MIDDLETOWN, N.J. – The Titans came away on top Wednesday afternoon in yet another battle for first place with the Aston Rebels.
The midweek contest was a makeup of the Jan. 23 game that was snowed out and the Titans got on it early.
Roberts Smits was the first to put his team out in front, as he found himself behind the Rebels’ defense. He went straight up the middle and beat Aston goaltender Darion Hansen blocker side at 5:52 of the opening period. It was Smits’ fifth goal in the last three games and his 11th goal since joining the Titans.
Less than a minute later, Joe Shuler scored for the second straight game after Keegan Miller and Ray Brice grabbed the attention of both the Rebels’ defensemen and goaltender. It left the net wide open for Shuler to bank his ninth goal of the year.
Things got a lot tighter in the second period though. Michael Underwood received the puck at the point after a faceoff win as several bodies got tangled up in the faceoff circle. It left room for Underwood to get a shot off that got past Jack Berry.
Then things got more comfortable for New Jersey again as Darren Brady capitalized on open ice on the power play. From the left circle, he took a cross-ice pass and snapped it past Hansen who was trying to cover both posts.
The goal allowed the Titans to take a two-goal lead once again into the intermission.
Then another insurance goal was added after a rebound from a Garrett Hallford shot came to the stick of Anthony Cusanelli. After some smooth stick handling, Cusanelli was able to go right around Hansen’s reach and gave the Titans a three-goal lead.
It was also the second power play goal of the game as the Titans finished the afternoon 2-for-3 on the power play while they killed off all three penalties against them.
It proved to be more than enough as the Rebels were only able to get back within two at 17:08 of the third period. Evgeni Yakovlev was able to poke the puck passed Berry but the Rebels were unable to threaten again.
The Titans and Rebels will square off once again in a home-and-home series with Friday’s contest in Aston for a 7 p.m. puck drop. New Jersey’s home leg is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start.