Archive for April, 2010

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now: Goalies

April 25, 2010

Now that I can finally take a breath during baseball season — I have two whole days off…wheeeeeee — I can finally take a look at who should and shouldn’t come back when the Trenton Devils take the ice for the 2010-11 season.  To spread things out a bit, I’ll do this by position.

I’ll start with the goalies…

#1 Jeff Lerg (1-1-0, 5.50, .810)

There isn’t exactly a large sample size to go off of here, as Lerg played just two games for the T-Devils, just one of them at home.  Against the horrendous Johnstown Chiefs, he played pretty well.  Against the Reading Royals, who are still in the playoffs, by the way, he got shelled.

The undersized goalie certainly doesn’t lack the confidence to handle the pro game, but does he have the skill?  The speed of the game and the size of the players both increase from college to the pro level, and that’s a big adjustment to have to make, especially for someone who’s about 5′ 6″, like Lerg.

Signed to an AHL deal, the Devils organization clearly saw something they liked in Lerg…but they didn’t exactly get a real opportunity to see what he can do.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in Trenton in 2010-11. 

Verdict: Back

#35 Dave Caruso (21-20-1-1, .306, .908)

This one’s interesting.  2008-09 Gerald Coleman was better than 2009-10 Dave Caruso.  But Caruso played well for the T-Devils last season, especially in the second half, supplanting Coleman as the starter down the stretch. 

In my opinion, it’s clear that Caruso has no future in the Devils organization after heading back to Trenton after spending all but one game of his 2008-09 in Lowell after “graduating” from Trenton the previous season.

So it would appear to come down to how the organization wants to use their goalie slots in Trenton next year.  Do they want a veteran like Caruso who can mentor a younger player like Lerg?  Or do they want two goalies they hope to develop into possible AHL or even NHL goalies?  If Caruso wants to come back, my hunch is they’d take him.  But I’m not so sure that’s a scenario that will play out.  He could theoretically challenge for an AHL job elsewhere.

Verdict: Gone

#39 Gerald Coleman (11-9-3-4, 3.61, .887)

Coleman wasn’t anywhere near as good this season as he was in 2008-09.  He single-handedly turned the team around last year after being acquired from the now-defunct Phoenix Roadrunners, and nobody can take that away from him.

But this season, he could just never find any consistency, and didn’t seem to be the same goalie after being returned from Lowell a few weeks into the season.

Coleman will likely never put himself in a better position to earn an AHL job than what he did in his 2008-09 season, and he certainly didn’t earn an opportunity there in 2010-11 with his season this year.

I just can’t see Coleman coming back, as he’d now likely be better suited with another organization or overseas.

Verdict: Gone

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Why They’re Sitting At Home

April 7, 2010

You could make a strong argument that the 2009-10 version of the Trenton Devils should still be playing.  In fact, they’d likely be playing in Trenton tonight, in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs.

Instead, they’ve all returned home…well, not Jack Combs…but they’ve all returned home to sit down and wonder why their season is over.

Where do you even start with this team?  They didn’t really come together for the first 60 percent of the season or so, losing 28 out of their first 41 games.  The overall team defense was shaky, as was the goaltending, and a lot of the younger players had a difficult time grasping the pro game.

Rick Kowalsky and Vince Williams can only do so much, so the lack of having real, veteran leadership on the team hurt a lot.  The Mike Harder experiment just didn’t work out, and the organization — where the majority of the blame should be directed — did nothing to attempt to replace him.

The goaltending was suspect for the first few months of the season as well, and Gerald Coleman couldn’t replicate the season he had in 2008-09, where he played a huge role in turning things around.  This year, it was Dave Caruso who tried to get the ship righted, but it was far too little, far too late.

I’ll take a look in a few days at which guys should and shouldn’t come back…but they’ll need more of a mix of veteran and young players next season if they have any hopes avoiding a repeat of this year.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thank You

April 5, 2010

With the Trenton Devils season now over, I wanted to make sure I took the time to write up a few thank you’s.

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to all the fans who have made this blog somewhat successful.  It’s been nice to get to know some of you over the past two seasons, and it’s nice to know that my hard work has been appreciated. 

