A team that started 4-0 now sits at .500 ten games into the season. And a Titans squad that has heavily relied on Scott Wedgewood to bail them out of defensive breakdowns and odd-man chances against has now lost their goaltender for an undetermined amount of time after he was injured in a second period collision with teammate Andrew Conboy. Wedgewood stayed in for the duration of the middle frame, but handed over the reigns…and eventually the loss, to Niko Hovinen in the third.
— My Trentonian game story is right here, folks.
— Felt like the best Titans player tonight was Bryan Haczyk. Not sure it was close, really. One game after being somewhat inexplicably scratched, Haczyk made a case to be a permanent fixture among the team’s ten forwards with a very strong game. He scored their only goal, was buzzing all night, and led the team in shots on goal with five.
— Speaking of shots on goal, Vince Williams indirectly called out Andy Bohmbach and Marcel Noebels after the game, saying that players that the team relies on offensively didn’t even register a shot. Neither player did.
— It won’t show up in the box score, but it seemed to me like Stephen Schultz’s line change played a direct result in Reading’s game winner. With the Royals already having an odd-man chance developing through the neutral zone, Schultz should have either stayed on to neutralize the play or made more of a charge towards the bench, allowing the man coming on to have a better chance to gain some of the ground needed to allow the defense to shift over to its left and cover Kirk MacDonald, who ultimately skated up the right side uncontested. Instead, Schultz did a slow glide to the bench, and the Titans were never able to completely recover.
As for the shot, Hovinen was disappointed in his efforts to stop it, but from our perspective up top, it seemed like a perfectly placed dart.
— Seems to me that the “Mitch Versteeg must jump into every offensive play” era needs to end. Versteeg doesn’t seem to have the skill set to be a puck carrying defenseman, and when he does jump into the play, it means either a forward has to head back to the point to cover or…an odd man chance against could develop, which the Titans sure do seem prone to.
— With all the commotion over the Wedgewood injury, nobody got to ask about Tyler Hostetter being scratched again. So you’ll be left scratching your heads a little longer on that one…
— And now, without further ado, the quotes…
“It’s tough. I know Coach Williams has a lot of tough decisions to make every night. We’ve got a lot of guys, and it’s tough. But it motivates you, it definitely gets you going. You sit down, and you have a lot of time to think about what you need to do next game. I just tried to give it my all tonight, come out and try to earn a permanent spot.”
“Vince and I have talked about what my game is, what I bring to the game. He wants to me to stick to my strengths; which is using my speed, keeping the puck moving straight up the ice and firing pucks on net. So, that’s really been the focus of my game, especially tonight.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about pro hockey, it’s that any team can beat any team on any given night. It’s especially tough when you’re facing a team three, four, five times in a row. They pick up on your habits. Obviously, they watch game tape, as do we. But, they learn our game and they learn how to counter our game. We need to come back and re-focus for tomorrow.”
“It was just precaution. I hit my head pretty hard when Conboy took my feet out there, I was a little whatever you want to call it, shaken up I guess is the best word for it. I played the end of the second, and I just didn’t feel up to par. I talked to the doctors just to make sure. When it’s something with the head, you don’t want to take any risks with it. Right now, it’s be safe, go home and sleep it off and come in tomorrow and see how I feel.”
“I feel pretty good. I mean, in my own mind, I could have still played. I just hear so many horror stories of guys keep playing, and you get hit in the head again and it just gets worse. We talked it over, and the best option was to take the rest of the night off.”
“It was just the head, I had a little bit of a headache when I finished up the second. I didn’t want to do that to the team, but it was for my own personal safety. It was one of those decisions you have to make.”
“You’ve got to fight your way through (traffic) and find the puck at all times. Early in the first, I made a save that I don’t even think I saw until the last second coming through on the power play there. You have to battle through it. Guys are a lot taller than I am or things like that, I wish I was like Niko, 6-7, I could stand over everybody. But I have to do my own little thing and find holes through guys screens and keep your eye on the puck.”
“It was like a 2-on-1, and I think they were trying to cut across the middle. I was keeping my eye on the puck, there was a stick on puck, and the puck kind of went to the side. As soon as I looked that way, I think Conboy dove. I don’t know where he came from, I didn’t really see that until he was at my feet. Personally, if I could re-do it, I would have tried to absorb the hit, but I tried to get over him just because the play was still going. I wanted to get over him to save my net, but he caught my feet and my hands kind of got stuck behind me and I just turned my head and landed on the side and that’s the way it goes. It happens, not much I can do about it.”
“I’m just going to come in tomorrow and see how I feel. Right now, I’m not looking any deeper. I think Niko’s going to play tomorrow anyway. It’s not like I’m on the IR or anything like that, in my own mind. So it’s just be cautious, talk to the doctors and see that they’re OK with how I feel. Once I’m 100 percent with myself, I’m going to jump back in there.”
