(PR) Johnstown, PA, December 26, 2009 – An optimistic Rick Kowalsky pointed to Christmas break to wipe the slate clean for his Trenton Devils, losers of five straight. His hope that time away from the game would clear his players minds came to fruition Saturday in Johnstown in a 3-2 win against the hapless Chiefs. Jeff Prough took over the team lead in goals with his ninth and tenth goals of the season and Justin Pender notched the eventual game winner on the power play. Chris Poli had two assists, and now has four points in four games played.
In the Devils’ first game since a 2-0 shutout at the hands of Cincinnati last Sunday, Trenton had difficulty keeping up with the Chiefs in the opening minutes. Johnstown controlled the time of possession and had three power plays in the first ten minutes. Back to back penalties wore down the Trenton penalty kill, and at 9:44, one of the newest Chiefs cashed in. Chanse Fitzpatrick, who scored six points in four games against the Devils while skating for the Elmira Jackals earlier this season, scored his first goal as a Chief, his 15th overall, after a goal mouth scramble.
Only two of nine Devils wins this year had come when allowing the first goal, but Jeff Prough negated Johnstown’s early advantage less than two minutes after falling behind. Jeff’s first of two goals on the night, with four in three games, was set up by new linemates Brett Wilson and Matt Vokes at 11:11 for a 1-1 tie. Prough struck again at 13:53 following a brilliant centering feed through traffic from Chris Poli out of the left wing circle for a 2-1 Trenton lead. The first period expired with an exchange of fruitless power plays and the Chiefs outshoouting the Devils 16-10.
The teams duplicated their respective shot outputs in the second period, but extra hustle for the Devils generated numerous opportunities. Ryan Ginand drew a boarding call from Russ Sinkewich, as the two chased the puck to the Johnstown end boards. Trenton’s ensuing power play, their fourth of the game, worked to perfection. After a right wing circle draw, Chris Poli passed across to the left wing for Trevor Kell who fed back for Justin Pender’s high wing one-timer. The blast beat goalie Kris Mayotte stick side, waist high, for the defenseman’s fourth of the year. With the primary assist to Kell, the captain now has 20 points on the season.
Pender’s insurance goal allowed the Devils to sustain a Johnstown power play goal from Jim McKenzie with five minutes left in the second period. Leading 3-2 going to the third, the focus for the Devils turned to the mounting save total for Dave Caruso, who finished with 41 stops in his fifth win of the year. His last of several impressive glove saves came at the final buzzer with the Chiefs generating extra-man chances thanks to a power play and the goalie pulled. The Trenton defense held on to seal Trenton’s first win since December 9, a 4-3 win in Gwinnett.
The Devils (10-14-2-4, 26pts) extend their third place lead over the Chiefs to four points, as Johnstown (8-15-3-3, 22pts) becomes the last team in the ECHL yet to reach the 10-win plateau. Trenton, now six points out of second place, hosts first place Reading (17-10-1-2, 37pts) Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Sun National Bank Center.