By Rob Chakler
TRENTON, N.J. – Sixty minutes of hockey wasn’t enough for the third time in six games as Trenton and Elmira have battled in physically and mentally draining first-round series of the ECHL North Division playoffs.
The T-Devils won two of those contests to help set up a Game 7 on Tuesday at 7 p.m., but it’s taken its toll on the coaches and players.
“It’s not easy,” said Eric Castonguay about playing seven overtime periods in six games, including three on Saturday and Sunday. “It’s more in your head than in your legs. We are two good teams and it’s not easy, but it’s mental toughness at this point.”
T-Devils coach Rick Kowalsky has experience playing in a couple of Game 7’s, but as a coach, it’s brings added pressure.
“It’s physically and mentally exhausting,” Kowalsky said. “Mentally, as a coach, this just drains on you. You celebrate this, but as tired as I am, I have to figure out how we’re going to win the next one. That’s the beauty of it.
“I’ve been in a few Game 7’s, going back to junior,” Kowalsky said. “We actually won the Ontario League Championship in a Game 7. I think I’ve played in three or four. What these guys have gone through, it’s almost similar to one big overtime. You obviously want to limit your mistakes and play simple hockey, our message will be no different that is has been the last three games with our lives on the line.”
The physical style of the series has taken its toll on the players as Jeremy Akeson has missed the last five games after getting hurt in the series opener. Sunday, the team suffered an injury to one of its most consistent players on the back end, Matt Cohen.
He was hit along the boards in the first period and wasn’t able to return. His status for Game 7 is up in the air.
“We’ll see,” Kowalsky said. “He’s day-to-day, too. “He’ll be evaluated by doctors. He took a hit on the wall and he came back out, but didn’t felt 100-percent so we decided to give him the yank and right now it’s just day-to-day.
“We knew coming in this was going to be a tough series,” Kowalsky added. “We’ve given ourselves a chance and now it really does come down to one game … Now they’re on the brink, we’re both on the brink and I expect it to be the same battle.”