Archive for October, 2010

Game 5: Pre-Game Notes

October 28, 2010

6:50 PM — Jeremy Akeson wearing an “A.”

6:45 PM — Dave Caruso vs. Billy Sauer is your goalie matchup.  Didn’t see Dan Charleston out there…I think Matthew Kang’s a scratch as well.

6:15 PM — Leaderer is officially a healthy scratch…

6:10 PM — Working to confirm it, but hearing defenseman Dave Leaderer has finally received a much-deserved promotion to Albany.  Stay tuned…

5:10 PM — Reading lost this afternoon…

(PR) WHEELING, WV – The Wheeling Nailers used three different goal scorers to defeat the Reading Royals by a score of 3-2, Thursday afternoon at WesBanco Arena. The win improves the Nailers record to 5-1, and as Wheeling currently holds the top spot in the ECHL.

The Nailers raced out to a 3- 0 lead. Wheeling scored first on the power play, as David Marshall raced into the zone and snapped a shot past Reading goaltender Ben Scrivens. Wheeling made it 2-0, when newcomer Nick Petersen picked up the puck at the top of the crease and flipped it into the net at 8:51 into the game.

In the second, Dan Henningson extended the Nailers lead to 3-0, 12:41 into the period. Reading got on the board by taking advantage of a power play opportunity with four minutes remaining in the second, as Olivier Labelle slipped the puck past Wheeling goaltender Patrick Killeen at the crease.

The goal would not be the last for Labelle in the game, as he would pull his team within one, on a hard wrist shot from the circle, which beat Killeen top shelf, to make the score 3-2. Despite the comeback bid, the Nailers limited the Royals offensive chances, and would hang on for the one goal victory. Wheeling outshot Reading 41-21 in the contest. Patrick Killeen improved to a 4-0 in goal.

5:00 PM — Anyone know the last time Gwinnett came into Trenton?  Seriously…they haven’t been here since I started in 2008-09.

3:55 PM — There is about as much going on as you’d expect three hours before game time.  What I do know, however, is that Dan Charleston is here and is wearing his customary #17.

Also, Chris Poli is here and wearing his usual #14…for Gwinnett, however.  He’s 0-0-0 with 5 PIM’s in three games so far for the Gladiators.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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Lerg Geared Up For First Full Pro Season

October 27, 2010

To some extent, Jeff Lerg has looked a little out of place on the ice for as long as he’s been able to lace em’ up.

At 5-foot-6, the diminutive netminder is often the smallest man on the ice, but that’s not to say he isn’t one of the most effective.  He’s overcome size issues and a heck of a lot more to win a national title in college and earn a pro contract with the New Jersey Devils. 

This season, however, Lerg looks a little out of place for a different reason.

His mask, glove, blocker and pads?  All green and white.  Playing for a team with a red, white and black color scheme, Lerg’s old Michigan State gear isn’t going to cut it anymore.

“It’s finally all ordered,” said Lerg of his new gear back on media day.

“Obviously, when I came last year, I didn’t get anything.  This year, this stuff is going on its third year.  It’s pretty beat up and old, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting some new gear for my body’s sake, at least.  I can feel almost every shot.”

The 24-year-old native of Livonia, Michigan has also ordered a new mask — “I get hit there the most, so I had to get a new helmet,” he says — that will be painted plain black for now.  One thing you won’t see on that mask, however, is what’s called a cat-eye cage. 

Former ECHL goalie Alex Auld is pictured using a cat-eye cage on his mask, which provides greater visibility than the full cage that Jeff Lerg currently uses. (Photo: Mike Ashmore/2010)

Colleges mandate the use of a full cage, which you can see on Lerg’s current Sparty mask, which he also used while with Michigan State.  Most pros, however, prefer the visibility of the cat-eye, but Lerg says it simply isn’t practical given his height and the way he has to play.

“Actually, I’ll probably be the only guy without a cat-eye,” he said.

