By Rob Chakler
TRENTON, N.J. – Hosting their first playoff game in two years, the Trenton Devils decided they were going to treat their fans to the longest game in the 21-year history of the ECHL to make up for lost time.
Not by choice, however, as they allowed the tying goal in the final minute of regulation, but for the 14 T-Devils who were making their professional playoff debuts (out of 18 dressed), they will never forget their first taste of the playoffs after what they had to endure playing nearly three games in a five-hour time period.
Elmira’s Josh Aspenlind was the hero ending the marathon thriller 6:10 into quadruple overtime Friday night at Sovereign Bank Arena to give the Jackals a 1-0 series lead in the North Division semifinal.
Trenton is 7-9 all-time in playoff overtime games and has lost five in a row dating back to 2005.
There were a total of 145 shots, 136 saves and nine goals in the first triple-overtime game in team history that lasted 126:10. The longest game before last night lasted 89:46 before Alain St. Hilaire scored to give Trenton a win in 2001.
The longest game in league history before Friday was May 5, 2000 when Greenville beat Louisiana 3-2 in the fourth overtime at 121:24. Elmira and Trenton also set the record for shots in a game with 145, breaking the previous record of 139.
Trenton will aim to even the series on Saturday at 7 p.m. at SBA as both teams will empty whatever they have left in the tank after this one.
Having the tying goal called off after running T-Devils goalie Gerald Coleman with 1:04 left in regulation, Elmira’s Chaz Johnson atoned for his mistake scoring six seconds later to officially send the game to overtime.
Coleman entered last with a 5-2 record against Elmira and allowed 17 goals in seven games. Elmira’s Michael Teslak sported a 3-3 record in six regular season meetings against Trenton.
Coleman finished with 65 saves while Teslak came up with 71 in the win.
The T-Devils trailed by one in the third period when Dan Eves fought through the interference of an Elmira defender and scored on a breakaway 1:53 into the third to tie the game 3-3.
Tony Zancanaro scored exactly 10 minutes later – his second of the night – off a behind-the-back pass from Jeff Prough with 9:08 remaining in regulation to give the T-Devils their first lead of the game, 4-3.
The T-Devils came out with a burst of energy on the opening shift of the game attempting to hit anything that moved, but it was Elmira who got on the board first.
Slavomir Tomko – who scored three goals in 52 regular season games – picked up the first goal of the playoffs beating an out-of-position Coleman from the slot 2:10 into the first period to take a 1-0 lead.
The T-Devils responded with a power play goal from Zancanaro midway through the period to tie the game.
Pierre-Luc Faubert, one of Elmira’s four 20-goal scorers, connected twice in the final seven minutes of the first to give the Jackals a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes. Both were rebound goals and the first came on a 5-on-3 power play.
The T-Devils scored the only goal of the second period as Trevor Kell continued his scoring touch against Elmira. Eric Castonguay fired a slap pass from the right circle and Kell deflected it home from the slot to cut the lead in half, 3-2. It was Kell’s eighth goal in 13 games against the Jackals.