“I just try to be ready mentally. Every game you’re not playing, you never know what’s going to happen, like we saw today. You never hope for anything like that to happen, but sometimes it does and you’ve just got to be ready.”
“(It happening between periods helps) for sure, yeah. You get 15 minutes to kind of get yourself ready and stretch a little bit. It helps a lot.”
“(The goal) was this and that…it was a good shot, but still, I probably should have had it. I should have had it; maybe come out a little bit more, I would have stopped it with my shoulder. But that happens, and that’s actually one of the things I’ve got to learn here. Those kind of shots, I have to know where I’m standing at all times. That’s not a hard shot to make a save on. I need to make those saves.”
“You came out a little bit pissed off in the third period and started hitting and starting engaging. You’ve got to want to fight through checks and drive to the net, and we’re just not getting enough out of that out of some guys, and we’re not getting enough scoring chances because we’re not going to the net, we’re not creating scoring chances. We’re not giving a heck of a lot against in shots, but the shots that we are getting, some of them are…they’ve got a goalie that’s saving everything and seeing everything. Then we finally start getting traffic, we start getting chances and we start getting momentum. You’re going to have to pay the price, and some guys are and you can see it. Some guys are physical, and some guys need to bring that element. It creates separation. It doesn’t mean you have to go run a guy through the glass and take someone’s head off, but it creates chances when you’re harder to play against. You saw some guys were some doing it, and we had some chances. But a lot of guys, some guys have to be a lot better. The element of heart to their game is not what we expect.”
“I think (Wedgewood) is probably day-to-day, but I don’t think he’ll dress tomorrow as a precaution.”
“We came out hard, but you’ve got to do it for 60 minutes. We shook some things up in the third and changed some things around, and we got a little more momentum and some traffic, but it shouldn’t get to that point. They’re playing, but they’re not playing hard enough. It’s leaning on their sticks, it’s getting pucks out and making strong plays and being physical and all that stuff, getting net presence. That’s the difference. 2-1 (game), 2-1 (game). Not good enough. It’s just not good enough. Some guys don’t even have a shot. Some guys that are supposed to be carrying us offensively haven’t even got a shot tonight. Maybe one between two or three of them. We’ve got to be harder on their skill, too. But we’re not playing hard enough. It’s evident, and it’s pretty evident from where I’m looking, and I’m sure it’s evident from where you’re looking.”
“You ride the guys that are going to do what we want them to do. You’ve got four guys in the stands that can be ready to play next week. There’s one reserve spot being taken away tomorrow. I don’t have to say anything. You know what, there’s a lot of grit sitting in the stands between Drewiske, McKenzie, Beauregard and company. We need more of that. We don’t have enough grit. I don’t think we’re hard enough to play against up front. When guys like Akeson are getting run through the building, it finally takes a couple guys to finally respond and give it back. It can’t be the same guys, like Slater and everybody doing it all night long, and that’s what we’re seeing. We just have to get more sandpaper.”
“You start forcing things a little bit, but when you’re not making strong plays, you’re turning pucks over. You just can’t turn pucks over. Again, it’s about being hard on the blue lines and managing the puck. There’s some things we improved on, but there’s some things that…we need to score goals. We’re not scoring goals right now, and we’re not willing to go to the dirty areas. When we finally start doing that a little bit in the third period, we started getting chances.”
“You have talent, but you can take away talent by playing hard on them. You can be the most talented player out there, but if you’re not willing to work…you can take away talent by taking away time and space and slowing them down, and you have to fight through that. Talent’s one thing, but you have to have the will to want to fight through checks. Why are there a lot of talented players in this league that aren’t in the American League? Why is it the same thing in the American League with the NHL? You’ve got to be a complete player.”
“You see (Reading) enough, they’re in your division. But, obviously there’s some line matchups going back and forth, and that’s why we changed things up in the third period. You’ve got to fight through their D and you’ve got to fight through the neutral zone, and we started doing that in the third period, and you started seeing some chances. You could be the most talented player, but if you’re not willing to work and battle through, it’s tough to showcase that. You can’t showcase it on the perimeter. There’s a lot of perimeter play, and you could see that. When we started going to the net and started getting traffic…but even then, there was still one or two guys that were standing on the outside of it. You’ve got to get in the battle.”
“We’ll do everything to make this team better. We’re at that ten game mark where you can start to evaluate what you have here and what you need, and that is a good test. If we want to win a championship or go deep in the playoffs, you’ve got to have an element of heart that right now I think we’re missing a little bit. It’s coming from some of the younger, first-year guys.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com