If I told you before the game that a Trenton Devil was going to score four goals, how long would it have taken you to guess Matt Vokes?
It goes without saying that Vokes absolutely took that game over, and it seems possible that those four goals…well, they could actually be five goals. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
First off, that’s the game Trenton needs to play every time, against every opponent. They didn’t look undersized out there…they played with an edge, but not over the edge, and they got key goals when they needed them.
I can’t remember the last Trenton Devils game where I had nothing negative to say. That was actually a fun game to watch, and makes you believe this team can actually do something.
I’d post the link to The Trentonian game story, which I had to keep super tight because of space restrictions, but I don’t think it’s online. I need to learn how to write better when I’ve got a small amount of space…but I’ll get there.
And here’s what Rick Kowalsky and Matt Vokes had to say after the game…
“We talked about it all three games. We played solid and sound for two periods, and then the third period…it’s the right time of the year to be having big third periods, and I think when we get that one, we don’t sit back, we push for that extra one. Obviously, we’ve got some guys that are scoring and the power play’s been going, and that’s huge, we know that’s been lacking all year.”
“(Vokes) has been solid all year. He’s been really solid and kind of coming into his own the last month, really. His ice time has increased because of some of the injuries we’ve had, and the biggest thing with him is that he’s starting to look real comfortable. Some of these college guys, they hit a bit of a rut right after Christmas. We talk about it all the time. They’re used to playing 35, 45 games, and we get past that point and all of them go through a mental or physical little lapse, and he’s seemed to come out of it — if he went through it at all — really strong. He looks confident with the puck, and obviously he’s playing a ton of minutes. His role’s really gotten bigger with Nagy going up and Poli going down with the injury. I put him in front of the net on the power play, because he’s probably our best net presence guy on the team. He’s able to find rebounds and he really knows how to screen the goalie. A lot of guys at this level, they’ll stand in front of the net, but they don’t do it with a purpose. He has and he’s been rewarded.”
“(On Kunes goal) Teslak couldn’t see it at all. Even the second one, you hang around that net…that’s why I put him there. Poli and Charleston have done a great job to get pucks through. Even Tomko and Kunes up top, which is something we haven’t done consistently enough this year, but it’s good to see them going in and us getting pucks in those areas.”
“Even in Johnstown…we all know that they’re out of it, but those guys are playing a little bit more of a disciplined system, and everybody buckles down this time of year. It’s the last quarter of the season, and now with this conference thing, every night it’s just like the NHL…you have a good weekend and a bad weekend, and things can change so quick for that 7-8-9 spot. That’s our goal. Three weeks ago, we were talking about chasing one team, and now we’re talking about chasing another team. It’s constantly going to change, and we knew that if we won those first two games in Johnstown, we’d set ourselves up to play a team that was right around that 8 spot, if not in it, and sure enough this was a huge weekend for us.”
“That was quite a thing we did last year, but we’re starting…we still don’t have Trevor Kell in this lineup, there’s still guys missing. Getting Poli back, and Charleston’s still not healthy, and Ginand’s been banged up for a bit, but getting all these guys in the lineup, and getting Prough back and Akeson back, we’re getting closer here. Our D is really solid, 1 through 7. Our goaltenders have played well. David’s played well, and it was nice to Gerald bounce back, I thought he looked sharp.”
“(Kell), right now, I say next weekend is unlikely, but we’ll see how the week goes.”
“I might have been seven, eight years old, maybe (the last time he scored four goals in a game). Not as long as I can remember, no.”
“We’re in a position now where we have to treat every game like it’s a playoff game, it’s a one game playoff, especially down the stretch. We play Wheeling, we play Elmira, we play Reading, and those are all teams we’re chasing. Every game right now is a big game, especially when we’re playing a team that’s directly ahead of us. I think they’re four or five points ahead of us in the standings now, and coming into the third, we saw that we were tied. And we knew that we needed this game more than they did. It was just guys out there doing whatever it took.”
“Three of them were almost identical. The first goal, I was right place, right time. Brett Wilson got on the forecheck first, played the body perfect, coughed the puck up to the other D…Jack Combs goes in there, forces their other D to make a bad play, Combs gets it, throws it right out front and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. That’s all Jack and Wilson getting it done on the forecheck. The second goal…what was the second goal? (Laughs) Well, the other three, was really just being right place, right time. One of them was off the faceoff, Slavomir Tomko gets a good shot through, Dan Eves gets a stick on it and creates some confusion up front…he goes to the net, and the puck’s sitting there. Eves is a big kid, and he’s in front of the goalie, it’s easy to put the puck in the net.”
“We have a lot of skill players, but we also have a lot of guys that know that skill doesn’t do it every time. You have guys like Dan Eves, second year player, doesn’t put up that many points, having a great year. He goes and plays the body, he plays physical. He does things that don’t shpw up in the scoresheet. You have guys like Chucky, Dan Charleston. I’m right place, right time in front of the crease, but at the same time, we realize that not every goal is going to be a highlight reel. If it takes four or five greasy goals to win, so be it. Jeff Prough’s goal? Behind the net. Brett Wilson’s goal? Top of the crease, he just makes a great move. We know that those are the types of goals we have to score.”
“(Kunes goal possibly going in off of him) We’re not going to talk about that one (laughs). Whenever you have a skilled player like Chris Poli on our power play, guys like Slavomir Tomko and Tim Kunes, guys who have real patience with the puck, it’s my job to just be in front, and that makes my job so easy. I don’t have to worry about them turning the puck over. Poli’s missed more than half of the year due to injuries, he’s had bad luck. But when he comes back, he has patience along the wall. He has poise, he knows what to do with the puck. I played with Chris when we were eight years old. I played with him growing up, we’re both from Massachusetts, I played with him in college…being able to have that trust. And then having Tomko and Kunes, excellent playmakers…Kunes, he gets the puck and he waits, he waits, he waits, the goalie goes down and that’s when he shoots. He’s got a great head on his shoulders. We’ve got a lot of guys that do little things that don’t show up in the scoresheet. Jeremy Akeson plays the body when the pucks in the zone, little things like that. Stuff that the team is buying into now that we didn’t necessarily in the first half of the year, whether it be due to injuries or whatnot. Seems like we’re playing together at the right time.”
“On the screen play, on the power play, whenever you have Charleston and Poli, they’re working on the side. As soon as it gets up top, my job is to take away the goalie’s eyes. Just cause havoc in front. Whether it be taking body shots in front from the D, just trying to tie a guy up and create some space. When Kunes starts sliding or Tomko starts sliding, and the puck goes side to side, I know the goalie has to mirror that same thing, so I just have to try to act like I’m a goalie…but when the puck’s released, I’ve got to turn and find it.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com