The New Jersey Titans will start its East Division semi-final series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights tonight at 7 p.m. at Middletown Sports Complex.
After finishing the regular season with a record of 29-22-9, the Titans find themselves in second place in the East Division while making the postseason for a third consecutive year. The Knights finished their season with a record of
This will be the first time the Titans will face the Knights in the playoffs, and it will also be the first series where New Jersey has home-ice advantage.
Head coach Craig Doremus, in his second season as the Titans head coach, has once again led his squad into the playoffs. Last year, New Jersey won its first ever playoff series by sweeping the Johnstown Tomahawks in the East Division semi final before losing to the Aston Rebels in the East Division final in a five-game series.
“I think we had a good week of preparation, obviously it’s a familiar opponent, so there’s no real new things to come about. We know each other well and it comes down to preparation, execution and a lot of desire,” Doremus said about the upcoming series against the Knights.
Regular season matchup:
In 12 games throughout the regular season, the Titans finished 5-6-1 against Wilkes-Barre, while the Knights had a record of 7-3-2 against New Jersey. When talking about the regular season matchups this season, Doremus said he expects to see a tighter series than the numbers may indicate while also bringing last year’s first-round series against the Tomahawks.
“We were negative heading into the playoffs with Johnstown as far as the season series goes, and it’s not different than this year. We need to make the adjustments and win when it counts as they say,” he said. “When you look at the season series, it was tight throughout. There were probably a few games that were lopsided, but other than that, everything is a one or two-goal game.”
Ryan Wheeler, one of the assistant captains, spoke about preparing for the playoffs throughout the week: “We’re pretty well-rested, we look fast on the ice, so I think the guys are excited to get going here.”
The UConn commit had some big moments in last year’s playoff run, including a clutch overtime goal in Game 4 against the Rebels in the East Division final. He brought up how this series will be different now that the Titans have home-ice advantage.
“It’s huge. Last year going to Game 5 on the road was pretty tough in the second round. Home ice makes a big difference, and it’s a war of attrition in the playoffs, so hopefully home ice pans out for us.”
Ryan Naumovski discussed what it’s like being a rookie and what to expect as he heads into his first NAHL playoff series: “I know it’s going to be a different animal going into the playoffs; more grit, more hunger and wanting to go to the next round as fast as we can.”
Naumovski, who finished the year with 17 goals and 29 assists, also gave his thoughts on countering the Knights’ quick and free-flow style of play. “We just have to play faster, play the body on them. We need to get the puck deep, hit their defense and just keep our feet moving the whole time.”
Tyler Antonucci: “You play 60 games in the regular season, it’s all just preparation for this playoff run we’re about to have. The groundwork is set and we just have to execute what we know and what we’ve been doing the entire year and do it to the best of our ability.”
“Being the captain of the team, you want to make sure that all of the younger guys what they’re getting into, making sure they are prepared in the right way. At the end of the day you make sure we have energy and passion, we’re playing hockey and that’s what we love to do.”
Doremus spoke about this year’s squad being younger than last year’s team, but offered some interesting insight on his younger players: “When you look at our team now, I’d say that there aren’t any rookies anymore because everyone has been through a full junior season. We’ve went through our growing pains and our peaks and our valleys thus far to get here, but nevertheless compete.”
Game 1 takes place tonight at Middletown Sports Complex with a puck drop slated for 7 p.m. Game 2 will follow tomorrow afternoon with a 5 p.m. start time. Both games will be streamed on hockeytv.com.