Chris Garbe scored the overtime-winning goal as the New Jersey Titans defeated the Johnstown Tomahawks, 4-3, at Middletown Sports Complex on Friday night.
Ryan Naumovski, Michael Conlin, and Spencer Stanley also scored for the Titans, while Brandon Perrone stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced. It was the first time New Jersey beat the first-place Tomahawks this season, and head coach Craig Doremus was pleased with the overall effort.
“Obviously with the standings getting tighter and tighter, it’s a huge win for our guys versus a very quality opponent that we’ve struggled with throughout the year,” Doremus said. “Happy for our guys to battle through some adversity, and it’s huge for our confidence moving forward.”
Colin Price opened the scoring at 5:42 of the first period. A loose puck was knocked right to the low slot, where Price lifted a quick shot over Perrone’s glove. Naumovski answered right back at 8:12 when he pushed the puck forward off the faceoff and snapped a quick shot high-glove side for his 14th goal of the season.
Roman Kraemer gave the Tomahawks a 2-1 lead at 7:36. Moments after Cameron Hebert was robbed by Perrone on a tap-in attempt, he entered the zone on a 3-on-2 rush and found the trailing Kraemer, who ripped his 10th goal of the season. The Titans responded 63 seconds later when Michael Conlin scored his first as a Titan. Spencer Stanley ripped a shot from the point, and Conlin buried the rebound to make it a 2-2 game.
Gavin Gulash took a holding penalty at the end of the second, and Johnstown converted on the power play 62 seconds into the third period. Hebert ripped a pass right to the front of the goal where Oliver Benwell tapped the puck into an open net for his 25th goal of the season and gave the Tomahawks a 3-2 lead.
The Titans killed off two more penalties in the third period, then went to work in search of the tying goal. Spencer Stanley finally broke through when he flung a wrist shot through traffic that went over Carter McPhail’s glove, collecting his fourth goal of the season. It tied the game at three and forced the contest into overtime.
As the extra session approached its final minute, Garbe entered Johnstown’s zone on the right side, threw a shot on goal and found his own rebound before slamming a shot past McPhail for the game-winner.
“Joey (Glamos) made a great pass up, I came down and got a shot on net, Joey did a lot to get to the puck and we were just able to bury it. It was like a blink of an eye and it just happened,” said Garbe, who scored his fifth goal of the year.
Doremus spoke about Garbe, who played his first game since he was sidelined with an upper-body injury.
“Garbs has been out of the lineup for a little bit dealing with some nagging injuries, and for him to be able to come back like that and just pick up where he left off is huge,” Doremus said. “I think the most exciting thing about Chris is that he’s played his best hockey in his last three weekends that he’s dressed, so we’re really excited for him to be a part of our forward group in this home stretch.”
The Titans penalty kill was near flawless, killing off four its five penalties on Friday night. Doremus spoke about the team’s effort while shorthanded and their ability to shut down one of the league’s most dangerous power plays.
“I think there was some attention to details and some adjustments made by coach (Bobby) DiRico throughout the week with the players. I thought the guys responded well for the most part, really bought in to what we were trying to execute. It was a huge part of our game being able to kill off their power play.”
New Jersey will look for the weekend sweep over the Tomahawks when the two teams play tonight at 7:30 p.m. For those that cannot attend the game, it will be available for streaming on hockeytv.com.
Photo Credit: Pete MacDonald (Twitter: @PMacDonald51)