Photo Credit: Marina Basile
The New Jersey Titans gave up a power-play goal late in the third period and later fell to the Philadelphia Rebels in a shootout, 3-2, at Middletown Sports Complex on Wednesday afternoon.
Brandon Stanley tied the game with 4:27 left in the third period. After a hectic overtime that saw chances on both sides, Aaron Maguyon and newly acquired Luke Radetic netted goals in the shootout to give Philadelphia the victory.
Despite walking away with a point, Titans head coach Craig Doremus considered the game a frustrating loss.
“Moral victories really don’t do us any good at this point of the season. We need to make sure that we’re winning hockey games and we want to continue to ascend in the standings, not plateau and remain where we are,” he said.
Gavin Gulash opened the scoring at 8:41 of the first period when Hunter Alden slipped a pass across the crease, setting Gulash up for the easy tap-in. It was his sixth goal of the season, and his first in Middletown. In fact, his previous five goals were all scored at 1st Summit Arena against the Johnstown Tomahawks.
Later in the period, Ryan Wheeler took a hit from behind his own net and fell awkwardly into the boards. He left for the remainder of the game and left New Jersey with only five defensemen.
“Ryan is one of our key players on the blue line and on our hockey club. He wears a letter for us so obviously he’s important to what we do on and off the ice. Any time you lose a player like that, it’s going to affect your lineup. It’s puts a lot of stress on the other five guys with the amount of time they’re on the ice,” Doremus said, who also considered Wheeler ‘day-to-day’ with the injury.
Meanwhile, the Rebels’ top line of Aaron Maguyon, Jensen Zerban and Luke Radetic–newly acquired from the Kenai River Brown Bears as part of a three-team trade–was buzzing the entire game. Radetic almost had his first goal with his new team in the final seconds of the first period, but was robbed by the glove of Brandon Perrone. He settled for his first assist, however, by setting up Maguyon for a goal at 7:25 of the second.
Matthew Cameron gave New Jersey the lead again later in the period with his 12th goal of the season. Off a faceoff, he took a shot from the high slot, crashed to the net, found his own rebound and batted the puck in past Rebels goaltender Ryan Keane.
The score held for much of the third period, but Spencer Stanley took a cross checking penalty with just over five minutes left. The Rebels converted on the power play 48 seconds later, as Brandon Stanley found a loose puck in a goalmouth scramble and tapped in his 10th of the season.
The overtime had chances on both ends, starting with a breakaway for Maguyon. He took a shot from the hash marks and beat Perrone glove side, but the puck hit the post and stayed out. Ryan Naumovski had a pair of chances minutes later, but Keane stopped him both times. Ryan Patrick responded with another breakaway for Philadelphia, only to be stopped yet again by Perrone.
Philadelphia got the best of Perrone in the shootout, however. Aaron Maguyon opened the scoring by cutting to his left and tucking a shot under the crossbar past Perrone’s glove. Gulash went first for the Titans, and nearly sold a fake slapper on Keane, but his shot just glanced off the goaltender’s stick.
Things evened in the second round when Perrone stopped Zerban’s attempt while Nick Boyagian was able to use his long reach to hook a shot around Keane’s right pad. Though the Rebels were able to pull away in the final round, with Radetic scoring glove side. Naumovski tried to make a similar shot, but Keane snatched it and gave the Rebels the extra point.
It’s the third consecutive loss the Titans have suffered to the Rebels, but the team is still 4-4-0-1 against them. Doremus said it was winnable game that just slipped out of their grasp.
“We don’t want to sit here and pretend the Rebels are a team we can’t beat. We have fared well against these guys this year, so it’s definitely a game we should’ve had at home,” he said.
Despite the game being on a weekday in the early afternoon, the arena was packed with several schools visiting Middletown Sports Complex for a field trip. Harmony Elementary, Amerigo Anastasia School Long Branch and George L. Catrambone Elementary all came out in support of the team, and created a loud atmosphere for most of the game.
The Titans will hit the road this weekend with a two-game set against the Northeast Generals on February 10 and 11. New Jersey is 5-4-1 against them this season, and trail them in the East Division by five points; but they also have four games in hand. Both games will be streamed on hockeytv.com.