“I get hit in the head too much, I don’t think it’s that smart for me to get one since I’ve seen goalies or know goalies that have had pucks ding them right above the eyebrow and getting stitches on their forehead.  For a big guy, they might not get hit there, but for me I get hit there a lot.  It’s probably the smartest thing for my body.”

Lerg says he’s never so much as tried the cat-eye cage, which became more prevalent in the late 80’s and early 90’s and have been the norm ever since.  Despite the way it may look — Lerg uses a fuller cage than some — he insists visibility has never been an issue.

“It’s not hard to see through mine,” he said.

“Obviously, everyone who has a cat-eye says they love it and they’ll never go back.  But I’ve never been there.  For me, I’ve never really thought about my equipment too much, I just know what feels right.  Whatever feels right, I go with.  I feel like I’m going to continue to get hit there, and I don’t want to take a 100 miles per hour one-timer right off the forehead and have it somehow get lodged in there at some point.”

Even with the full cage Lerg currently uses, it can still create problems.

“I’ll take shots, and at the end of the day, the mask will be touching my nose,” Lerg told me.

“Less protection, I think, could be a recipe for disaster.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Some News…About Me

October 27, 2010

I’ve accepted the additional responsibility of submitting alumni features to the ECHL website.  Hopefully I’ll have something on there at least once every two weeks that spotlights a prominent NHL or AHL player who came through the ECHL to get there.  Be sure to read my first piece on former Idaho Steelheads and current Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Dan Ellis.

I am not going anywhere — sorry to disappoint you on that one — and will continue my duties as Trenton Devils beat writer.

However, I should also tell you that I will be leaving Saturday morning for a much, much needed vacation that will last three and a half weeks.  Yes, I planned said vacation around Trenton’s schedule, so I will be covering tomorrow night and Friday night’s games against Gwinnett.  After that, however, I’ll be taking a break from covering hockey by…watching hockey.  Hoping to check out the Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Coyotes, Avalanche and even the Las Vegas Wranglers while I’m out west.

I should be able to update the blog regularly while I’m away.  And you can always get a hold of me via the e-mail address listed below.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Wheeling Sweeps The Weekend; Elmira Too

October 25, 2010

(PR) Wheeling, WV – Andrew Lord and David Marshall each had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Killeen made 39 of 43 saves as the Wheeling Nailers beat the Trenton Devils for the second time in as many days, 5-4, at the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, WV.

Just as was the case when the teams met on Saturday night, Wheeling’s Joey Haddad opened up the scoring, beating Jeff Lerg at 8:41 of the first period. The goal came just seconds after Trenton’s Tony Zancanaro rang a shot off the post at the other end. Haddad’s tally was the Sydney NS. native’s third score of the season. Trenton stormed back to tie the score just 1:11 later, when on the power play, Jean-Sebastien Berube deflected a Justin Pender point shot past Patrick Killeen for his second marker of the season. The score remained tied until 18:40 of the first period, when with the teams playing four-against-four, Ben Street scored his first-career professional goal, beating Lerg off of a feed by Andrew Lord. The assist was Lord’s fourth point of the two-game weekend series. Wheeling center Darryl Smith was also credited with an assist, his fourth of the season, on Ben Street’s goal which made the score 2-1 in favor of the Nailers.

Seemingly building off their go-ahead goal late in the first period, the Nailers carried the play early in the second, recording seven of the first 10 shots of the middle stanza. But despite the Nailers’ surge in the first half of the second period, it was the Devils who opened the period’s scoring, when Trevor Kell buried his third goal of the campaign past last week’s ECHL Goaltender-of-the-Week, Patrick Killeen, off of a slick feed by Tony Zancanaro. Zancanaro’s assist was his fifth point of the 2010-11 season. As if the satisfaction of their game-tying goal wasn’t enough, the Devils went to work following Kell’s goal, taking the play to the Nailers in the ensuing minutes, which led to a Ryan Hayes power play goal just 1:33 later. Hayes’ second goal of the season, assisted by Jeff Prough and Berube, occurred with one of Saturday’s offensive heroes, Andrew Lord, serving a two-minute penalty for slashing. Hayes’ goal was the Devils’ second power play goal of the contest. But just when it appeared that the momentum had swung firmly in the Devils’ favor, the Nailers re-tied the score at 3-3 just before the period ended, when David Marshall took a pass from Kris Vernarsky at the bottom of the right wing circle, and whipped a quick shot past Lerg for his fourth goal in his first five games in a Nailers’ uniform.

