The New Jersey Titans were 6.4 seconds away from playing three-on-three overtime, but a go-ahead goal from Mike Egan stunned the crowd at Middletown Ice World as the Northeast Generals won 5-4 on Saturday night.
After giving up the first goal, the Titans scored four straight in the second period, but the Generals responded by scoring four unanswered goals of their own in the third, including a hat trick from Justin Jallen.
Between a five-minute major from Ryan Naumovski, failing to score on a four-minute double minor, a disallowed goal that would have put the Titans ahead in the third period and the Generals’ final goal coming within the last 10 seconds of the game, head coach Craig Doremus called it a devastating loss.
“We played as good of a 40-minute game as we could. The first two periods, we were thoroughly in control,” Doremus said. “The lesson is you’ve got to play a full 60 minutes. You have to stay out of the box and you can’t give a team like the Generals any life.”
Generals goaltender David Fessenden made 36 saves on 40 shots while Matt Ladd made 29 saves for the Titans. The two goalies traded quality saves in a fast-paced but scoreless first period.
The Titans started the second period on a power play but gave up a shorthanded goal, as Jallen snuck a backhanded shot under the blocker of Ladd. On that same power play, Eric Manoukian took a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and beat Fessenden for his second goal of the season and tied the score at one.
The remainder of the second period was highlighted by the line of Naumovski, Nick Boyagian and Kyle Jeffers. At 3:48 of the period, all three players touched the puck in a passing play that finished with a one-timer from Jeffers, who notched his third goal of the season. At 10:46, he returned the favor by stripping the puck from a Generals player and making a great pass to Naumovski, who went around Fessenden and scored his sixth goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Jeffers made a stretch pass to Tyler Antonucci to start a three-on-one. The captain made a pass right on the tape to Boyagian, who tapped in his ninth goal of the season and gave New Jersey a 4-1 lead.
The Jeffers-Naumovski-Boyagian line combined for a total of seven points last night and fourteen points between both games this weekend. Jeffers, who recorded a goal and two assists in last night’s loss, said the chemistry was there right when they started playing on the same line.
“We just started playing together this weekend. We were able to connect right away and it’s fun playing with them,” he said.
Just 54 seconds into the third period, Jallen scored his second of the game to cut the Generals’ deficit in half. After Naumovski took a five-minute major for boarding, Jallen picked up a hat trick by scoring on a one-timer from the point, making it a 4-3 game. Matt Demelis evened the score by tapping in a cross-ice feed from Colin Bilek at 13:05 of the period.
Only 28 seconds after the tying goal, Matt Rutigliano received a four-minute double minor for high sticking, as he drew blood from Jeffers. New Jersey appeared to convert on the power play when Todd Goehring’s pass deflected off several players and went into the net. The referee disallowed the goal by ruling a distinct kicking motion.
“I think we have differing opinions on it. I saw a goalmouth scramble that I think the puck was directed in by the Generals,” Doremus said on the call. “I don’t even think a Titan had anything to do with the puck going into the net.”
The game appeared to be heading to overtime, but Mike Egan stripped Naumovski of the puck in the Titans’ zone and beat Ladd five-hole, giving the Generals a 5-4 lead with 6.4 seconds left in the game.
Despite earlier calls made in the period, Doremus said it’s up to the team to learn from the loss and prepare for next week.
“It’s not the referees fault, we have to look in the mirror and have some accountability in our own dressing room among the coaches and the players. We have to learn from it and move on.”
The Titans will head to Johnstown this weekend as they start a three-game set against the Tomahawks on Friday. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m., and all of the games will be streamed on hockeytv.com.