Michael Outzen and Thomas Lacombe scored two goals each as the New Jersey Titans split a home-and-home by defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, 8-6, at Middletown Sports Complex Saturday night.
The Titans were shut out by the Knights the day before when goaltender Zack Stejskal stopped all 53 shots he faced. On Saturday, New Jersey chased him after two periods by scoring seven times on 37 shots. Head coach Craig Doremus spoke about his team’s effort, as they have now won five of their last six games.
“I think we did a better job of getting pucks to the right areas of the ice. We addressed the team about where we wanted to attack from, and I think the guys did a good job of capitalizing off that,” Doremus said. “But it was a wacky game, I thought we played very well the day before and came up with a 1-0 loss. Our game was a little less structured today but we walk away with two points.”
Jacob Badal scored 52 seconds in the game when he skated down the right side and ripped a shot over Brandon Perrone’s blocker for his fifth goal of the season. Sacha Guillemain doubled the lead on a breakaway goal at 6:47, sliding the puck five-hole for his fourth goal of the year.
Michael Outzen responded with two goals of his own in a span of one minute and 38 seconds. At 11:29 of the first period, he received a pass from Chris Garbe on a two-on-one and buried a shot high-glove side. Then at 13:07, he put away a rebound from the low slot and tied the game.
“I think it was huge that we didn’t give up. We knew that we could come back and that we had the strength, so it was great to get those two goals. From then on out, I feel like the momentum was really buzzing for our comeback,” Outzen said.
The Titans weren’t done just yet, as Cam Gendron scored on a redirect for a power-play goal, and Ben Pirko ripped a one-timer upstairs for his first as a Titan. It completed a barrage of four unanswered goals after going down 2-0. The Knights would not go down quietly, however, as Gabe Temple scored a power-play goal in the final minute to bring the Knights’ deficit back down to one.
It appeared that momentum swung back into the Knights’ favor when Adrian Danchenko tied the game at 4:07 of the second period, but just like the first period, the Titans responded with another flurry of goals.
Thomas Lacombe scored his second of the season when he followed his own shot and nudged the puck past the goal line for a power-play tally. Shane Haviland picked up his first goal as a Titan when he flung a wrist shot over Stejskal’s glove at 13:44. A few minutes later, New Jersey went back on the power play where Kyle Jeffers notched his league-leading 14th goal of the season.
Down 7-4 entering the third period, Knights coach Tom Kowal decided to pull Stejskal in favor of backup goaltender Samuel Vyletelka. The move appeared to pay off as the Knights made one final push for a comeback. At 2:36 of the third period, Gabe Temple slammed a one-timer from a sharp angle past Perrone for his second power-play goal of the night. Jake Fuss then scored a power-play goal at 17:07, bringing the Knights back to within a goal.
Soon after Fuss’ goal, Vyletelka was pulled for the extra attacker. The move backfired, however, as Lacombe skated out of his own end and shot the puck into the empty net, earning his second goal of the night and sealing the Titans’ 8-6 victory. Lacombe spoke after the game about the team’s win and his ability to find the score sheet after a slow start to the season.
“I’ve got an offensively talented player like Connor (Merrill) with me, and our line is getting better every game. I’ve got a little more confidence last weekend when I scored in Northeast, and now I’m really happy about my game and so it’s going to keep going all season,” said Lacombe, who now has three goals in his last four games.
The win gives the Titans a 13-7-0 record, further solidifying its position in second of the East Division. Earning another come-from-behind victory, Doremus spoke at length about his team’s ability to overcome adversity when trailing early in games.
“That’s the biggest credit to our team on the bench. There was no panic, no sense of disorganization or negativity on the bench, and I think the guys just stuck with the game plan,” he said. “I’m real happy as a coach to see their growth as far as the mental toughness, the maturity to go through some adversity and not let it get the best of them.
“We had talked prior to the game about how do you respond to pressure situations. We talked about how you fall back on your training, and our players could not have done a better job of maintaining their discipline and their energy level and just worrying about the next shift.”
The Titans will hit the road this weekend as they go up against the first-place Johnstown Tomahawks in a back-to-back at 1st Summit Arena. Friday night’s game will start at 8 p.m., followed by a Saturday tilt at 7 p.m. Both games will be available for streaming on hockeytv.com.