ll watch his games, and he’ll watch mine. He’s been play­ing cen­ter, so I’ve been giv­ing him tips. He just re­cently mar­ried, so he and his wife are hav­ing a re­ally good time in Swe­den.”

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