Johnstown Chiefs vs. Trenton

The Johnstown Chiefs officially moved back into the North Division playoff picture with a 3-1 victory over the Trenton Devils on Sunday.

But coach Ian Herbers and his suddenly streaking team aren’t content with standing pat.

“It’s nice to get back in that playoff spot again but I just finished telling the guys in the dressing room that we’re not happy with fifth place,” Herbers said after the Chiefs finished their fourth straight game without a regulation loss. “We want to work our way up to the fourth position and keep getting better and better ice position.”

The fifth-place Chiefs (20-23-1-2) have 43 points, two more than the Devils (18-25-1-4).

Johnstown outscored opponents by a combined 12-4 in two weekend home wins, including a convincing 9-3 victory over second-place Elmira in a game the Chiefs’ skated with a depleted lineup.

“We’re starting to play better at home,” Herbers said. “We’re starting to take charge and control the tempo.”

The Chiefs took a 1-0 advantage as B.J. Crum scored his first goal of the season, beating Trenton goalie Dave Caruso 2:28 into the game. A defenseman who moved to a forward position, Crum appeared in only his second game since Dec. 16. He took a pass from Joey Olson behind the net and found an opening.

“He works hard and he’s a great person in the dressing room,” Herbers said of Crum, a rookie who returned to the lineup Friday after being on the IR. “With this team, we need to cycle it down low. We got the puck down the wall. Got the puck deep in the corner and had forwards going to the net. We created our chance with a rebound-scramble goal and bodies to the net.”

Trenton tied the game less than two minutes later on Jason Paige’s goal from the left point that appeared to catch goaltender Ryan Nie (16-9-1-1) by surprise.

“In December it was a tough time to bounce back from those types of goals because of the situation we were in (during an eight-game losing streak),” Herbers said. “Right now our guys know we’ve got to score more than one goal a game to win the game. A bad bounce, a bad break, a knuckle ball comes in and it’s a tough situation. The guys are confident in themselves and their teammates and they knew we were going to get more.”

Defenseman Mike Knight converted on the power play 5:02 into the second with assists by Tyler Hirsch and Olson.

“The last two games we really put a lot of emphasis on putting shots to the net,” Knight said. “We went back to the bread and butter. The last few games we put pucks to the net and it’s been working out.

“This week we had a lot of momentum and a lot of positives from the Friday game against Elmira, one of the top teams. We just wanted to keep the momentum going.”

Jean Desrochers, who arrived at the game too late to participate in warm ups, still managed to score his 19th goal of the season 3:58 into the third. Desrochers played Friday and Saturday night in the AHL with Bridgeport.

His flight from Washington D.C. was delayed and later diverted to Pittsburgh, Herbers said.

“He didn’t even take warm ups,” Herbers said. “But at least he played Saturday night. Our guys didn’t play. He’s got two wingers with him who are working hard.”

Notes: The Chiefs successfully killed off all three Trenton power plays, extending their streak to 25 consecutive penalty kills in the past seven games on home ice. ... The Devils had only 12 shots on goal until a late third-period barrage boosted that final tally to 20 shots. ... The Chiefs went 2-of-4 on the power play, a number that was slightly deceiving because Johnstown was awarded a power play with only 11 seconds remaining or it would have been a 2-for-3 showing. ... The Chiefs have three big home tests this week as Southern Division powers Gwinnett (Wednesday) and Texas (Friday) visit before North Division rival Dayton (Saturday) returns to the War Memorial.

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