So the reporter went up to the head coach after the game and started off his question by saying there weren’t a lot of people who thought that Trenton would pull this one out tonight.
“Who thought that,” the coach playfully interjected.
The reporter softly admitted…well, he did.
Before the game, I didn’t think Trenton had much of a chance tonight. Everything lined up for them to lose. Losing two of their best forwards, being without both of their goalies and relying on a guy plucked out of an A-League, facing a talented team that was 7-2 away from their Olympic-sized surface…it all reeked of a loss.
Thing is, Mississippi has four s’s, four i’s, two p’s and an m. It doesn’t have a W. That’s where Mike Brown came in.
Signed out of the SPHL’s Mississippi Surge, Brown had a night to remember in his Trenton Devils debut, turning aside 34 Aces shots to pick up the win.
“He showed me a lot,” said the coach…errr, Trenton Devils head coach Kevin Dean.
“I watched him in practice pretty closely, and he looks pretty calm. He sees the puck well. We did a good job of eliminating second touches. Like any goalie, you want him to stop the ones he should stop and that’s what he did.”
Brown stood at his locker after the game, getting congratulations from his new teammates as they walked by. Sitting by his equipment on the floor was the game puck. The ECHL logo was facing up. This was a long way from Mississippi.
“This summer was a tough one for goalies, there were just a lot of guys out there,” Brown told me.
“I ended up getting a good opportunity down in Mississippi. It’s not the league you obviously want to play in, but I went down there and I was told I was going to play almost every game. So I went down there and just kind of waited around and played as best I could. My agent called me and these guys called me and said there was an opportunity come up here and back up and hopefully get some games.”
Brown said that playing in the ECHL was actually a little easier this time around having come straight from an A-League like the SPHL.
“There’s a lot less mistakes (here),” he said.
“Defensemen know what they’re doing. The trade-off is that shooters can pick corners better and they’ve got better hands and stuff like that. But for a goalie, it’s easier to know your defenseman is going to make a good play and not get roughed off the puck and get a 2-on-1 or it’s a bad pass and it’s a 2-on-1. You never know what can happen. It’s hard to say that it’s easier to play the higher up you go…I’m not saying it’s easier, but you just have to worry about what your job is instead of worrying about everybody else. I love playing up here, and when I played in the American League, I loved playing up there even more. The defensemen know what they’re doing, the forwards know what they’re doing, and they’re on a system and they’re there for a reason.”
Brown will, by default, be tomorrow’s starter with Jeff Lerg and Dave Caruso still in Albany. But with just 60 minutes to judge him by…whether it be Trenton or somewhere else in this league, he’s made a case to stay in the ECHL.
“I was focused all day,” Brown said.
“I was ready for this one. From the minute I got the call, I was ready for whatever game I got thrown into. Especially against my old team in Alaska, that was nice to beat them.”
Dean was, all kidding aside, pleased with his team’s performance against a team like the Aces, especially given the circumstances.
“I think it’s great,” he told me.
“Most importantly — the two points are great and the win’s great — but it reinforces to the young players especially that if you play the right way; you stay on the strong side and you don’t turn pucks over and you do the things that we talk about doing, you can win any hockey game. It really is a matter of commitment and doing the right things and making the right plays. That team is pretty skilled, they’ve got some really skilled players. But we outworked them, we stayed on the right side of the puck, we didn’t turn the puck over and we got good, timely saves from Brownie.”
The issue, of course, is putting this kind of effort together two nights in a row, which has been a problem for this team this season.
“I do feel like we’re capable of it, but to this point we haven’t been very good at doing it, though,” Dean said.
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some concern, because we haven’t put back to back nights together yet. I think some of that is youth, some of it’s energy. Even more, when you get tired, you have to fall back to the way you need to play. It’s something we’re going to learn at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
** A nice effort by the boys with the boss, Chris Lamoriello, in the house. Have to give him some credit for the Brown signing. I just wonder what happens when Lerg and Caruso come back. You can’t not like Lerg once you meet him, but to say he’s cemented his spot on the team is probably a little premature.
** The game was a little more chippy than I thought it would be. Justin Coutu dropped the gloves for a very brief fight in the second period, and T.J. Miller absolutely crushed an Aces defenseman against the boards in the third. Good to see the boys show some fight and physicality out there tonight. Dave Leaderer also played a more noticably physical game than we he usually does.
** Matt Vokes looked sharp in his first game of the season after missing the first quarter of the year with a lower body (see: leg…see: ankle) injury. I’ll have part of my post-game chat with him posted separately.
** Obviously, I missed a few games, but that’s the best I’ve seen Jeremy Akeson play this season. He singlehandedly created Trenton’s first goal, and it was nice to see him get a cookie with the empty netter at the end of the game as well. I’ll post some of my post-game chat with him as well.
** Enjoyed getting to see Gerald Coleman play again. Nice touch after the final whistle by the T-Devils who played with him, tapping his pads with their sticks.
I briefly spoke with Coleman after the game — that’s the beauty of covering a game by yourself, you can do stuff like go to both locker rooms and not worry about other reporters — and he said that despite the coaching change from Rick Kowalsky to Kevin Dean between his tenure in Trenton, he didn’t notice any differences now that he was on the other side.
“They’re the same organization and they’re a hard-working team. They do the little things right,” Coleman said.
“They’re physical and got pucks behind us and got a lot of shots on net. That’s what they’ve always done. A couple years ago, that’s when we had our success, by outworking teams. That’s what they did tonight.”
** Was really looking forward to getting to see Wes Goldie play for Alaska tonight. He just scored his 300th career ECHL goal…his story fascinates me. How can a guy just put up video game goal scoring numbers in the E every year and not have more than two career games in the AHL? Saw him tonight…and yeah, it was only one game, but I wasn’t blown away by any means.
Mike Brown told me after the game that his stop on Goldie — the stick save about 15 minutes into the first when he got in all alone — really got him into the game. To be honest, that’s the only time I really noticed Goldie other than a weird play early on where he sort of turned and fired a shot that looked more like a dump attempt way over Brown’s head.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com