The New Jersey Titans gave up two third-period goals in a 2-1 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights at Middletown Sports Complex on Wednesday afternoon.
Kyler Head scored the lone Titans’ goal in the second period, and the Knights responded with goals from Gabe Temple and Jordan Strand in the third. It was the Knights’ first win against New Jersey since November 24, and their first victory in the Garden State this season.
The Titans were missing six players due to injury (Craig McCabe, Eric Manoukian, Ben Pirko, Shane Haviland, Connor Merrill and Chris Garbe), but head coach Craig Doremus refused to use it as an excuse for Wednesday’s loss.
“Everyone in this league is banged up and injured, that’s part of the long grind of junior hockey,” he said. “For the first two periods, I thought our effort was solid and honest, and I thought in the third period we got away from some fundamental habits that are important to our hockey team.”
After a scoreless first period, the Titans finally broke through when they went to the power play in the second. Brody Medeiros slid a pass to the right faceoff dot for Kyler Head, who ripped a one-timer over Zach Stejskal’s glove for his seventh goal of the season. It was also the Titans’ sixth power-play goal in its last three games, continuing its upward trend on the man advantage.
The Knights responded with two goals in a span of five minutes and 15 seconds early in the third period. Jacob Badal took a quick shot from the half-wall that sneaked under Perrone’s pads. The puck hit the left post and sat in the crease, where Gabe Temple tapped in his 13th goal of the year. Jordan Strand scored the game-winner on the power-play, when he flung a wrister through traffic and beat Perrone glove side.
New Jersey was outshot 41-30 throughout the game, and struggled to generate offense late in the third period when they pulled Perrone for the extra attacker. Doremus offered his explanation on why the offense could not get more pucks by Stejskal.
“You always want to make life difficult on the goaltender, be available and ready for rebounds. I didn’t think we had much of that presence today, especially early on when we had some offense going,” he said. “And then when you do have those opportunities, you’ve got to bury them. Whether it’s an odd-man rush or an ‘A’ area shot, you need to capitalize, and that’s what separates the winner from the loser.”
Perrone finished the game with 39 saves, and his best one came late in the third period when he went into the splits to make a pad save on a tap-in attempt from Jake Fuss. The save kept it a one-goal game as New Jersey searched for the tying goal.
“He was solid, especially early on and kept us in the game. That tying goal in the third is probably one he wants back,” Doremus said.
After winning three straight, the Titans have now lost two consecutive games. The team will gear up for a two-game set in Jamestown to face the Rebels, starting on Friday night with a 7:45 p.m. puck drop. Doremus stressed the importance of these next few games, as they have an opportunity to gain some ground on the second-place Rebels.
“It boils down to the choice we make as a hockey team. What type of effort and buy-in are we going to have day from our locker room and onto the ice surface? Until we get to that point where it’s a consistent buy-in, we’ll continue to struggle and have peaks and valleys in our game rather than consistently improving.”
Photo Credit: Pete MacDonald (Twitter: @PMacDonald51)