I want to thank The Trentonian, specifically sports editor Matthew Osborne, for giving me a chance to write for a daily paper…not to mention one that people have actually heard of.  It meant a lot to be trusted with the T-Devils beat, and anyone who worked with me this season knows it’s something I didn’t take lightly.  It was nice to be able to go from doing this blog for a grand total of zero dollars last year to taking over the beat for a while for The Trentonian.  And a special thanks to Rob Chakler belongs here as well…Rob has done and continues to do a great job covering this team, and despite the somewhat awkward situation at times, he was always helpful with whatever questions I had for him.

Thanks to Rick Kowalsky and Vince Williams.  Big thanks to them, especially Rick.  From the audio I’ve posted this season, you’ve probably seen that my first question almost always either sucks or isn’t a question at all…Rick never once snapped at me, never once gave me a snarky answer, never once refused to talk after one of the many bad losses his team endured.  Both Rick and Vinny are good guys, and if they’re not able to land gigs in the AHL, I hope they’re both back next season.

Thanks to the players.  Part of this job I hate is being in locker rooms, so I always tried to make my stay in there as brief as possible.  I was almost always able to speak to whoever I needed to for my story, and often with the help of other players in the room.  It’s almost impossible to stand in that locker room, wait for someone, and not have another player walk past and ask you who you needed.  It was always appreciated.

And thanks to the Devils organization, from Trenton to Lowell to New Jersey.  Everyone from Jim Leahy to Kristen Bartholomew to Dan D’Uva’s cast of interns were a blast to work with this season and made the long drives to and from Trenton more tolerable.  Mike O’Brien was always helpful in Lowell, and Jeff Altstadter has always been nothing but accomodating when I needed something from Newark.

Hockey is my favorite sport…most people may know me as a baseball beat writer, but hockey is my true passion, and the past two seasons in Trenton have been beneficial to me both personally and professionally.  I’d love to cover an AHL or an NHL team full-time one day, and the experience here and the things I’ve learned can only benefit me down the road.

So thanks so much to everyone who’s helped me along the way…and for my readers, stay tuned for some content coming up; including the alumni features, a look at who could come back in 2010-11 and much more.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Season Ending Loss In Reading

April 4, 2010

(PR) Trenton, NJ, April 3, 2010 – Trenton allowed more goals Saturday than in any of its previous 71 contests this season, losing, 8-4, at Sovereign Center. A night after the Devils’ playoff hopes were quashed by Reading’s overtime victory in Wheeling, the Royals’ relentless offense produced the 11th win in 14 meetings with the Devils. Three players had four or more points for the home team and goalie Kain Tisi made 42 saves in his professional debut.

Stefano Giliati notched four assists, Andrew Saraurer had three goals and three assists and Daniel Steiner had four goals and one assist to pave the way for the Royals. The three stars of the game teamed up to produce the game’s first score, an even strength goal in transition at 6:26 of the first. Giliati started the play and Saraurer passed from the left goal line to the crease for Steiner’s score. Captain Dinos Stamoulis created the next scoring opportunity, reversing a Devils rush and leading Sarauer for a two-on-one. The drop pass on the high right came to Steiner for another goal. Before the first period was halfway complete, Ryan Cruthers tacked on his 22nd of the year on a pass to the backdoor from Ben Gordon and the Royals had a 3-0 lead.

The Devils fought back with two goals to close out the first, both on the power play. Dan Eves whirled and whipped the puck under Tisi’s pads after a centering pass from Matt Vokes and a secondary from Trevor Kell at 11:35. A minute later, Chris Poli’s rocket from the deep right-wing circle got the Devils within 3-2, with Tim Kunes and Ryan Ginand contributing.

The same 3-2 output was replicated in the second period for a 6-4 Royals edge after two. The period began with Sarauer getting his first goals of the game in quick succession. Moments after Tisi denied Kell on a shorthanded breakaway, an otherwise successful penalty kill couldn’t prevent another transition goal. A shorthanded breakaway for Ryan Cruthers forced goalie Jeff Lerg to make a sprawling save, but the rebound from Sarauer made it through for a 5-2 Royals lead.

