By Len Bardsley
© 2005 The Times of Trenton
ESTERO, Fla. – The day after the Titans eliminated the Reading Royals from the ECHL North Division Finals, defenseman Tim Judy took off for Boston.
Then after Judy graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in criminal justice, he jumped on a plane and joined the Titans for Game 1 of the National Conference Finals against the Alaska Aces in Anchorage.
Judy graduated again in Game 7 of that series.
The 24-year-old from Bowie, Md., may have played only 22 games of professional hockey, including the playoffs, but during that crucial game at Sullivan Arena, Judy showed the steely determination of a veteran.
Judy’s steady play will be tested again during the Kelly Cup Finals, which opened Saturday with Trenton posting a 7-0 win in Game 1 at Germain Arena.
The transformation has not surprised either Titans coach Mike Haviland or forward Leon Hayward, who was a teammate of Judy’s at Northeastern.
At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Judy is an undersized defenseman. Although he has some offensive skills, he was named best defensive defenseman in Hockey East his senior season.
It is the subtle aspects, though, that Judy does well, like making a safe outlet pass instead of setting up a dangerous scoring chance for the opposition, or turning away from pressure and picking clear lanes to clear the puck.
“His poise and smarts are what you are really seeing,” Haviland said. “The poise he had with the puck (in Game 7) on the penalty kill … he would take a couple of extra steps and throw it up the middle (where it was clear) instead of just pounding it around the wall.”
Haviland first saw Judy play while he was as an opposing coach in regional youth tournaments.
“I knew he was a smart player,” Haviland said. “I didn’t coach him, but I was involved in festivals and I remember him being a smart player and a real heady player. He has come in and been unbelievable. A first-year guy, getting a run like this is an invaluable experience.”
Judy never expected to still be playing hockey in the middle of May, but is enjoying every minute of it.
“It has been unbelievable,” he said. “When I decided to come here I never thought we would be playing this far. It has been exciting to play this far. Leon said it is a great place to play and the coaching staff is unbelievable. That helped with my decision (to come here).”
Judy played eight games during the regular season, scoring two goals, adding an assist and earning a plus-four plus-minus rating.
Judy was a minus-two in the Titans’ Game 1 loss at Alaska, but the rookie had a negative rating only once in the following six games.
“Since my first weekend, everyone has been really supportive,” Judy said. “In the early part, if I made a mistake they said, `Don’t worry about it.’ If I did a good job, they said I did a good job. That is comforting, it is good to know they are back there to support you.”
Hayward is excited to see his former Huskies teammate be an integral part of the Titans’ playoff run.
“I knew Timmy from when I played with him in college,” Hayward said. “He is solid, head-strong and a level-headed type of kid. I thought he could help us out and he has been great. (In Game 7) he was all over the place, making great decisions. He came in as a freshman (at Northeastern) and played right away. I knew he could do well here, he has been great, I have not been surprised.”