Early in the third period, the Devils took the play to the Nailers, however Kris Vernarsky gave Wheeling the lead, 4-3, at 13:28. David Marshall had broken free of the Devils’ defense, came streaking down the left wing side and fired a hard, low shot which Jeff Lerg kicked out directly to Vernarsky who was driving hard to the net. The goal by Vernarsky, a former Toronto Maple Leaf draft choice, was his first in the ECHL since 2004-05 when he was a member of the Florida Everblades. Following Vernarsky’s goal which made the score 4-3 in favor of the Nailers, the Devils mounted an onslaught of shots against Patrick Killeen, but were continually turned away, until Ryan Hayes knocked a tricky shot from behind the goal line off of Killeen’s back into the net to knot the score with just 1:42 remaining in regulation. But just when it seemed that the game was destined to head into overtime, Andrew Lord beat Lerg in the game’s final minute with a top-shelf shot right off of a faceoff in the Trenton end, for what turned out to be the eventual game-winning goal.

The Devils, with their goaltender pulled, mustered a spirited flurry in the game’s final few seconds, but were unable to come up with another equalizer. With the 5-4 victory, the Nailers sweep the two-game weekend series against the Devils, improving their record to 4-1, and vaulting them into a first place tie with the Kalamazoo Wings atop the Eastern Conference’s North Division. The Devils, now 1-3, have a chance to improve their record when they come home to face the Gwinnett Gladiators in the first half of a two-game series at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton on Thursday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.

(Elmira PR) Reading, Pa. – The Elmira Jackals limited the Reading Royals to just 17 shots on goal on Sunday at the Sovereign Center on their way to a 3-2 victory and a six-point lead in the Atlantic Division. Elmira is unbeaten in regulation through its first five games of the season.

The Jackals scored first for the fifth-straight game when Eric Lampe buried in a puck from the right goal line off of a feed from Patrick Coulombe to make it 1-0 at 15:20 of the first period. Kevin DeVergilio started the play coming out of the penalty box, and the goal was Lampe’s third in the last two games.

Eric Regan’s shot at 9:14 of the second period from the blue line bounced past Royals goaltender Ben Scrivens to give Elmira a power-play goal and a 2-0 lead. Lampe and Brock McBride had the assists on Regan’s first Jackals goal.

At 14:00 of the second, Reading’s Ryan Cruthers nailed a shot from the left circle for a power-play tally for the Royals, making it 2-1 in favor of Elmira.

Michael Dubuc’s neutral-zone interception early in the third period sprung Oren Eizenman on a breakaway late in a Jackals power play. Eizenman fired a shot from the middle of the slot over the glove of Scrivens for what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his second of the season, making it 3-1 at 5:31.

Alain Goulet scored on a long wrist shot through a screen at 13:35 of the final period to bring the Royals to within one, 3-2.

The Jackals defense, however, limited scoring chances for the Royals all game. Elmira was able to gain possession of the puck after a faceoff with 24 seconds remaining in the tilt, eventually dumping the puck down into Reading’s end and sealing the 3-2 victory.

Jackals goaltender Marco Cousineau stopped 15 shots to improve to 3-0-2-0. Elmira poured 39 shots onto Scrivens, who stopped 36 shots in the loss, falling to 1-2-0-0.

The game marked the second time this season the Jackals held an opponent to under 20 shots on goal. Elmira leads the ECHL currently at 23.2 shots allowed per game.

