The New Jersey Titans blanked the Johnstown Tomahawks by a score of 4-0 on Saturday night at Middletown Sports Complex.
Brandon Perrone pitched a 46-save shutout while Spencer Stanley, Chris Garbe, Gavin Gulash and Kyle Jeffers had a goal each. The Titans completed a weekend sweep while the team has now won four of its last five games.
“Today we played a complete and honest hockey game. For the most part we cleaned up a lot of things from the night before and just a better all-around effort from the guys from the top of the lineup down,” Doremus said of his team, who went 0-6-0 against the Tomahawks this season prior to the two-game series.
Doremus also spoke about Perrone, who has continued to rebound from a rough start to the season and is looking like his vintage self since the calendar flipped to 2019.
“As the season has gone on, and I’d say since around the holidays, Brandon has probably been our best and most consistent player. Couldn’t be happier for him, he’s experienced the peaks and valleys throughout his junior hockey career and has responded to a heavier workload as of late by playing excellent day in and day out,” he said.
Johnstown led the charge in the first period and out-shot the Titans by a margin of 17-10. Perrone’s best save of the game took place in the final minute of the period when Colin Price ripped a cross-crease pass to Bennett Stockdale. He went for the tap-in, but Perrone slid quickly to the far post and made a sprawling blocker save to keep the game scoreless.
Perrone caught a break in the second period when Roman Kraemer received a stretch pass for a breakaway and snapped a shot high-glove side but slammed off the crossbar and stayed out.
“My best friend bailed me out today and I gave it a few kisses, a good rub and I’m happy it helped me out,” Perrone said with a smirk.
Later in the middle period, the Titans went on the power play and converted to open the scoring. Spencer Stanley hit the crossbar when he tee’d up a wrister from the left faceoff circle, but he got the puck back and took another shot from the same spot, this time going high-glove side past Cooper Lukenda for his fifth of the season.
Two minutes and 27 seconds later, Cam Gendron kept the puck in the offensive zone and found a wide open Chris Garbe, who fired a rocket to the top corner and extended the Titans’ lead to 2-0. Including his last game before his injury, Garbe now has goals in his last three appearances.
It appeared that Johnstown had an opportunity to get itself back in the game with a power play in the opening minutes of the third period, but the Titans extended the lead instead. Mitch Machlitt stripped Carson Briere of the puck right in front of the Tomahawks goal and slid a pass to Gulash, who buried his 23rd goal of the season.
Kyle Jeffers put the nail in the coffin when he tacked on another shorthanded goal in the closing minutes of the game for his 23rd of the year. It may have been an empty-net goal, but the AIC commit managed to snap a seven-game goal drought.
“It felt more like ten games, but it’s a relief to get back on the score sheet,” Jeffers said.
Gulash, meanwhile, continues his late-season tear by picking up his 11th goal in a span of 12 games. He and Jeffers both tied the Titans’ record for goals in a season that was set in 2016-17 by current Sacred Heart forward Jordan Kaplan. The Red Bank, NJ native acknowledged the feat, but said he’s more focused on gearing up for the Robertson Cup Playoffs.
“It’s always nice to reach something like that, but as long as we’re winning that’s all that really matters,” Gulash said. “This is a team that could do a lot of damage in the playoffs and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Doremus spoke more about Gulash and Jeffers’ accomplishments while mentioning their ladder of development from the Titans’ 16U and 18U teams in the AYHL to their current success in the NAHL.
“Two guys who have been long-time members of the program, and in their second year in our league have shown a lot of maturity and a lot more success here,” he said. “They have paced us offensively this season, Kyle earlier in the year and Gavin in the second half, so any time both of them can contribute, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
The Titans will look to continue its upward momentum when they go on the road for a two-game set against the Jamestown Rebels. Sitting in third place, the Titans have an opportunity to climb within eight points of the Rebels’ position in the standings. The first game takes place this Friday March 8 at Northwest Arena. The game will be available for streaming on hockeytv.com.
Photo Credit: Pete MacDonald (Twitter: @PMacDonald51)