— I could stand to watch a few more games like that one. Don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t a complete 60-minute effort. The penalty box parade in the third period was a troubling, if not expected sign from a team that has trouble sealing the deal. But Dave Caruso was so good in the first half of the game and the offense was clicking so well through the first two periods that it didn’t matter.
— Be sure to check out my game story in today’s Trentonian. Or just read it online here.
— Caruso. Wow. For as obviously interested as I am in the goaltending side of the game, I only tend to spotlight it in game stories when it’s a shutout, particularly awful or a high-save game, etc. But in my opinion, this is absolutely a different game if Caruso doesn’t make some stand-on-his-head stops in the first period. Trenton wasn’t able to generate Grade A chances and Toledo was, but Caruso was there to make every stop. Yes, they scored six goals, but Caruso won this game in the first 30 minutes.
I’ll pass along quotes in a bit — and there are a ton to give you — but Caruso praised his defense after the game. He did not, of course, mention that it was Taylor Vichorek who got burned early on that that led to Zach Torquato’s breakaway attempt that he had to slide out to the faceoff dot to thwart. He didn’t mention how Justin Pender’s slow reaction to another home run Walleye pass led to Kyle Rogers being in all alone on him. And he didn’t mention that Brad Miller’s brutal giveaway at the right point created a 2-on-1 that led to Toledo’s first goal of the game.
— I’ll get to Ryan Hayes in a bit, but that was the best game I’ve seen J.S. Berube play all season. Now, while I could have just quoted him after his very audible “are you ——- kidding me” after a penalty call in the second period, Josh Burke from Hockey.org and I did speak to him after the game, and I’ll show you that in a bit…but he was in a good mood afterwards and deservedly so.
Berube had big expectations coming into this season, and has been somewhat of a disappointment in that regard. He had just five goals coming into last night, and the transition to the pro game seems to have been taking longer than many had hoped. But he came up aces on Sunday, and not only did he add his sixth and seventh strikes of the season, but he factored in on an absolutely gorgeous 3-on-1 passing play with Ryan Ginand in the second that Hayes converted on to make it a 5-1 game.
— What a story Hayes is. He was a healthy scratch early this year…the second game of the year, he didn’t play. If you read what I wrote after the way he played on opening night, you’ll know I thought that was a bad decision then. He’s certainly doing everything in his power to make it look like a bad decision now, too.
This was a different Ryan Hayes tonight. If I’ve had one criticism of his game, it’s that he’s been a little too predictable offensively. Eric Castonguay had the exact same problem — if it is one — where he’d just cut across the slot from the left wing boards and fire off a wrist shot. But he was all over the ice tonight and earned his first professional hat trick. Granted, he maybe got a dozen or so hats on the ice, but when you consider the hats to people in the seats ratio, well…
— I have to give Chase Watson credit. He’s very quietly gotten off to a nice start in Trenton, and again very quietly added three helpers on Sunday. I’m not sure where his future lies once a few guys return, but he’s shown that he can play in this league.
— This is my third season of covering this team. In my first two, I’d often walk away amazed by Jeff Prough’s performances. Too often this year, I haven’t. I’m not sure if it’s a confidence thing or what, but he hasn’t looked the same sometimes this year. It used to be that when the puck was on his stick and he had some open ice, you’d get up out of your seat and just wait for that wicked wrist shot to find the twine. But again, I’m not sure if it’s confidence or the way he’s being used or what, but he hasn’t lived up to the expectations placed on him this season at times.
Prough was nowhere to be found yesterday — and although he was in position to score if Berube’s centering pass hadn’t banked off the D and in to make it 1-0 — and registered just one shot on goal.
— It was tough to see Matt Vokes sitting at the top of section 113 by himself during the first period, with crutches by his side. The brainy and talented forward is out yet again with the dreaded “lower body injury” and will be getting evaluated tomorrow. T.J. Miller will be heading to the 21-Day IR with an “upper body injury” and Tony Zancanaro, who’s been day-to-day for about the past six weeks or so, it seems, is hopeful to return before you throw away that calendar that’s hanging on your fridge.
— Does Toledo have some sort of team rule where they have to whine every time they get in the penalty box? My goodness. Smacking the glass with your stick in the direction of a man with a young child on his lap doesn’t exactly impress anyone. I’m looking at you, Ryan Stokes.
Now, with that said, having security stationed by the penalty boxes wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. If you go up to the box and make an inappropriate gesture to a player in there, as another fan did late in the game, a Tie Domi moment wouldn’t exactly be shocking. But it would also be unwanted, so they may want to think about that down the road.
— The T-Devils Booster Club had tins of cookies awaiting every player in the locker room before they all left to go home for the Christmas break. I assure you, they will be eaten. The Booster Club does a nice job of taking care of the boys, especially when new guys come to town. Whatever you think these guys make, it’s probably less…so little gestures like that are appreciated.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com