#30 Cal Heeter
It was kind of a mixed bag from Heeter this season, and it’s hard to evaluate him on just an eight-game stint. As is the case with all four goalies who played for the Titans in 2012-13, the numbers aren’t exactly glowing — A 3-3-0-0 record with a 3.18 GAA and .900 save percentage. But a relatively porous defense that, combined with the goaltending, allowed the fourth-most goals in the conference surely doesn’t help there.
Let’s be honest here. When Trenton fans think of Heeter, the numbers aren’t the first thing that will come to mind. Instead, an incident in which he angrily flung the puck over the glass after a goal and was subsequently issued a game misconduct and suspension by the league is likely the first thought. There were several maturity-related issues that marred the first pro season of the 24-year-old netminder, who has since returned to Adirondack and even earned a brief one-game call-up to Philadelphia after some shuffling at the trade deadline left the Flyers shorthanded in net.
On the ice, Heeter performed as well as could be expected given the difficult circumstances that any goalie who comes to Trenton faces. He’ll have a chance to stick in the American Hockey League with Adirondack next year, and could emerge as the first option to head back to the NHL if his play warrants it.
#30 Niko Hovinen
Similar to Heeter, the first thought Titans fans have when Hovinen comes to mind may not be one related to his on-ice play. Instead, talk of the Flyers organization being fed up with the 6-foot-7, Finnish-born netminder for a perceived poor work ethic and aloof nature ultimately made it an easy decision for Philadelphia to rid their hands of Hovinen midway through the ECHL season.
Although many of the issues surrounding the 25-year-old had been kept under wraps, things began to publicly come to a head when Vince Williams, rarely critical of individual players in a public setting, took Hovinen to task after the December 1 game in which he was pulled after just one period of play. Despite Hovinen not having played in two and a half weeks, Williams was clearly expecting more than the lackadaisical effort he received on two loose pucks in front of the net that ultimately led to Elmira goals.
“I didn’t think on the last two goals…it’s one thing if the rebound is laying there, but (I want to see) a little more fight in it,” he said after the game.
“I don’t think there was enough fight in the last two goals. There’s a compete factor on loose pucks in front of you. That’s something that we’ve seen, and you know what, these games are important. Our urgency to win is important. It’s something I felt we needed to do, and we did it…I don’t know what rust means, he’s a professional hockey player. He’s a professional hockey player. He’s a third or fourth year pro. I just felt the last two goals, we needed a little bit more fight.”
On the ice, Hovinen showed flashes of why he was highly regarded by the Flyers, but it was typically little more than that. Amid rumors that he was going back to his homeland of Finland, Hovinen was instead put on waivers for the purpose of his unconditional release by Philadelphia, and was subsequently claimed by the Edmonton Oilers. Sent straight to the AHL, an opportunity he wasn’t going to get with the Flyers after a very poor training camp, he was underwhelming in nine games with Oklahoma City (3.26, .884) and posted numbers similar to what he put up in Trenton (3.14, .889).
#35 Brooks Ostergard
After Scott Wedgewood got run into the ground following the departure of the aforementioned Hovinen, it was finally decided that the Titans would need to acquire a legitimate backup goalie who wasn’t chained to the bench by the ECHL’s emergency backup rules. Enter Brooks Ostergard.
Ostergard was rotting on Kalamazoo’s bench behind ex-Titan Joel Martin, who started somewhere in the vicinity of 32987248956437 consecutive games for the Wings. In essence, Ostergard became Trenton’s Sunday starter, typically getting the third game of a 3-in-3 when it made no sense to play Wedgewood. The 25-year-old played well in his limited action, but did have one poor outing in which he lasted just 17:41 in a game against Elmira in which he allowed four goals on seven shots.
I’d need to see more of Ostergard to get a better feel for what he brings to the table. I’m not sure he’s a starter at the ECHL level, but he has proved that he’s at the absolute very least capable of competing for a backup job. He might be one of those fringe goalies better served by going down to a lower level so he can develop at a quicker pace with the benefit of more consistent playing time than he might get up here.
#1 Scott Wedgewood
Scott Wedgewood did absolutely, positively everything that was asked of him this season. His team-worst 3.22 goals against average is far more indicative of what was in front of him rather than his ability to keep pucks from gettind behind him. He’s a far better goaltender than his 20-22-3-2 mark shows, and there’s no telling what Trenton’s 32-32-4-4 record would actually be without some spectacular performances from him. In terms of pure talent, he may be the best goalie in Trenton hockey history.
Just 20 years old, Wedgewood is considered a possible goaltender of the future for the New Jersey Devils, but was trapped behind Keith Kinkaid and Jeff Frazee when it came time to finding a spot in the AHL. So, for the majority of the season, he was in Trenton to get his first pro year under his belt. If you’re looking for downsides to Wedgewood’s game, he did struggle when playing on back-to-back days, unable to earn his first victory in that scenario until he earned his first professional shutout on February 23. But those are the kind of speed bumps you’ll hit in your first season, and he’ll be better prepared to encounter a heavy workload when he likely spends next season with Albany.
A good kid off the ice, and a premier talent on it, Wedgewood is easy to root for, and should have a bright future ahead of him.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com (All photos: Mike Ashmore)