Levente Keresztes scored with 1:53 remaining in overtime to give the Titans a 4 – 3 come from behind victory over the visiting Maryland Black Bears to clinch a spot in the Robertston Cup playoffs.
The Titans have made the playoffs every single year in the franchise’s history minus the suspended COVID season (although the Titans would have made them since they were in first place at the time).
Anthony Calafiore got the Red Buckets off on the right foot as he gave them a 1 – 0 lead just 56 seconds into the game. Owen Luik started the play from the top of his own near side faceoff circle and head manned the puck up to a breaking Chris Carroll at center ice. As Carroll went to the slot, he passed the puck over to Keresztes on his right. Keresztes took a shot on net that was saved by Maryland’s goaltender Luca Di Pasquo but the biscuit came right out to Calafiore in the crease and the Staten Island, NY native tucked the rebound into the back of the net for his team high 23rd goal of the season.
Maryland then came back to take a commanding three goal lead on the back of Tyler Young’s natural hat trick.
The Black Bears evened the score with 7:41 remaining in the period. After a scrum took place in the Titans far side corner, Maryland’s Elliott Lareau picked up the loose puck and made a backhanded pass to a trailing Young at the top of the slot, and Young took at shot that beat Titans’ goalie Ben Charette high glove side.
Anthony Mollica was called for holding with 1:17 remaining in the opening period. Four seconds later Young gave the Black Bears the lead. After Maryland’s Jesse Horacek won the draw deep inside the Titans zone, the puck when to Young, who was to the left of Horacek. Young send the biscuit back to Jack Blanchett at the near side point who sent a return pass to Young at the half wall. Young cut across towards the slot and took a wrist shot that went bar down past Charette to make it a 2 – 1 game.
At 6:47 into the second period, Brendan Dumas was called for interference to give Maryland the man advantage. A minute later Young completed his natural hat trick.
After Charette made a save, the puck went to Maryland’s Branden Piku at the top of the far side faceoff circle. Piku made a cross-ice pass to Jacob Brockman at the near side faceoff circle and he took a shot that was deflected out front and Young slammed the biscuit past Charette to give Maryland a 3 – 1 lead.
Maryland’s Ryan Bottrill was called for tripping at 1:47 into the third period to give the Titans the man advantage. As the powerplay had just expired, the Titans’ Michael Young (no relation to Tyler Young) brought the Red Buckets within one.
Billy Feczko brought the puck into the offensive zone along the near side boards. As he gained the line, he made a drop pass for Ryan Coughlin. Coughlin took a shot on net that was saved by Di Pasquo and the rebound came out to Keresztes who slid the puck to Young on his right and Young jammed the biscuit into the back of the net for his nineteenth goal of the season.
With timing winding down in the game and Charette pulled for the extra attacker, Dumas tied the game at three with one minute left in regulation. With the Titans pressuring in the offensive zone, Tyler Sanborn picked up the loose at the near side end wall and made a backhanded pass to Dumas who made a pass to Jack Karlsson at the far side point. As Karlsson took a shot on net, Dumas cut across the goalmouth and redirected Karlsson’s shot past Di Pasquo and into the net for his eighteenth goal of the season.
The game then went into the extra period – the third time this season between the teams (although the previous two were played at the Piney Orchard Arena). After Carroll won the draw deep inside the Maryland zone, he dropped the puck off for Keresztes who went to the far side half wall. Keresztes sent the puck to Carroll behind the Maryland net. As Carroll, went towards the near side corner, he stopped, reversed, and started towards the corner. As Carroll cut around the net towards DiPasquo’s right, Carroll made a pass through the goalmouth to Keresztes who wristed the puck up and over the sprawled out Di Pasquo and into the net to win the game.
Charette stopped 18 of 21 shots while Di Pasquo, who played extremely well throughout the game, turned aside 37 of 41. Click here for the box score.
The teams will meet again tonight at 7:00PM at the Middletown Sports Complex. There will be Skate Night with the Titans immediately following the game.
The Titans are six points away from clinching their first ever NAHL East Division regular season championship.