The New Jersey Titans gave up two goals in a span of eight seconds as part of a 4-2 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Tuesday night at Middletown Sports Complex.
Despite leading the shot category 45-34, the Titans were unable to solve Knights’ goaltender David Tomeo. The New Jersey native made 43 saves to pick up the win.
“I’m happy with our overall game and I don’t think we played poorly,” Titans head coach Craig Doremus said after the game. “Full credit to (the Knights) and their ability to capitalize on some errors by us.”
Last night also featured Alex Konovalov’s debut with the Titans. The Summit, N.J. native was tendered earlier this season while putting up 14 goals and 14 assists in 18 games with the Titans’ 18U squad. Doremus had nothing but praise for the 18-year-old’s first NAHL game.
“I thought Alex played very well. First game in the North American Hockey League is never an easy adjustment for any young player,” he said. “He made some plays with the puck that were lethal and gave us a chance to score some goals, and I think his play away from the puck was stronger than we had anticipated.”
As the team entered the ice for warmups, Konovalov skated out first and was given the ‘rookie lap’ treatment. But when the puck dropped, he looked like a veteran when working alongside Kyle Jeffers and Chris Garbe.
“I think I was definitely more excited than nervous to make my debut, however it’s little nerve-wracking when you’re playing with a new team, especially at a high level,” Konovalov said.
In the first period, he made a nifty pass to Jeffers on a mini two-on-one, but Jeffers got hauled down by a Knights defender and was unable to get a shot on net. Later in the period, Konovalov made a redirection at the side of the goal, but was denied by a great pad save by Tomeo.
His best chance came in the second period on an odd-man rush. Streaking up the right side of the ice, Konovalov fired a shot high-glove side and beat Tomeo, but the puck slammed off the crossbar and stayed out. While Konovalov finished the night without a point, he said he felt confident throughout his first game with the NAHL squad.
“After getting my first one or two shifts in, I was really able to settle down and just play my game. My linemates and I had a lot of chemistry and were able to generate scoring chances throughout the game,” he said.
Shay Donovan opened the scoring for the Knights at 7:43 of the second period. The defenseman took a shot from the point that fluttered through traffic, went over Matt Ladd’s shoulder and dipped just below the crossbar. Eight seconds later, Tomas Koblizek threw a puck in front of the Titans’ goal where Jake Fuss made a redirection, putting the Knights ahead 2-0.
Tyler Antonucci cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal at 16:01 into the middle frame. The captain was parked in the low slot where Matt Cameron set him up for the redirection, getting the puck over Tomeo’s glove. It was Antonucci’s 10th of the season, as he became the 10th player on the team to reach that plateau this season.
Michael Morrissey restored the Knights’ two-goal lead at 2:13 of the third period. He found a loose puck in the low slot and fired a wrister past Ladd for his 14th goal of the season.
The Titans were able to cut the deficit in half a second time when Eric Manoukian took a wrister from the high slot and beat Tomeo glove side for his 4th goal of the season. That was the only offense the Titans were able to generate, however. Ladd was eventually pulled for the extra attacker, and Lincoln Hatten sealed the Knights’ win with an empty netter in the final minute of regulation.
While it wasn’t the desired outcome for Konovalov or the rest of the team, he said his debut was still one to remember.
“The support from the entire coaching staff and all of my teammates was just terrific. All of the guys really made me feel welcomed and helped me out significantly as the game went along,” he said. “The entire Titans organization did an outstanding job of making my NAHL debut a memorable one and a day I’ll definitely never forget.”
The Titans will close out the regular season this weekend with two more home games against the Northeast Generals. The back-to-back starts this Friday with a puck drop slated for 7 p.m.