Five different players scored to propel the New Jersey Titans to a 5 – 3 win over the visiting Johnstown Tomahawks. The victory enabled the Titans to extend their lead in the East Division by seven points over the second place Tomahawks.
It was only fitting that the Titans were wearing special uniforms to honor the brave men and women who serve this country. Because this game was a battle. Despite the calendar stating it was January 24 it felt like mid-April with two very good teams playing tough hockey and both with multiple scoring opportunities. It felt like playoff hockey between the East’s two top teams.
Shane Haviland got the Titans on the board with 6:58 remaining in the first period. After the Tomahawks dumped the puck into the Titans zone, goaltender Patrick Pugliese stopped it behind his own goal line to set up the play. He passed the biscuit it up to Danny Dimon on the near side boards who immediately sent it up to Haviland in the neutral zone and Haviland made a cross-ice pass to a breaking Matt Cameron. As Cameron started to cut towards the net, he was checked by Johnstown’s Ethan Webb. As the two went towards the back of the Tomahawks net, Cameron made a beautiful behind the back pass to Haviland and the Sea Grit, NJ native redirected it past Johnstown’s netminder David Tomeo to make it a 1 – 0 game.
Playing four-on-four hockey, the Titans doubled their lead at 4:59 into the second period with a well-executed give-and-goal play. After receiving a pass from Kyler Head, Cade Penney brought the puck up along the far side boards. As he gained the line, he dropped passed the puck to Mitch Machlitt who made a cross-ice saucer pass to Head. As Head reached the faceoff dot, he passed it back over to Penney who tapped the puck in past a sprawled out Tomeo to make it 2 – 0.
With 2:37 remaining in the middle stanza, Johnstown’s top goal scorer Christian Gorscak made it a 2 – 1 game. Matthew Doyle started the play to the left of Tomeo by sending a long outlet pass to Reed Stark along the far side boards. Stark made a cross-ice pass to Voorhees, NJ native Max Kouznetsov who broke towards the net. As Kouznetsov cut across the goal mouth, he took a backhander that was saved by Pugliese but Gorscak punched it rebound past the fallen Titans netminder for his eighteenth goal of the season.
Less then a minute later, the Titans regained their two-goal lead on Nick DeSantis’ fifth goal of the season. From center ice, Penney dumped the puck into the Tomahawks zone where it was picked up by Webb. As Webb tried to turn to his right, Cameron knocked the puck off his stick and DeSantis lifted Webb’s stick and picked up the loose biscuit. DeSantis went to the net and took a quick wrist shot that went through Tomeo’s five hole to give the Titans a 3 – 1 lead.
At 2:59 into the third period, Kouznetsov cut the Tomahawks deficit in half. After Johnstown dumped the puck into the Titans zone, Pugliese set it up for Ole Andersen behind his own net. As Andersen look to set up, he cut towards the far side boards, but was stripped of the puck by Gorscak. Gorscak passed it to Kouznetsov in the faceoff circle and Kouznetsov turned from his forehand to his backhand and shot the puck through Pugliese’s five hole to make it a 3 – 2 game.
Twenty-eight seconds later, Johnstown’s Brendan Blair was called for holding to give the Titans the man advantage. A half minute later Gavin Gulash made it a 4 – 2 game. Captain Brody Medeiros started the play behind his own goal and skated through center ice and into the Johnstown zone. As Medeiros started to go into the near side corner, he passed the puck to Chris Garbe at the top of the faceoff circle and the assistant captain passed it to Gulash on his right. Gulash one-timed it past Tomeo for his seventh goal of the season.
Almost at mid-way point of the third period, Tyler Nasca made it a 5 – 2 game. Cameron picked up the loose puck at the far side half wall and passed it over to Mitch Machlitt who brought the puck into the offensive zone on a two-on-one with Nasca. As Machlitt reached the top of the faceoff circle, he passed it over to Nasca on his right and the Wheatfield, NY buried it past a fallen Tomeo for his fourth goal of the season.
Johnstown’s Andrew Murphy closed out the scoring with 4:56 left in the game to make it 5 – 3.
Pugliese stopped 42 of 45 shots while Tomeo turned aside 26 of 31. Click here for the box score.
The two teams will finish their series tonight at the Middletown Sports Complex at 7:00 PM. Fans still have time to bid on their favorite Titans’ military jersey with proceeds going to American Legion Post 338 of Leonardo, NJ. Bids can be placed here.