The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2016-17 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 24 in 24 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
New Jersey Titans
Head Coach: Craig Doremus (1st year)
2015-16 record: 34-22-4, 72 pts. (2nd in the East Division)
2015-16 leading scorer: Bruno Birzitis (41 points)
2016 Playoffs: Lost in the East Division Semi-Finals to Johnstown, 3-0
2016-17 Division: East
First regular season game: Friday, September 16th @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Home opener: Saturday, September 17th vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Last season was a successful learning experience for the New Jersey Titans in their first trip through what was the NAHL’s East Division. The team contended for 1st place all season long, spending much time at the top of the table. Ultimately, the Titans finished just one win and two points behind division-leading Aston.
However, the Titans limped into the playoffs, winning just two of their final eight games during the regular season. The lack of momentum showed in their playoff series with Johnstown as they were swept in three games, ending their inaugural season in the Garden State. All was not lost however, as the Titans had 11 players make NCAA commitments during the 2015-16 season, including six players to Division I programs.
The winds of change blew through the Titans camp in the off-season as in the middle of May, head coach Rich McKenna took the head coaching job at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, an NCAA Division III school. The next day, the Titans named their new head coach in Craig Doremus. A native of Maspeth, New York, Doremus arrived at the Titans with 28 years of hockey experience. Before joining the team, Doremus spent the previous three seasons with the Long Island Gulls’ and New York Bobcats’ hockey organization.
“The NAHL is a great opportunity for our players and fans and we look forward to continuing to build on our very successful first year in New Jersey. We expect to build a winning and professional culture for our players and fans alike. The Middletown Ice Center is a fun and exciting destination for everyone and we hope to build on that. I am excited to be a part of Titans Nation,” continued Doremus.
Doremus said that while not part of the team in 2015-16, there were things that he wanted to focus on immediately to become a better team this season. “I think one of the first things we wanted to do is have depth in our scoring. We want a team that can attack with all four lines and include our defensemen,” said Doremus. “The East Division has teams that are well coached and who like to move the puck and play an up tempo style, so we will have the be ready to match that.”
The Titans will begin the season with a home and home series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. After that, it is the annual trip to Blaine for the NAHL Showcase where the Titans will face the Minnesota Wilderness, Amarillo, Springfield and Corpus Christi. Doremus said he is looking forward to his first Showcase behind the bench. “What is great about the Showcase is that it is at the center of the scouting world for several days. With so many good players and teams in one place, it is an event that all scouts circle on their calendar. I do know of any other leagues that offer the opportunity for players that is presented at the Showcase,” said Doremus.
Doremus continued…“When you talk about that number of players committing to NCAA schools, it is a testament to the depth and talent of the players in the league, as well as, the ownership and coaching that is committed to player development. I think one of the best things about the NAHL and why it stands out over other junior leagues is the professionalism and dedication of the league’s owners and coaches. I think the commitment number will continue to grow because the league keeps improving.
Doremus said he is also excited about the support the Titans have built up in the local area. “We have a loyal and passionate fan base. We recently held a Titans Day, where over 1,500 people showed up to celebrate our organization. That really says something to our players and the community support they are going to receive during their time with us.”
“Our #1 goal is player development and that means successfully committing players to the NCAA. We also want to execute a game plan and have players show improvement throughout various stages of the season. I think we need to be able to compete and apply pressure and play big,” said Doremus.