Coming down to the fifth and final game of their best-of-five series against the Aston Rebels, the New Jersey Titans knew what was at stake – win and advance to the Robertson Cup Final Four, or lose and go home. Unfortunately, the Titans feel to the Rebels, 6-2, in game five, which ultimately ended their 2016-17 season.
After being down 2 games to 0 to Aston in the East Division Final, the Titans had their backs against the wall as the club returned home to the Middletown Sports Complex for game three. It was easy enough to comprehend for head coach Craig Doremus and his team, win and stay alive. And win they did. Behind a 22-save shutout performance by goalie Ryan Ferland (Princeton University), New Jersey was able to force a game four by defeating Aston 4-0 in front of a sold out crowd. The Titans had four different goal scorers but it was Gordie Helmuth registering the game-winning goal with his first period tally.
Game Four wasn’t as convincing, but it sure had the dramatics, as the Titans defeated the Rebels, 3-2, in overtime. After falling behind to Aston 2-1 in the third period, Todd Goehring (Scared Heart University) tallied the game tying goal, his fourth of the playoffs, halfway through the frame forcing the overtime period. With fewer than four minutes left in the extra session, Ryan Wheeler waited for the best time to score his first of the post season, and buried the game winner to send the Titans bench into a frenzy.
Tied up at three games a piece, Game Five headed back to Aston with a trip to the Robertson Cup Final Four on the line. After heading into the locker room down 1-0 after the first, the Titans had no answer to the Rebels offense and fell to Aston, 6-2.
In all, the 2016-17 season was a successful one for Doremus and assistant coach, Bobby DiRico, both in their first year with the club. They guided the Titans to a third place finish in the East Division at 34-22-1-3, and a first round playoff series victory.
“I am proud of the resolve our group showed not only in the playoffs but throughout the season. It is certainly a long season with nearly 70 games being played. We went through some peaks and valleys during the year and we grew and matured throughout. I am very proud of our group and the season we had. For many of us including Bobby and myself, this was our first year in the North American Hockey League. It was a year of many things including, success, growth, development and reflection,” Doremus said. “I know the coaching staff is extremely encouraged and excited to get to work on next season. I think with some of the players we have returning to our club and adding some great players throughout the off-season we eagerly await the start of the 2017-2018 campaign. I want to thank all of our players, their families and our billet families for a great season.”
In addition, six Titans committed to Division I NCAA schools:
Nicholas Boyagian – Sacred Heart University (Atlantic Hockey, D1)
Todd Goehring – Sacred Heart University (Atlantic Hockey, D1)
Jordan Kaplan – Sacred Heart University (Atlantic Hockey, D1)
Will Riedel – Lake Superior State University (WCHA, D1)
Oskar Stromberg – American International College (Atlantic Hockey, D1)
Ryan Ferland – Princeton University (ECAC, D1)
The season may not have ended like they wanted, but their was a lot to be proud about this season. From advancing to the second round, to their efforts in the community and beyond, the Titans made quite the mark both on and off the ice.
Knowing how this season went only makes this club hungrier for next year. Something the NAHL will have to look out for.
In the meantime, congratulations to both the on- and off-ice staff and the players and coaches for a wonderful 2016-17 campaign.
We are TITANS NATION.