Jeremy Akeson got points on the next two Trenton scores to again put the Devils on the comeback trail, first with a pass interception and a breakaway goal, his eighth of the season, and then assisting on a Dan Eves tally at 17:06 of the second to make it Royals 5, Devils 4. Eves’ goal was his second of the night and fourth in the last two games, and his 23 for the season are only short of Jack Combs’ 24 and Jeff Prough’s 30.

Reading finished things off with authority, scoring the last three goals of the game. Sarauer completed a hat trick by beating Lerg glove side. He’d earn his sixth point of the night on the Royals’ next goal, another hat trick from Steiner. Giliati assisted on that score and the final nail, crashing the net and then watching Steiner bang it home for his fourth goal of the game with 30 seconds left and an 8-4 victory over the Devils.

Trenton finishes the season 33-30-4-5, 75pts, third place in the East Division and ninth in the American Conference. 21 of those wins came in the final half of the season, and Trenton’s final quarter of the season was their strongest, posting 22 points in the final 18 games, but ultimately coming up three points short of a playoff spot.

Trentonian Game Story

April 3, 2010

Here’s the link to my game story in The Trentonian.  Let us never speak of it again.  There are at least two screw-ups in there, both my fault…I had to scramble to re-write a bunch of stuff after Reading’s game went the way it did, and I didn’t have the time I would have wanted to proofread my story.

No, Tyler Donati does not have a twin brother named Tyler.  And Rick’s last quote is missing the word “it.”

How it works, usually, is I have to send a “running” story as soon as the game is over, and then a “quoter” for online and the second edition once I come back up.  Usually, those two stories aren’t too different.  This time, I had a whole other story submitted by the time I had to go down to the locker room.

The lead?

******

TRENTON — For tonight to mean anything, the T-Devils needed to make the most of last night.

Now, tonight means everything.

Thanks to the Reading Royals losing to the Wheeling Nailers in regulation and the T-Devils 5-3 victory over the Elmira Jackals, Trenton is now one point behind the Royals for the eighth and final playoff spot in the American Conference with one game remaining.

Their opponent in that game? The Reading Royals.

In essence, the playoffs start one game early for both teams, as tonight will essentially serve as a play-in game. However, Trenton must win in regulation to secure a playoff berth, as Reading holds not only a one point advantage but the tie-breaker over Trenton, having two more wins than the T-Devils with one game to play, making it impossible for Trenton to catch them in the win column.

Tonight’s game, which will be played in Reading, would have been meaningless if things didn’t go the T-Devils way last night. Although the Jackals have long since clinched the division and third seed in the conference, both teams came out with a playoff-like intensity in the first period. But it was Trenton who capitalized first.

******

Now, that story is just a dream, a what if.  What if they hadn’t given away six points in their southern road trip?  What if they didn’t lose so many games in overtime and the shootout?  What if…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

F-Word

April 2, 2010

Uggh.  You know, I’m not supposed to be bummed out about this.  I’m not supposed to root for teams or for players or anything like that.  But it was hard to not want these guys to make the playoffs.  The way they played for the last few weeks of the season, and for as good of a group of guys as this was to cover…and this was a tough one to take.

Making it significantly worse was being in that locker room after the game.  At the time, Wheeling was up on Reading, 6-3, through two periods, and everyone in there knew that.  The guys were singing along (poorly…sorry guys) to music in there, and the mood was very upbeat.

Rick Kowalsky was in a great mood, but was somewhat measured in his comments, saying he didn’t really want to talk about tomorrow until he saw “final” on the top of the Reading-Wheeling scoresheet.  He was right.  By the time it went final, Adam Berkhoel had turned into a Shooter Tutor for the final 20 minutes and the Trenton Devils season was over.

Check out my story in The Trentonian for more on the game…and come back here for the results of tomorrow’s game in Reading, which is completely meaningless.

I’ll have some more stuff after the season is officially over…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Big Day…

April 2, 2010

Your beat writer is even sporting an absolutely, positively hideous playoff ‘stache.  That’s how big today is.

It’s simple.  Trenton needs to win.  Nothing else matters if Trenton doesn’t win.  I’m on Trentonian duty for one last time tonight, but I’ll have any pre-game info posted here if anything is of interest.

UPDATE: Dave Caruso’s in net for Trenton, Chris Holt for Elmira.  Seems like the same lineup for Trenton…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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