By Andy Kent
Copyright © 2005 Naples Daily News
TRENTON, N.J. — With the NHL lockout still ongoing, the only top level professional hockey being played right now is at the ECHL and American Hockey League levels. That has allowed NHL coaches and scouts to get good looks at their prospects.
Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock is fortunate enough to have both of his affiliates playing for league championships — the ECHL’s Trenton Titans and the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms. They also happen to be located within an hour of each other.
Hitchcock took in the Phantoms’ series-clinching win Sunday over the Providence Bruins in the conference finals — Philly places the Chicago Wolves in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals on Thursday in Chicago, then was at Sovereign Bank Arena for Monday night’s Game 5 of the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Finals between the Titans and the Florida Everblades, won by Trenton in comeback fashion, 5-2.
“This is kind of the last hockey left so this it,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve had a great working relationship with Trenton and we’ve used the organization a lot this year. And for me, the longer look (with no NHL hockey) I’ve been able to not only watch games but to watch a lot of practices. I’ve gone on the ice with a lot of teams and it’s more for me taking a look at the game of hockey the way it’s played and the way it’s taught.”
He referenced some of the rules changes being proposed for the NHL whenever hockey does resume and also admitted that coaches need to look at some different ways of teaching, specifically when it comes to play without the puck as opposed to with the puck.
As for his take on the series between Trenton and Florida, Hitchcock easily identified the most important factor up to this point — momentum. After two periods and knowing the series was tied at 2-2, Hitchcock could see the Everblades had the momentum.
“In order to win playoff series and win championships you’ve got to win games in overtime, and they’ve won all their overtime games (5-0),” Hitchcock said.
When asked after the game and after witnessing Trenton’s five-goal third period, he reiterated how important momentum is.
“Momentum’s a funny thing,” Hitchcock said. “You never know when it comes, you never know when to grab it. Very seldom do you a see-saw like this, usually one team has it and they run with it.”
Hitchcock won a Stanley Cup as head coach of the Dallas Stars at the end of the 1998-99 season when the Stars beat the Buffalo Sabres. He coached the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, where they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.