Since notifying the University of Minnesota's coaching staff earlier this week that he was planning to forgo his senior season, defenseman Aaron Ness, 20, has experienced a whirlwind.

After inking a three-year entry-level deal with the Islanders on Wednesday, Ness hopped on a plane from Minneapolis to New York, completed his physical exam on Long Island and drove off to join his new Bridgeport teammates.

"It's been quick," Ness said. "As soon as I signed a contract, I was on a plane a few hours later. I can't wait to play [Friday].''

His new deal will not commence until the 2011-12 season, but Ness will play for Bridgeport this season on an amateur tryout. He is slated to make his Sound Tigers debut against Charlotte Friday.

Ness, an Islanders second-round pick in 2008, finished his third season with the Gophers with two goals and 12 assists in 35 games before deciding to make the jump to the NHL.

"I feel like I was ready to take that next step, to play better hockey, to play against better players," he said when reached by telephone Thursday. "I did what I could and had a lot of fun at Minnesota, but I thought it was time to move on both physically and mentally."

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Forward Kyle Okposo also exited Minnesota's team early, leaving in December 2007 during his sophomore season to sign with the Islanders.

Islanders general manager Garth Snow made some critical comments after Okposo's departure, telling a local newspaper that he thought his development wasn't what the organization had hoped.

When asked if concern about the program's direction factored into his decision, Ness said it did not.

"What happened with that situation is in the past," Ness said. "My three years there were great. They were a lot of fun and I took a lot away from that. I have no bad things to say about Minnesota. It's a great program."

Ness said he hopes he can emulate Okposo's seamless transition from college to the pros and "follow, in some way, in his footsteps."

"To play in the NHL, that's the goal," he said. "You just want to get there as fast as you can."

Notes & quotes: Zenon Konopka had a scheduled day off from practice. Jesse Joensuu was recalled from Bridgeport for the team's three-game road trip.