The New Jersey Titans travelled to the National Sport Center Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota, for the 2023 NAHL Showcase last week to play against some of the best competition across the league. While the Titans secured their first victory at the Showcase since September 16th, 2021, they ended with a 1-3-0 record, and now find themselves tied for 5th place in the East Division.
After flying out on Tuesday, the Titans first skated against the Minnesota Wilderness on Wednesday to begin a stretch of four games in four days. The Wilderness represented the Midwest Division at last year’s Robertson Cup Championships, and competed well in a back and forth game. A hard fought affair saw neither team able to pull away, but Dominick Rivelli scored 18 seconds into overtime to give New Jersey the victory, and for Rivelli, his first hat trick in the NAHL in 87 games played. Ethan Wongus returned to the lineup after his injury in Danbury and found the back of the net, and Jack Hillier recorded his first goal in the league.
Riding the high of a three game winning streak, the Titans ran into trouble against another Midwest Division opponent in the Wisconsin Windigo. New Jersey was outshot for the first time this season, and despite Dylan Krick’s 28 saves, the Titans were shut out 3-0. Head Coach Craig Doremus was not happy with the team’s effort. “Just not a great day overall for the team. We never got our feet or our game going. Our goaltender gave us a chance to stay in the game but we weren’t able to capitalize. Bart [Dominik Bartecko] almost found the back of the net and if that goes in, it may be a different game, but we never found that offensive spark. “
Looking to bounce back, the Titans next played against the Central Division Champion and Robertson Cup runners-up Austin Bruins. The Bruins began their season at the Showcase and came into the game with a 2-0 record, and scored the first goal of the game after a scoreless first period. New Jersey fought back with goals from Christian Wood and Dominik Bartecko to enter the third period tied at 2, and after the teams traded goals in the third, the Titans were poised to take three-time Finalist to overtime, but a Bruin power play goal with under a minute to go saw the Titans fall by a score of 4 to 3.
Now on a two game skid, New Jersey wrapped up the Showcase facing the defending Robertson Cup Champion Oklahoma Warriors. The Titans began the game the right way, with goals from Kristofers Krumins, Ethan Wongus, and Cooper Eberhardt’s first in the NAHL to give New Jersey a 3-1 lead after the first period. A scoreless second period again had the Titans on the precipice of skating away with a victory and ending the Showcase on a high note. It was not to be, as Oklahoma scored twice to tie the game, and found the game winner with 29.8 to go as New Jersey again squandered a chance to move up in the standings.
Now with three wins and three losses, the Titans turn their attention back to divisional play with a weekend series in Attleboro, MA, against the rival Northeast Generals. The Generals went undefeated at the Showcase and currently reside in first place in the East. Summarizing the Showcase, Doremus said, “At the end of the day we were really disappointed to come away with only 2 points in the showcase. As demonstrated early in the year the East division is going to be a tight race with so many quality teams so points are going to be important at all parts of the year. I think it was good for the staff to continue to evaluate our team and see what improvements and adjustments need to be made and I think for the players it’s more games played in the North American Hockey League and understanding what it takes to be consistently effective in this league on a shift to shift, minute to minute basis. We will grow, and we will get better. I’d expect us to look back on the showcase as great learning experience for players and coaches alike as we move into the bulk of our regular season schedule.”
The New Jersey Titans, proud members of the North American Hockey League, are entering their ninth season at the Middletown Sports Complex in Middletown, NJ. The 2022 Robertson Cup National Champions, the Titans have made the playoffs in every season since their founding in 2015. Season ticket packages will be available soon, in time for the 2023-24 season home opener versus Rochester on September 29th. Follow the New Jersey Titans on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok today!