Brandon Avezov scored with 1:49 remaining in overtime to give the visiting New Jersey Titans a 4 -3 win over the Maryland Black Bears. The victory gave the Titans a split of the opening weekend series between the teams.
The Titans scored their first goal of the season just 1:54 into the opening period. Maryland’s Vlad Polegoshko was called for tripping just forty-one seconds into the first period. A minute and thirteen seconds later Jack Karlsson hit the back of the net. With the Titans in the offensive zone, Levente Keresztes had the puck at the top of near side faceoff circle and went to make a cross-ice pass, but it was redirected off the boards and directly to Brodie McDougall. McDougall picked up the loose puck and sent it back to Karlsson at the point and he took a long wrist shot that founds its way through a maze out front and past Black Bears netminder Michael Morelli for the early lead.
The Titans early lead lasted just thirty-three seconds as Maryland’s Branden Piku scored his second goal of the series. The Black Bears’ Brad McNeil brought the puck into the offensive zone along the near side boards and dished it out to Miles Gunty who made an in-close shot on net that was saved by Titans goalie Ben Charette but the rebound came right out to Piku who beat Charette through the five hole to make it a 1 – 1 game.
The Titans’ Rocco Testa-Basi was called for hooking at 7:55 into the period to give Maryland the man advantage. Less then a minute later Tommy Bannister gave the Titans their second lead of the game. With the Black Bears setting up in the Titans zone, Maryland’s Philip Tornqvist went to take a shot at the top of the far side faceoff circle that was blocked by Brendan Dumas. As the puck went off Dumas’ shin pad, Dumas was able to pick up the loose biscuit and enter the offensive zone on a 2 on 1 with Bannister. As Dumas reached the faceoff circle, he made a centering pass out front to Bannister who one-timed it past Morelli to give the Titans a 2 – 1 lead.
After a scoreless second period, the Titans were issued at delay of game bench minor at 8:08 into the third period. Less than a minute later Maryland even the score at two. Piku brought the puck up out of his end and cut through center ice and into the offensive zone. As he went behind the Titans net, he stuffed the puck short side past Charette for this second goal of the game.
A little over a minute and a half later, the Black Bears took their first lead of the game. Maryland’s Kevin Scott set up the play inside the offensive at the top of the far side faceoff circle and passed it over to Joona Haarti on his left. Haarti took a shot that Charette saved but the rebound came right out to Ryan Bottrill who tucked the biscuit into the open net to make it 3 – 2.
Maryland’s only lead of the game was short lived as Jake LaRusso tied the contest at three exactly a minute later. After Bannister won the draw just outside his own blueline, he brought the puck into the offensive zone and passed it Jack Ford on his left. Ford made a cross-ice pass to LaRusso who took a shot that beat Morelli short side to make it a 3 – 3 game.
With the contest now into overtime, Avezov worked relentlessly to score the game winner. As Karlsson went to set up the play to the right of Charette, Karlsson made a long stretch pass to Avezov who was just outside the Black Bears blueline. Avezov entered the offensive zone on a breakaway, but Morelli made a nice save on the former NA3HL Titan. As Morelli made the save, the rebound came right out to Avezov who went behind and around the Maryland net. As Avezov circled towards the slot, he took a shot that beat Morelli with 1:49 remaining in overtime to give the Titans a 4 – 3 win, and their first of the 2021-22 season.
Charette stopped 35 of 38 shots while Morelli turned aside 23 of 27. Click here for the box score.
The Titans now will fly out on Tuesday to Minneapolis for the League’s annual showcase that starts on Wednesday in Blaine.