Looking to snap a three-game losing streak, the New Jersey Titans will start a home-and-home tonight against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.
The Titans (4-4-0) had its first two home games last weekend, and were swept by the Johnstown Tomahawks in 5-2 and 5-3 losses. Between giving up three goals in 31 seconds or giving up goals shortly after scoring one themselves, Titans head coach Craig Doremus noted that there were many self-inflicted and unforced errors from his team. He said this week of practice sought to correct some of those issues.
“I think we’ve done some good work on the ice and some really good work off the ice,” he said. “Obviously we addressed some stuff through video work, not only reviewing our own game but also preparing for a quality opponent in Wilkes-Barre coming up, so we’re excited to get back to work on Friday evening.”
The Knights are the defending East Division champions and made it all the way to the Robertson Cup Final last season, before losing to the Shreveport Mudbugs in a winner-take-all matchup. In the first round of the playoffs, they eliminated the Titans in a best-of-five series by coming back from a 2-1 series deficit.
Coming into tonight’s game, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has a 2-3-1 record and is 5th in the East Division. They picked up their first two wins last weekend in a back-to-back against the Maryland Black Bears. Doremus spoke about the rivalry his team has with the Knights, who finished with a 7-3-2 mark against New Jersey last season.
“It’s great for the area and great for the players on both teams. Any time you can add those extra competitive juices, the game means a little bit more. Over the past couple of years, it’s developed into a nice friendly rivalry. Tom Kowal does a really good job with his program there, and his team eliminating us in the playoffs last year definitely adds that competitive juice to the game,” he said.
The good news for the Titans is that the veterans are leading the way; three of the four top scorers on the team are returning players. Ryan Naumovski leads the pack with eight points in as many games (4 goals, 4 assists), and Kyle Jeffers is right behind him with seven points (5 goals, 2 assists). Meanwhile, three forwards are still looking for their first goals of the season; Chris Garbe, Thomas Lacombe and Bryce Witman have yet to score in the Titans’ first eight games and will hope to change that over the weekend.
Ben Pirko, who was recently traded from the Lone Star Brahmas in exchange for Christian Bardarson, will likely make his Titans debut this weekend. Doremus said the 19-year-old defenseman should add a veteran presence to the team’s blue line.
The home-and-home starts tonight at the Revolution Ice Centre and will conclude tomorrow at Middletown Sports Complex. Puck drop for both games are slated for 7 p.m., and will be streamed on hockeytv.com.