Blake Humphrey scored the lone shootout goal to give the Titans a 4 – 3 win over the visiting Johnstown Tomahawks to complete a weekend sweep and give New Jersey their seventh win in their past eight games.
There were the vocal fans. The tight checking. The fistacuffs. The dramatics. The goaltending. Although it was the end of February it felt like April. It felt like playoff hockey at its best.
Cade Penney was called for tripping with 8:23 remaining in the first period to give Johnstown the man advantage. Less than forty-five seconds later Stephen Willey scored his first goal of the game to give the Titans a 1 – 0 lead. With the Tomahawks pressuring inside the Titans zone along the far side boards, the puck came back to Brad Zona who passed the biscuit through the goal mouth to David Posma. The Pomona, NY native immediately sent the puck high off the glass to clear it out of the zone. The biscuit bounced deep inside the Johnstown zone as Willey out raced the Tomahawks defender and redirected the biscuit through Johnstown’s netminder’s Josh Graziano’s five hole for his seventh goal of the season. It was the Titans eighth shorthanded goal this season and second this weekend.
Humphrey made it 2 – 0 at 6:39 into the second period. Johnstown’s William Persson picked up the loose puck in his own zone along the far side boards and skated behind his net. As he reached the goal line, he pitch forked the puck that was intercepted by Posma at the point. Posma looked to his right and found Humphrey going to the net and Humphrey wristed the puck past Graziano for his fifth goal of the season.
The Tomahawks would then score three consecutive goals starting at 9:54 remaining in the middle stanza. After Stoever made a save on Brendan Clark, the rebound came out to Daniel Tkac who skated behind the Titans net and passed the puck back to David Paluch at the far side point. Paluch took a clapper that was saved by Stoever but Clark picked up the rebound and passed it back slightly to Will Margel who deked around Stoever and stuffed the biscuit into the back of the net.
Thirty seconds later a may lay occurred resulting in a Johnstown powerplay. Setting up inside the Titans zone, the puck went back to the Tomahawks Dusty Geregach at the point. Geregack passed the puck down to Persson at the half wall and he immediately sent it to Clark who was to the left side of Stoever. Clark fed a backdoor pass through the goal mouth to Jay Ahearn and he redirected the puck past Stoever to tie that game at two.
At 8:20 into the third period, John Gelatt gave the Tomahawks their first lead of the night. After Posma took a shot that was saved by Graziano, the deep rebound came out to Gelatt who skated along the far side boards and into the Titans zone. As Gelatt gained the line on a 2-on-1, he took a wrist shot that handcuffed Stoever and the puck trickled through the goalie’s arm and into the net to make it a 3 – 2 game.
With Stoever pulled for the extra attacker and time winding down in regulation, Willey scored in dramatic fashion to tie it at three with ten seconds remaining in the game. Pressuring inside the offensive zone, Caleb Price took a shot from the far side point that went wide of the net but was picked up by Jack Ring at the near side half wall. Ring sent the puck back to Tyler Nasca at the top of the point. Nasca took a clapper that was blocked out front, but the rebound came out to Levente Keresztes. The birthday boy took a shot that was saved by Graziano, but Willey tucked in the loose puck past the netminder to send the game into overtime.
After a scoreless extra period, the game went to a shootout. After Stoever stopped Andrew Murphy, Humphrey made an outstanding deke to put the puck past Graziano to give the Titans the lead. After the next attempts by both teams resulted in saves, Stoever then stopped Will Margel to secure the win.
Stoever stopped 52 of 55 shots while Graziano turned aside 37 of 40. Click here for the box score.
The Titans will play the Maryland Black Bears next weekend for a two-game series.