By MIKE ASHMORE
Special to ECHL.com
BRONX, N.Y. – New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald is a true ECHL success story. Selected in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Draft by the Islanders, MacDonald played in 38 regular-season games and 15 Kelly Cup Playoffs games with the Utah Grizzlies during the 2007-08 season en route to establishing himself as a formidable presence on New York’s blue line.
The 27-year-old, who could be a highly coveted player as the trade deadline rolls around with his very affordable contract expiring at the end of the season, was able to showcase his skills at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, logging a team-high 24:15 on-ice in the Islanders 2-1 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers in front of over 50,000 fans.
The result aside, MacDonald relished the opportunity.
“It was great,” he told ECHL.com after the game. “It’s pretty special when you get to come to a stadium with this kind of history and the legacy of the Yankees and everything. To be able to play a game in front of that many fans with a great atmosphere, it was a pretty special experience.”
The Islanders got settled into Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, getting in a lengthy practice that not only got them acclimated to the conditions, but also the surrounding unique atmosphere.
“I think (Tuesday) was a really good time to take it all in, just in terms of the stadium and the amenities and everything that come with the game,” he said. “Today, when you walk out for warmups, you get a feel for the crowd and you really get to enjoy that. But, once the puck’s dropped, it’s time to go and try to get two points. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get them tonight.”
MacDonald noted that the puck was bouncing quite a bit on Wednesday, but said that the ice was good and “didn’t chip too much or build up with too much snow.” A far more pleasant-surprise, however, was that he was able to stay warm despite a wind chill that dipped as low as seven degrees.
“The benches were really well-heated, so we were really fortunate in that sense,” he said. “I think the adrenaline was going a little bit, so you didn’t really feel the cold that much. The only time you really felt it is if you took a puck off the foot or off the body somewhere.”
The biggest adjustments, MacDonald says, came on the ice. It turns out the goaltenders weren’t the only ones who had to get used to issues with depth perception.
“If you’re getting some pressure and you’re trying to find the outlet, you look into the distance sometimes and you can get a little bit lost,” he said.
“But the gameplan from the start was to keep it simple and go up the boards a lot; just be sure of your plays. It’s just one of those things you have to adjust to, and I think we had a good chance to do that yesterday.”