It’s been 26 days since the New Jersey Titans last played a game, but they will open their second half of the season today with a road game against the Philadelphia Rebels.
They’ll also do it with a new player on the team.
Justin Bofshever was acquired from the Janesville Jets in exchange for defenseman Tate MacDonald. The 20-year-old forward practiced with the team as they returned from the holiday break, and quickly acclimated himself to life in the Garden State.
“As soon as I heard I was coming to New Jersey, all of my family members were letting me know how close I was to them,” the Coral Springs, Fla. native said. “It’s good to know that you have family in the area and can visit them.”
The last three seasons, in Bofshever’s words, have been a roller coaster. He broke into the NAHL in the 2015-16 campaign with the Kenai River Brown Bears, recording 16 points (7g, 9a) in 36 games. He moved up to the USHL to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in Iowa for a 10-game stint.
Bofshever started last season with the Odessa Jackalopes, but a slew of injuries limited him to only four games. Looking to make a comeback, he started the current season with the Janesville Jets but did not fully stay on the roster until November. After being traded to the Titans, Bofshever hopes the change of scenery can prove to be a fresh start for him.
“I definitely look to build some confidence and just get things working and get things flowing in the right direction here,” he said.
Head coach Craig Doremus said that Bofshever’s acquisition brings accountability to the forward corps.
“It’s a testament to who he is and how bad he wants to play the game, how much he loves the game that he’s continued to battle back and rehab from these injuries to get back into playing shape,” he said of Bofshever’s last three seasons. “We’re confident that we have a healthy Justin on hand and we’re excited to add him to our forward group as we approach the last 31 games of the year.”
Now Bofshever will get to join the rest of the Titans squad as they look to have a strong second half and make a run for the Robertson Cup. New Jersey currently sits fourth in the East Division with a 15-12-2 record.
The Titans are 10 points behind the Northeast Generals and only five points ahead of the last-place Johnstown Tomahawks, but they do have nine and 10 games in hand to the respective teams. In fact, New Jersey will be last team in the league to reach the 30-game mark with today’s match against the Rebels.
“We had a long break, so I think it was good for our players both mentally and physically,” Doremus said of the 26-day hiatus. “Mentally to get away from the game a little bit, appreciate it, learn to love it, learn to miss it a little bit. And physically, the North American (Hockey) League is a long, tough grind and everyone’s bodies are probably banged up at some point. The first few days of practice you could see they have a jump in their step and we’re eager to get to work.”
In addition to having a long break and games in hand, the Titans will be greeted with a very home-heavy second half of the season. Of the next 31 games, 21 of them will be at Middletown Sports Complex. Out of the last 15 games, 13 of them will be at home including a 10-game homestand that spans nearly the entire month of March.
While the road-laden first half was a challenge for the Titans, Doremus believes that it put his team a good position for the home stretch.
“I think it worked out kind of well, being such a newer group this year having to go on the road so much in the first half of the season. Any time you can spend time together on the bus or the hotels, it creates bonds there,” he said. “Our crowd has been responsive to us, we’ve gotten a lot of support and I think we look forward to playing in front of our crowd the second half of the year.”
Before they get back on home ice, the Titans have a pair of road games this week, starting with today with a contest against the Philadelphia Rebels. New Jersey ended 2017 with a 4-1 victory over the Rebels on December 20, and will now open 2018 with a rematch on the road.
The Titans are 2-2-0 at the Class of 1923 Arena this season and will look to salvage a big two points today. With a 4:20 p.m. puck drop, all of the action will be streamed on hockeytv.com.