Considering he’s only 24 years old, it’s hard to believe that Matt Cohen has spent parts of the past four seasons with the Trenton Devils. Heck, he’s been in the capital city so long, he can even call himself a Trenton Titan.
But after bouncing back and forth between Trenton and AHL Lowell for the past two seasons, Cohen seems to have finally established himself as an American Hockey League defenseman this season.
After a brief, two-game stint with the T-Devils this season, Cohen’s finally stuck up in Lowell, having played in 33 games. Only, he’s not so sure if he’s made his last trip to the Sun National Bank Center.
“I don’t know, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Cohen before the Lowell Devils early January contest at the Prudential Center.
“You really don’t know day-to-day. You don’t want to take anything for granted, and I think that’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, especially this year in camp. You’ve got to earn your job every day. You’d like to have a little more comfort, but you’re probably not going to get it in this sport.”
Cohen played in three AHL games in 2007-08 and in five during the 2008-09 season. The letdown of having to come back down to the ECHL after those initial call-ups was difficult for him to deal with at first.
“It’s tough, but it’s human nature,” he said.
“But you have to just realize you’re a hockey player, and it’s not my job to worry about where they’re putting me. If they put me on the ice, I’ve got to play. It is tough, you’ve got a million different things going through your mind; what if this happens, what if that happens? But you’ve just got to play. Whether it’s in Trenton or in Lowell, you’ve just got to focus on what you need to do out there. You’ve got to think bigger picture, it’s not just you.”
All in all, the New York native suited up for 141 regular season games in Trenton colors, plus six postseason contests, all of which came during last year’s magical run. When thinks back to his time with Trenton, that’s one of the things he remembers the most.
“I look back on my time in Trenton happily,” Cohen told me.
“Obviously, you always want to move up. But we had a great team, particularly last year, I really liked the guys. The coaching staff, Killer and Vinny, are great. I had a lot of success there, and the fans were supportive. It’s not where I wanted to be, but I enjoyed my time there.”
Cohen also made productive use of his time there, earning an ECHL All-Star Game nod last year and preparing for an eventual long-term stint in the AHL. But there’s also a significant adjustment between the two levels, and consistency has admittedly been an issue for Cohen.
“I think you can, and I have gone up and played really well and been one of the better players that we’ve had out there, but consistently, it’s been a struggle for me,” Cohen said.
“That’s the real job, is to be able to come up here and play really well every day, night in and night out. That’s something that coach has been telling me to work on, and it’s something I’ve been striving towards right now. I think you can come up and play well, but to come up and do it every night and really have an impact, that’s what they want. That’s where I’m trying to get to.”
According to Lowell head coach John MacLean, Cohen’s been making strides towards that goal.
“Matty Cohen, we sent him down early in the year because he wasn’t playing,” MacLean said.
“But, credit to him, he came in and played well and earned some ice time. All good things. Basically, the players that come up, you give them the opportunities, and they do what they will with it.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com