The Jackals division lead is six points after the Trenton Devils lost at Wheeling on Sunday.

Return Of Chucky

October 25, 2010

(PR) ALBANY, N.Y. – The Albany Devils have loaned left-winger Dan Charleston to Trenton, the ECHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. The announcement was made Sunday by Albany and Trenton General Manager Chris Lamoriello.

Charleston, who missed the first five contests for Albany, played 25 games for Trenton in 2009-10. He produced 33 points with six goals and 27 assists. Charleston made his AHL debut a year earlier, appearing in three games for Grand Rapids after finishing up his four-year career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

The Albany Devils begin a four-game road trip at Hartford on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. The teamreturns to the Times Union Center against Rochester on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.– http://www.thealbanydevils.com

Nailers Top Devils In Johnstown, 4-1; Jackals Stomp Royals

October 24, 2010

(Wheeling PR) JOHNSTOWN, PA — Joey Haddad scored twice, and Andrew Lord finished with three points to lead the Nailers to a 4-1 win over the Trenton Devils Saturday night at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.

Goaltender Mattias Modig 29 saves, en route to his first professional career victory. In addition to Haddad’s two goals, the Wheeling received tallies from Andrew Lord and Doug Rogers. The Nailers now improve to 3-1 on the season, and will look to go 3-0 on the weekend three games in three days slate.

(Reading PR) Reading, PA – The Reading Royals of the ECHL (t-2nd Atlantic Division, 1-2-0-0=2), affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, were defeated by the Elmira Jackals (1st Atlantic Division, 2-0-2-0=6), 7-2, at the Sovereign Center in Reading, Pennsylvania. The loss extended the Royals winless streak in home openers to five games (0-4-1), dating back to October 29, 2005. Reading fell behind after one period, but battled back to tie the game at two by the end of the second period. In the third, it was all Elmira, however, as the Jackals rang off five unanswered goals—four of them in a span of 3:15—to cruise to the victory.

The two teams racked up 152 total penalty minutes, a good chunk of which were accumulated in a line brawl with 5:32 remaining in the second period that resulted in six players being ejected. Royals’ goaltender Matt Dalton (0-1-0-0; 23/30) was left to his own defenses far too many times in his first game since returning to Reading after a record setting year with the team last season. Elmira’s Marco Cousineau (2-0-2-0; 26/28) won in his first regular season start against the Royals. The Jackals touched up the Royals penalty kill for a couple (2-8), including the game’s first goal. Reading tied the game at two with a power play goal mid-way into the second period (1-5).

Elmira struck first on their fifth power play chance of the game 16:18 into the first period, when Kevin DeVergilio won an offensive zone face-off to Justin Donati in the high slot. Donati uncorked a rocket that beat Dalton high glove side for his third of the year. Reading tied the game at one 2:19 into the second, when Eric Castonguay carried around the Elmira net and slid a perfect pass to a spot mid-way into the left circle. Matt Caruana, who had just come off the bench, slid into the seam and fired a low, hard one-timer that beat Cousineau for his first of the season.

Elmira regained the lead (2-1) when Eric Lampe was able to bank one off of a scrambling Reading defender from behind the Royals’ goal that somehow ended up in the net at the 10:30 mark of the third. The Royals bounced back to tie the game again at the 12:45 mark of the second, while playing with the man advantage. Castonguay got a good look from the right circle, but Cousineau made the stop. The rebound fell to the crease, where Caruana punched it home for his second of the night. 1:43 after that, a kneeing infraction by Elmira’s Michael Dubuc ignited a line brawl that resulted in six different players (three from each team) getting tossed—including Ryan Cruthers, Ben Gordon, and Matt Generous from the Royals.

