After scoring late in the first period, the New Jersey Titans gave up five unanswered goals in a 5-1 defeat to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Sunday afternoon at Middletown Sports Complex. The Knights’ victory ties the East Division semifinal series at one game apiece.
Thomas Farrell (1g, 1a) and Jake Fuss (2a) each had a multi-point night while Christian Stoever made 29 saves in the victory. Brandon Perrone was given the start for the Titans, and he stopped 46 of the 51 shots he faced in the loss.
“So many of the little things and habits that we have to do to be successful on a day-in and day-out basis; last night we did them really well, but tonight we didn’t do them at all,” Titans head coach Craig Doremus said after the loss. “Really disappointed with the execution tonight.”
New Jersey was outshot 19-9 in the first period but found themselves up 1-0 heading into the intermission. The Knights took two penalties in the waning minutes of the period, giving the Titans a five-on-three advantage. Kyler Head made a saucer pass from the goal line to the far post where Hunter Alden scored on the tap-in.
Once the second period started, however, the Knights would take full control of the game. Gabe Temple evened the score at 2:51 with a power-play goal. Thomas Farrell took a shot from the point where Perrone made the save, but Temple buried the rebound.
A few minutes later, the Titans lost a forward when Wade Novak sped past the Knights’ defense for a breakaway but lost an edge and slammed into the boards. He went to the locker room with a lower-body injury and would not return for the remainder of the game, but Doremus said he is day-to-day and is likely to return this weekend for Game 3.
The Knights took the lead at 9:01 of the second on a goal from Tomas Koblizek. Jake Fuss drove to the net along the goal line and was stopped by Perrone, but the rebound was loose and Koblizek slammed the puck in for his first of the playoffs. Wilkes-Barre then made it 4-1 when Thomas Farrell scored on a turnaround slap shot from the blue line with 37 seconds remaining in the second.
Justin Engelkes made it 5-1 at 12:31 of the third period. Luke Robinson made a stretch pass from his own goal line and found Engelkes at the far blue line. The Wisconsin native fumbled the puck before recovering and snapping a quick shot blocker side to extend the Knights’ lead to four.
When discussing the things that went wrong in the Titans’ loss, Doremus said goaltending was not one of them. Perrone made 46 saves on 51 shots, and one of his best saves came late in the first period when he stopped Jack Olmstead on a shorthanded breakaway.
“I thought Brandon battled throughout the night and he gave us a chance to win,” he said. “I don’t think today was a reflection on him directly at all.”
The series will now to shift to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for Games 3 and 4 at the Revolution Ice Centre. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday with a 5 p.m. start time, while Game 4 is slated for Saturday with a 6 p.m. puck drop. If the Titans and Knights split those games, the series will return to Middletown for a decisive Game 5 on Sunday at 5 p.m.