By Joshua Brett
Special to the Times
TRENTON, N.J. – The Trenton Devils already have pulled off one memorable comeback this winter just to reach the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Can they pull off an even more memorable one to reach the second round of the playoffs?
They’ll get a chance to do so tomorrow night after staving off elimination in overtime for the second consecutive day, beating the Elmira Jackals Sunday night, 3-2, in Game 6 of the North Division semifinals at Sovereign Bank Arena.
The third overtime game in this series, and the fourth decided by one goal, ended 5:43 into the second sudden death session when Eric Castonguay, who entered the game without a goal in the series, made the same move he used to score many of his 29 goals this season and buried a wrist shot into the top left corner of the net.
The teams will return here at 7 p.m. on Tuesday for the decisive Game 7.
“I hadn’t scored in the series; I missed a lot of goals,” Castonguay said. “I’m pretty happy (to break through), but now it’s over. We have to think about Tuesday.”
Not surprisingly, Jeff Frazee started in goal again for the T-Devils. What was surprising, though, was that Gerald Coleman, one of the big reasons for the T-Devils’ regular-season turnaround but who was benched after giving up 15 goals in the first three games of the series, was completely deactivated Sunday.
T-Devils head coach Rick Kowalsky said Coleman was banged up from the series (he started the four-overtime Game 1) and said he was day-to-day. Frazee, however, will start in goal Tuesday.
Frazee was about the only thing the T-Devils had going for them in the first period. Instead of carrying over any momentum from their Game 5 escape in overtime the night before, the T-Devils were flat and uninspired in the opening 20 minutes, even when on one of their two power-play chances. Trenton had only three shots on goal in the first 13 minutes of the game and only seven in the entire first period.
They were very fortunate to get out of that period only trailing by a goal. That tally came courtesy of SBA public enemy No. 1 Chaz Johnson, and it came on something the T-Devils gave up way too many of in the opening period — rebounds in front of the net.
With 13:41 remaining and the Jackals on a power play, Johnson got to one of those rebounds and stuffed it inside an open right post to put Elmira ahead.
The Jackals could have — if not, should have — been up three goals or more after that first period. Colton Yellow Horn had one goal actually waved off when the referee ruled that one of his teammates had interfered with Frazee. With 5:03 remaining in the second, David Leaderer snapped the T-Devils out of their funk by burying a rebound shot from the left circle to tie the game.
Jim Henkel couldn’t lift the puck with an open left side of the net midway through the third, squandering a 2-on-1 opportunity.
The Jackals pushed the T-Devils to the brink when Derek Couture beat Frazee low and to his left with 6:48 remaining in regulation. As the clock ticked down towards the final 90 seconds of the T-Devils’ season, Frazee skated to the bench for an extra attacker.
Just as he was getting there, Justin Coutu buried a shot from the high slot with 1:29 remaining. Despite being badly outplayed for much of the game, the T-Devils got it to overtime.
“What this team has gone through, everyone has talked about it,” Kowalsky said. “We just keep doing it. It is two teams fighting hard for every inch of ice. These guys just found a way to get it done again.”