In the third, the Jackals exposed the short-benched Royals, starting with a power play goal by Eric Lampe 3:40 into the period. A Reading defender blocked a Patrick Coulombe shot from the point but the rebound fell directly to the blade of Lampe who ripped it home for his second of the night and third of the season. The flood gates opened at the 9:54 mark of the third, when A.J. Perry chipped a Justin Donati pass from the left wall on net that hit the cuff of Dalton’s catching glove and fluttered into the net to make it 4-2, Elmira. 48 seconds later, Michael Dubuc stole behind the Royals net and tried to jam the puck in at the right pipe. Dalton rejected that shot, but the rebound slid back to Dubuc who fired quickly and hit pay dirt for his sixth of the year. 35 seconds after that, the Jackals made it 6-2 when Dustin Cameron finished a back-door redirect on a two-on-one rush with Oren Eizenman. Elmira finished the scoring 1:52 later (at the 13:09 mark of the third) when Yannick Tifu threw one out of the right corner that went off the skate of a Reading defender and directly into the net on the back-door side to make it 7-2.

Keeping It In The Family

October 23, 2010

Travis Zajac has starred for the New Jersey Devils since the 2006-07 season. He hopes his brother, Darcy, currently playing in Trenton, can join him one day in the NHL. (Photo: Mike Ashmore/2010)

The New Jersey Devils organization has a long history of keeping things in the family, so to speak.

It starts at the top, where general manager Lou Lamoriello has employed his son, Chris, as a scout and general manager of the organization’s two minor league affiliates.

More recently, Zach and Jordan Parise and Brian and Stephen Gionta have been in the organization at the same time. 

The latest example comes with the addition of Darcy Zajac to the Trenton Devils roster.  His older brother, Travis, has been a standout center in New Jersey for the past five seasons and is coming off a career-best season in which he tallied new personal bests with 25 goals, 42 assists and 67 points.

While it certainly isn’t unfair for the organization to hope for that kind of production one day from the younger Zajac, anyone thinking that Darcy is here just because of his brother is mistaken, says the 23-year-old Trenton center.

“I think there always has been (a stigma of being Travis’ brother). We’ve always played on the same teams,” Darcy Zajac said.

“There’s always going to be skeptics out there, people that are judging me and think I’m here because he’s here. But you know what, you look at our two games and what he’s accomplished and what I’ve accomplished individually, I don’t think there’s any reason why I’d be here because of him.”

Interestingly enough, after a four-year collegiate career at The University of North Dakota, Darcy Zajac made his professional debut in the Philadelphia Flyers organization, playing two games for their AHL affiliate in Adirondack at the end of last season.

“I was looking to get something done at the end of the year after playing four years of college, and they offered to fly me out and put me in for a few games and see what I could do and if I could help them out,” Darcy said.

“I think it was a huge stepping stone in my development. I got to go out there and really see what I needed to work on over the summer.”

Travis Zajac, who says he speaks with Darcy nearly every day, said that the two spoke about where the younger Zajac should play, going through the options Darcy had.

“I just think that with the type of style of play he has, he’d fit in with this organization,” Travis Zajac said.

“He’s good defensively, he’s good on draws, he does all the little things well. That’s what this organization looks for. He plays with a lot of energy and hopefully one day he can make a step and keep getting better and one day be here with the Devils.”

Trenton Devils rookie center Darcy Zajac

Darcy was in talks with the Flyers about signing there in the off-season, but ultimately chose the road that might have him playing with his older brother one day.

“Earlier on last year, (the Flyers) were talking to me a little bit, but I just was talking with the Devils as well and found them to be a better fit for the long run,” he said. “It’s a place I want to be and they’re good at developing players. They want to develop me, and it’s a great organization.”

Regardless of whether his brother’s in the organization or not, Darcy said that this season will go a long way towards making a name for himself, something that’s been hard to achieve with what his brother has accomplished.

“It’s huge (to make our own name) for any of us, especially your first year,” Darcy said.

“Your first couple years, you have to show what you have and show you can compete and be an asset to the team and the organization. This year is just a huge year for me. I want to be a part of something big and something special and want to develop as much as I can.”

