While the ECHL North Division No. 6-ranked Devils did not make the playoffs this year, they certainly out-played the Jacks, ranked No. 2 and still battling for the Kelly Cup.
The Devils came out firing with a fresh face on the ice. Let me tell you, goalie Maxime Ouellet is really just phenomenal.
He was drafted by the NHL Philadelphia Flyers, Round 1 (No. 22), in 1999 and eventually played one season for the team. He moved between AHL and ECHL teams in the interim. I was impressed.
His name rolls of the tongue and the pucks rolled off his gloves tonight: He had some gorgeous saves, only letting one Jackal puck in over the course of 60 minutes.
The first Devil goal came late in the first period and was scored by No. 6, Stephen Wood, assisted by Trevor Kell and Ryan Gunderson.
And what would a hockey game be without a few good ole’ fashioned fights? There was a small brawl at the end of the first period which resulted in Jason Paige warming the penalty box to begin the second period.
There weren’t even any punches thrown, but both teams were penalized for “unsportsmanlike conduct.”
The Devils gained momentum despite all the roughing, with Paige himself scoring the second goal. He was assisted by Matt Radoslovich and Wood. It was gorgeous, at first deflected by the Jackal goalie and then hooked right in again by Paige.
While Chris Poli threw a few hooks about halfway into the second, he is certainly no Tommy Harrison.
However, all the penalties and “unsportsmanlike conduct” were easily forgotten when Jim Henkel, the Bayshore boy himself, assisted in the Devil’s third goal.
It was absolutely amazing: He had a breakaway shot with two Jackals blocking the goal (not including the goalie; these boys don’t know when to move). Even though he had a clear shot and a guaranteed moment of glory, he passed the puck behind him – right through his legs, never looking back – to Eric Castonguay, who easily made what Henkel had set up as the perfect goal.
I honestly love this guy, his attitude and the way he plays. Not only is he one of the most genuinely nicest guys I have talked to in a long time, but he is the pure definition of team player. His work tonight proved that.
The second period ended with a score of 3-0, but not before Harrison was given “five for fighting.”
Now, I’ve seen this guy fight quite a few times. Never before have I been worried his head was about to get crushed: It was a red, white and black pile on the ice when Harrison was thrown down by Bruce Watson. It took two Zebras to break them up.
I’m just glad nothing was actually crushed or broken. (At least not that I could see.)
The third period could just not top the second, but the Devils held on to their lead and continued to play consistently. Quellet had more smooth saves, complementing his team’s defense until the last few seconds.
It was obvious the Jackals were frustrated, including their fans. I have to admit, there were quite a few patches of Elmira fans at Sovereign Bank Arena tonight. Don’t worry, they were easily silenced when their team went down hard.
Overall, the best game I have ever seen Trenton play.
This should give them confidence for tomorrow’s game against the Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:00 p.m. It will be the Devil’s last game of the 2007/08 season.
Season tickets are now available for the 2008/09 season. For more information, call (609) 599-6500 or visit their Web site.
Also, check out the latest issue of The Courier for a feature on Hazlet native Jim Henkel.
PHOTO: BIG RED The very young Trenton Devils have come a long way this season. They have come together nicely and are truly looking like a team. (Melissa L. Gaffney)