The New Jersey Titans managed to snap a four-game losing streak last weekend when they split a home-and-home against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.
Each team won its home game, with the Knights winning Friday night’s contest at Revolution Ice Centre by a 2-1 score, while the Titans responded with a 3-0 victory the following night in Middletown.
The Knights struck first on Friday night at 12:48 of the first period when a pass from behind the net went to right to the stick of Sacha Guillemain in the slot, as he netted his third goal of the season. Michael Outzen evened the score at 17:53 with a power-play goal, finding a loose puck on a goalmouth scramble before burying his third of the season.
Wilkes-Barre regained the lead at the very end of the second period when Jacob Badal wheeled into the Titans zone from the right side, cut across the crease and slipped a shot past Titans goaltender Brandon Perrone. Knights goaltender Zach Stejskal stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third period, finishing the game with 43 saves to give his team the victory.
“I thought our performance was okay, but we shot ourselves in the foot and they were able to capitalize on our mistakes,” said Titans head coach Craig Doremus. “When they made errors, we were unable to jump on them, and credit to their goaltender who made some big saves to give them the win at home.”
The Titans were able to rebound the following night with their best period of the season, firing 24 shots on goal as opposed to the Knights’ four. Zach Nazzarett opened the scoring at 1:17 when Kyler Head slid a pass to the front of the goal, and the Cheektowaga, NY native went to his backhand and slid a puck into an open net for his fourth goal of the season. Gavin Gulash added a power-play goal at 14:36 when he fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that slammed off the right post and in.
Gulash’s goal was the Titans’ fourth power-play tally in three games, indicating a rebound from the team’s tumultuous special teams in the first seven games of the season. Assistant coach Bobby DiRico held a meeting prior to Saturday’s game to review the power play, and Gulash spoke about some of the adjustments that were made on the man-advantage.
“We just tried to simplify our game a little bit, especially on the power play. We’ve struggled early this season on it, but we just went back to the basics and just trusted our instincts and it’s worked out,” Gulash said.
Chris Garbe wrapped up the scoring at 15:51 of the third period, as he took the puck along the goal line and roofed a shot over Samuel Vyletelka’s blocker. It was his first goal of the season, and Doremus likened it to Garbe ‘getting the monkey off his back.’
Matt Ladd, who made 26 saves to earn his second shutout of the season, spoke about the team bouncing back from the previous weekend series against the Johnstown Tomahawks and having to stay sharp after facing just four shots in the first period of Saturday’s win.
“It was a tough series in Johnstown, overall as a whole team it was big for us to snap the losing streak and get a win under our belt,” he said. “It was hard to play in that first period. Once the game picked up, I had to do my job and make the saves, but my team stood behind me and blocked shots and was just a really good game for all of us.”
The Titans are in second place in the East Division with a 5-5-0 record and will play two road games against the Jamestown Rebels (4-4-0). This will be the team’s first trip to western New York since the Rebels relocated from Philadelphia in the offseason. The back-to-back starts on Friday night, and both games are scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m.