The New Jersey Titans will start the East Division semifinal series on Friday night when they take on the Jamestown Rebels at Northwest Arena with a 7 p.m. puck drop.
It’s the fourth time in as many seasons that the Titans have qualified for the Robertson Cup Playoffs, and it will be the second time the two teams will face each other in the postseason. In the 2017 playoffs, the Titans fell to the Rebels–located in Aston, Penn. at the time–in a decisive Game 5 in the East Division Final. While the team has relocated, Jamestown will have home ice advantage once again as the number two seed in the East. Here are some additional notes as the Titans get ready to embark in the 2019 chase for the Robertson Cup.
Season series down to the wire
The Titans finished the regular season third in the East Division with a record of 31-26-3, while the second-place Rebels finished with a mark of 35-17-8. The season series between the two teams was a close one, as New Jersey’s regular season record against Jamestown is 5-6-1, with six of those 12 games decided by only one goal.
Titans head coach Craig Doremus, however, downplayed the regular season history while emphasizing the fresh start that comes with the second season.
“I’m not putting too much stock into what happened in the regular season, I think the postseason is a whole different animal. We’re just excited to get to work on Friday night in Jamestown,” Doremus said.
Titans road struggles
While the Titans have a fresh start with the postseason, it does not hide the team’s recent struggles at Northwest Arena. New Jersey managed to sweep the Rebels on the road back on October 12-13, but have gone 0-3-1 in Jamestown since.
When asked about what the Titans need to do in order to succeed on the road, Doremus kept it simple and spoke about his team following the game plan.
“I think if we execute what we want to do in all three zones and play what we deem our style of play, I think we’ll be absolutely fine,” Doremus said.
Some familiar faces are expected to return to the lineup on Friday night. The team’s captain, Spencer Stanley, missed the final eight games of the regular season with a lower-body injury but should return for Game 1 of the playoffs. Brandon Perrone was not dressed for the Titans’ final two games against the Northeast Generals, but he is expected to start against the Rebels. In addition to the veterans, rookie defender Brad Zona is back from Cushing Academy and will be in the lineup for tonight’s game.
“I think it was more preventative maintenance for us, and we want to make sure guys are as close to 100 percent going into the playoffs as we possibly could be,” Doremus said. “For them, it was just about giving those guys some rest, they’ve played a bunch of hockey games over the last two years with some deep postseason runs.”
Naumovski added that the team had a good week of practice and will be ready, both physically and mentally, for the best-of-five series against the Rebels.
“I think the guys are getting excited, definitely building from the momentum we built last weekend. There’s a lot of energy, a lot of talking among the guys and we’re just ready to go,” Naumovski said.
The Titans still have three players on the roster from their 2017 matchup against the Rebels in the East Division Final, including Stanley, Perrone and Kyler Head. Auggie Moore is the only Rebels player that remained on their roster since then. New Jersey also has eight returning players from last season’s playoff series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. Naumovski is one of those players, and he spoke about preparing the younger players for the postseason.
“As veterans, we’re definitely going to have to help the younger guys get through the first round. I think that’s a huge thing, especially with the nerves that come in the first game,” Naumovski said.
One veteran to keep an eye on will be Perrone. Despite being a three-year veteran, he only played in two postseason games while he served as the backup to Ryan Ferland in 2017 and Matt Ladd in 2018. After having a meteoric resurgence in the 2019 portion of this season, the Long Island native has regained his role as starting goaltender and will be the Titans’ go-to guy between the pipes.
“Obviously Brandon is a big part of our team on the back line and we’ll need solid goaltending out of him, but I also think special teams will be important,” Doremus said. “Playing disciplined, staying out of the box and being able to capitalize on any opportunities we do get will be huge.”
First round schedule
Here are the dates, start times and venues for the first round between the Titans and the Rebels.
Friday April 12: at Jamestown – 7:00 p.m. – Northwest Arena
Saturday April 13: at Jamestown – 7:00 p.m. – Northwest Arena
Friday April 19: vs. Jamestown – 7:05 p.m. – Middletown Sports Complex
*Saturday April 20: vs. Jamestown – 7:05 p.m. – Middletown Sports Complex
*Monday April 22: at Jamestown – 7:00 p.m. – Northwest Arena
Photo credit: Pete MacDonald (Twitter: @PMacDonald51)