The New Jersey Titans’ reign as the NAHL Robertson Cup national champions came to an end as they fell to the Maine Nordiques 5 – 1 and were eliminated from the playoffs losing three games to none in this best of five East Division semi-final series.
It was the first time in Titans history that they were swept in a playoff series.
After a scoreless first period, Ben Muthersbaugh opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at 7:58 into the middle stanza. Maine’s Aidan Coupe was called for slashing at 6:41 of the second and then less than a minute later, the Nordiques John-Paul Steel was called for cross-checking to give the Titans a 5-on-3 advantage. Muthersbaugh picked up the loose puck at the near side half wall inside the offensive zone, and he passed it back to Joe Harney at the point. Harney passed the biscuit over to Dominik Bartecko at the far side faceoff circle and Bartecko made a cross-ice pass to Muthersbaugh who took a one-timer that beat Maine’s netminder Thomas Heaney for Muthersbaugh’s third goal of the playoffs.
With 9:32 remaining in the second, Maine’s Brendan Gibbons tied the game at one. The Nordiques’ Kellen Murphy picked up the loose puck in his own zone and went through center ice and into the Titans end along the near side boards. As Murphy gained the line, he made a cross-ice pass to Gibbons who took a one-timer that beat Zak Brice glove side for Gibbons third goal of the playoffs.
Brendan Dumas was called for high sticking with 7:13 left in the second. Just five seconds later, Maine’s Filip Wiberg made it 2 – 1 and the Nordiques never looked back. After Wiberg won the draw deep inside the Titans zone, the puck went to Coupe who was to the left of Wiberg. Coupe sent a pass back to Nicholas Bernardo who was to the left of Wiberg. Bernardo took a wrist shot that was deflected by Wiberg down low and beat Brice short side for the Nordiques first of two powerplay goals.
The Nordiques entered the third period on the powerplay after Dumas was called for slashing with seven seconds remaining in the middle stanza. At 1:17 into the third period, Maine’s Oliver Genest gave the Nordiques a 3 – 1 lead. Evan Orloff carried the puck from his own end, through center ice and into the offensive zone. As he gained the line, he passed the biscuit to Anthony Achille on his left. Achille sent a return pass to Orloff. As Orloff went to the slot, he found Genest on his right and Orloff beat a prone Brice the Nordiques second powerplay goal of the evening.
Patrick Schmiedlin scored his first goal of the playoffs with 4:23 left in the third to give the Nordiques a 4 – 1 lead, and then Wilberg scored his second goal of the game – an empty netter – with fifty-four seconds remaining in the contest to close out the scoring and make it a 5 – 1 game.
Brice stopped 22 of 26 shots in defeat while Heaney turned aside 39 of 40 in the victory. Click HERE for the complete box score.
The Nordiques now will play the Maryland Black Bears for the East Division playoff championship.
It wasn’t how the Titans wanted to end the season but overall it was another productive year, considering the Red Buckets started the season with an 0 – 6 record and finished up with 38 wins.