Zach Nazzarett notched a pair of third-period goals while adding two assists in the New Jersey Titans’ 6-3 win over the Northeast Generals at Middletown Sports Complex on Friday night.
Trailing 2-1 in the second period, the Titans put up five unanswered goals en route to their fourth consecutive victory. Ryan Naumovski, Gavin Gulash, Ben Pirko and Kyle Jeffers also had multi-point performances while Matt Ladd made 30 saves to earn his sixth win of the season.
“It was a good push back by our guys. It’s important for us to learn to win games when we’re not our best, and I thought that’s what our players demonstrated tonight,” said Titans head coach Craig Doremus. “To put together an effort like that and come back with five in a row, it gives you momentum where you can hold on to the victory late.”
Northeast opened the scoring at 3:42 of the first period when Matt Rutigliano found a loose puck off a blocked shot and buried his own rebound. It was his fifth of the season and gave the Generals a 1-0 lead.
Jeffers knotted the score at 3:01 of the second period with his team-leading eighth goal of the season. The Florida native skated up the right wing on a two-on-one and fired a wrist shot five-hole on Generals goaltender David Fessenden.
Rutigliano responded 36 seconds later with his second goal of the night. The Generals won the faceoff as Kyle Gierman took a shot from the point, and Rutigliano deflected the shot past Ladd to give the Generals a 2-1 lead.
Just when it appeared that the Titans lost momentum and were hemmed in their own end, Gulash corralled a loose puck and skated down the right wing before ripping a shot past Fessenden to even the score at two. They took the lead 25 seconds later when Jeffers found Craig McCabe cutting in the slot, who ripped a shot off the post and in for his second goal of the season.
Nazzarett took over in the third with a pair of goals and an assist. His first came at 3:30 when the puck bounced towards his stick in the low slot, as he roofed his shot for fifth of the season. One minute and 50 seconds later, Ben Pirko took a wrist shot from the point that slipped by Fessenden, and Nazzarett tapped the puck just past the goal line. The goal signaled the end of Fessenden’s night and was replaced by Marko Sturma.
Shortly after the Titans killed off a penalty, Sturma went out of his net to clear the puck, but his pass was intercepted by Nazzarett. He found Gulash open between the hash marks and wired a pass right on the tape, as the Red Bank native tapped the puck into an open net for his second of the night.
Brady Gaudette flung a wrist shot off the post and in for his fourth goal of the season at 17:48, but it was too little and too late as the Titans earned its fourth straight win. Nazzarett spoke after the game about the hot start to his rookie season.
“The coaches have really put me in a position to succeed and get these opportunities to put up points,” Nazzarett said. “My linemates (Naumovski) and Jeffers are great kids, great players and they have really helped me out.”
Doremus spoke about the Miami University commit, noting that his play without the puck has translated to greater success on the score sheet.
“I think Nazz is coming into his own skin, he’s learning what it takes to be successful at this level and doing the little things,” Doremus said. “His offensive abilities speak for itself, if you look at the back of his baseball card he’s always been a successful hockey player with the puck, and now he’s doing the little things and working hard to create some time and space for himself, and he’s lethal on that side of the ice.”
The Titans, who are now 8-5-0 and second in the East Division, will look to sweep the back-to-back as they face the Generals tonight at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are available and the game will be streamed on hockeytv.com.