Despite relinquishing a three-goal lead, the New Jersey Titans were able to defeat the Corpus Christi IceRays 4-3 in their first of four games at the North American Hockey League Showcase.
Evan Shoemaker scored the game-winning goal while Matt Ladd won his second start of the season by making 28 saves on 31 shots. After the game, head coach Craig Doremus credited his team for staying composed and bouncing back after giving up a 3-0 lead.
“We spoke at length as a team about being mentally strong and responding to adverse situations correctly,” Doremus said. “I didn’t say much at all (on the bench). We are really trying to give ownership to our guys and we want to see them grow and learn how to deal with these kind of scenarios.”
Mac Wiseman opened the scoring at 14:43 with a five-on-three power-play goal. Spencer Stanley took a shot from the point as Wiseman found a loose puck at the goalmouth and jammed home his second goal of the season. Three minutes later, Stanley would pick up another assist when his shot left a juicy rebound for Kyle Jeffers, who scored his first goal of the season.
The Titans went back to a five-on-three power play early in the second period, and a net-front scramble prompted one of the IceRays defenders to knock the net off its pegs. Ryan Naumovski was awarded a penalty shot made a nifty backhand-forehand move to put New Jersey up 3-0.
Corpus Christi started their comeback around midway point of the second period. Kyle Moore put the IceRays on the board when he went to the forehand and slid a puck under Ladd’s pads on a breakaway. On the ensuing faceoff, he dropped the gloves with Wiseman.
In the final minute of the second period, the IceRays forced a turnover in the neutral zone which led to another breakaway. This time it was Jordan Randall who roofed a backhanded shot over Ladd and cut the IceRays’ deficit to one goal. That momentum carried over into the third period as two-on-one developed from the Titans blue line, where Jake Stella set up Santeri Hartikainen for a re-direction at point-blank range.
Unfazed by the comeback, the Titans responded with offensive zone time and scoring chances in the IceRays’ zone. Shoemaker broke through at 5:44 of the third when he corralled a rebound from Craig McCabe’s shot from the point. Shoemaker’s shot bounced off a defender’s stick and trickled into the net for his first goal of the season.
Hartikainen had a chance to tie the game when he received a pass in the low slot with a clear lane to the net, but Ladd turned the shot away with his blocker. He made one final glove save in the waning seconds after the IceRays pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker.
As the Titans improve to a 3-0-0 record, Doremus spoke about his team facing new IceRays coach Ryan Cruthers, who previously served as the Titans’ director of scouting.
“Ryan Cruthers is one of my closest friends. I hope Corpus has a tremendous season with Ryan at the helm,” he said. “He is a big reason why our franchise is where it is. Ryan was instrumental to the foundation of our team as he scouted many of our current players.”
The Titans return to action in the NAHL Showcase tomorrow morning as they face the Odessa Jackalopes at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time, and the game will be streamed on hockeytv.com.