Despite his own success, Travis Zajac is hopeful his brother’s strong work ethic will help establish him as his own player instead of being “Travis’ brother.”

“I don’t think he looks at it like (following in my footsteps),” Travis said.

“He’s trying to create his own success in the game, and I think he’s done a good job of that. He hasn’t been given opportunities, he’s gone out there and made them for himself. He’s a good player. Like I said, he’s the last one on the ice usually every day. It’s not the fact that he’s given these opportunities to have success, he creates his own success and he’s going to have a good career.”

Having followed Travis at Salmon Arm in the BCHL and North Dakota collegiately, Darcy Zajac hopes to one day have a chance to play with his brother in the NHL in Newark.  Just don’t expect to see the Sedin twins out there.  According to Darcy, he and Travis play a completely different style of hockey.

“I don’t think (our games) compare a whole lot,” Darcy said.

“Obviously, he’s a real offensive guy, especially with the guys he plays with, Kovy and Parise there. I like to think of myself as a more of an energy guy, I play a little more physical. I like to get a little messy sometimes, and do whatever you have to do to get the win for the team. I’m not saying I don’t like to go out there and score goals, because I think everybody does, but I think in the long run, I’m more of a two-way energy guy and more physical. Just go out there and getting the team rolling.”

Having attended both NHL and AHL training camp this season, Darcy Zajac is well on his way to one day living his NHL dream.  And that’s OK with Travis.

“It would be really special (to play with him up here),” he said.

“Obviously, it was our dream to make it to the NHL. I know it’s still his dream to play here. For both of us to be here, it would be pretty special. He’s just got to look at it as getting better every game and being consistent. It’s his first pro year, so he’ll figure it out pretty quick.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Division Notes: Jackals Lose, Courchaine Shipped Out

October 23, 2010

With Trenton not picking up play again until this weekend — they’re in Johnstown to play Wheeling later tonight (since, you know, that makes so much sense) and head to Wheeling for a 5:05 PM game on Sunday — there’s not too much to report.

Looking at what’s going on around the massive, three-team division Trenton’s in, the Elmira Jackals suffered a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Wheeling Nailers last night.  Justin Donati scored both Jackals goals, but Patrick Kileen continued his hot start between the pipes for the Nailers and shut the door long enough until Andrew Orpik beat Marco Cousineay at 1:26 of the extra session.

As for the Royals, who host Elmira later tonight, they were clearly so impressed with Adam Courchaine’s four goals allowed in seven minutes performance on Saturday night, they jettisoned him as far across the country as they could.  Well, not quite.  But Courchaine was assigned to the Alaska Aces by the AHL’s Providence Bruins, as they needed to find a place for him to play with Matt Dalton having been sent back to the Royals.

ECHL alum Nolan Schaefer (Fresno, 2003-04) and Michael Hutchinson are currently manning the pipes in Providence.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Vichorek Active; Thomas To IR

October 19, 2010

The Trenton Devils have activated defenseman Taylor Vichorek from the IR and placed defenseman Andy Thomas on the 21-Day IR.  In addition, Matt Vokes has been transferred to the 21-Day IR.

Vichorek is looking to make his pro debut after playing collegiately at Hamline University last season. 

Thomas did not collect a point in his first two games this season.  No word on his injury as of yet.

After scoring 20 goals in just 52 games last season, Vokes has missed the start of the season with an ankle injury.  He’s been at the arena in walking boot, but is making progress and should be back soon.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Around The Division

October 19, 2010

— The Reading Royals have made a change in net, but it isn’t what you think.  Adam Courchaine, who got lit up on Sunday to the tune of four goals on nine shots in 7:13, has been recalled by AHL Providence.  Meanwhile, Matt Dalton, who earned a job at the next level with his solid play in the second half of the 2009-10 season, has been returned to Reading.

— Elmira’s Michael Dubuc has been named the ECHL Player of the Week.  He leads the league with five goals and six points and scored four of those goals in a 5-4 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com