As the clock wound down on an Islanders series victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins last month, play-by-play broadcaster Brendan Burke proclaimed that “this old barn still has a few more stories to tell.”
The Islanders are hoping to write another one in Uniondale when they face the Boston Bruins in Game 6 Wednesday.
While the Islanders’ “final” game on Hempstead Turnpike was six years ago, they have returned to Nassau Coliseum for a final postseason run. Armed with over 12,000 raucous fans, the Islanders do not plan on ending the Coliseum era quietly.
“It is so nice to have fans back. That atmosphere, the energy, it just adds to the emotion of the game and the overall play,” Islanders center Brock Nelson said after an optional morning skate. “It will be a fun one tonight. The [Coliseum] is going to be rocking. The fans always bring it for us.”
Fans will enter the arena with one main goal in mind: to be as loud as possible for their favorite team. This high-decibel environment – and the surplus of emotions of a Game 6 – will give the Islanders a home-ice advantage they hope will push them over the edge.
“The fans can give you a lot of momentum,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “That is where you get your heart racing if you are on the wrong end of it.”
The Isles already clinched their first series win in Uniondale since 1993 during this postseason. Prior to this series, 1993 was also the last time the Islanders hosted a second-round playoff game at “Fort Neverlose” — a nickname coined during the Islanders’ dynasty in the 1980s after the team went 10-0 in Stanley Cup Finals home games.
Going into Game 6, the Islanders will try to secure a semifinal matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and clinch at least two more appearances for their home crowd. If the Isles lose, the series will return to Boston for Game 7.
“It’s going to be an intense game,” Nelson said. “You gotta raise your level, stakes are high.”
Members of the New York Jets, including quarterback Zach Wilson and offensive lineman/internet sensation Dan Feeney, have been seen at games in both rounds. Franchise greats like Bob Nystrom and Clark Gillies were tailgating with fans prior to Game 5.
With a win on Wednesday, the Islanders inch closer to an appropriate send-off for the Coliseum before their new Belmont home, UBS Arena, opens next season. The significance is not lost on the players.
“I think you have to know the moment you’re in and embrace it,” Islanders defenseman Andy Greene said. “It’s a fun game to be playing in, and this is why we train and work so hard throughout the whole year, to be put in these situations and be ready for them and go from there.”