For the second day in a row, the New Jersey Titans fell to the Johnstown Tomahawks by a score of 3-2 in overtime. Only this time, it was Ben Schmidling who scored the game-winner at 3:43 into the extra session.
The Titans nearly won the game moments earlier when Chris Garbe took a pass in front of the Tomahawks’ goal and went to his backhand. He had goaltender Jack Leavy beat, but was unable to get a shot off. As Johnstown went the other way, Carson Briere floated a pass towards the Titans’ goal, where Schmidling batted the puck out of midair past Matt Ladd to seal the OT victory.
“Typical,” a frustrated Craig Doremus said after the game. “We haven’t been able to come out on the right side of overtime far too often. I think coach Bobby (DiRico) said prior to the game, we felt we had left seven points on the table in overtime and today marks the eighth point. Kind of a different day same ending.”
New Jersey falls to a record of 25-17-8, and their record for games beyond regulation is now 4-8. A silver lining for the Titans is that they still have points in five straight games and have a four-point lead over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights for second place in the East Division.
Hunter Alden opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 1:56 of the first period. Nick Boyagian took a shot that was saved by Tomahawks’ goaltender Jack Leavy, but Alden found the rebound and swept the puck in to put New Jersey up 1-0.
Novak extended the lead to 2-0 when Ryan Wheeler made a beautiful backhand pass from the corner right to the far post, as Novak slammed home his 9th goal of the season.
“Wheeler was the third guy in, I just crashed the net and the puck found me,” Novak said of the goal.
Soon after his goal, Johnstown once again climbed out of a two-goal deficit to force overtime. Just a minute and two seconds after Novak’s goal, Joe Kile cut the Tomahawks’ deficit in half by firing a turnaround shot from the left faceoff circle that went over Matt Ladd’s glove to earn his 14th of the season. Carson Briere evened the score with a power-play goal at 3:21 of the third period, setting the stage for Johnstown’s overtime victory.
Neither team was able to connect on five-minute power plays either. Andy Nedeljkovic was assessed a major for hitting Hunter Alden from behind at 5:29 of the second period. Gavin Gulash was given a major for spearing at 14:29, forcing the Titans to kill off the final five minutes of the game shorthanded to maintain the 2-2 score.
Doremus said he believed the team played better than Saturday night’s loss, but it doesn’t take away the sting of dropping a second straight overtime game.
“We dominated the shot clock and did some good things, but I felt that our power play came up short. We had an opportunity to put them away but we can never be as lethal as we need to be,” he said.
The Titans will host the Tomahawks for another three-game set starting March 23, but have two games this upcoming weekend. On Friday, the Titans will have a chance to gain additional ground on the Knights with a game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at 7 p.m.
The following day, they will have their makeup game against the Philadelphia Rebels that was postponed due to unsafe ice conditions earlier this season. Puck drop for that game at Class of 1923 Arena will be at 3 p.m. Both games will be available for streaming on hockeytv.com.